Voting Can Be Hard, Information Helps

By Melody Crowder-Meyer, Shana Kushner Gadarian, and Jessica Trounstine

Vote

When Los Angeles County voters entered their polling booths in November 2016, they were faced with a multitude of decisions. The choice of which presidential candidate to support was likely fairly straightforward. But how about voters’ choice for the U.S. Senate? Both candidates available were Democrats – how did voters determine which candidate would better represent their preferences? Further down the ballot, voters were then presented with local races. The candidates running for Board of Supervisors, Judge of the Superior Court, City Council, and Rent Control Board were all listed as nonpartisan. Making all these decisions – filling out this ballot – asked a lot of citizens. So, how do citizens generally make decisions about casting their votes when they have little information to use?

In this paper, we examine how voters make decisions under varying levels of information. Existing research clearly demonstrates that voters draw on shortcuts – heuristics such as ideology and partisanship – to substitute for full information when making voting decisions. But in non-partisan elections or in elections (like party primaries) in which both candidates share the same party identification, these heuristics can’t help. What then do voters do? We investigate the extent to which voters use candidates’ race, ethnicity, and gender – characteristics that can often be identified even in the lowest information elections – as shortcuts to help them make decisions. Importantly, our exploration is conducted in settings where partisan cues are absent, which is the case in the vast majority of local elections in the United States.

We use 3 experiments to test the way that varying the amount of candidate information affects how voters choose candidates. In particular, we are interested in whether information helps or hurts the chance that candidates of color and female candidates win. In the experiments, we asked subjects to act like voters and choose candidates in 3 elections: city council, county board of supervisors, and a parks and recreation board. We randomly assigned candidates of varying races and gender, and randomly assigned levels of information available to voters.

Our lowest information setting included only candidate’s names –like this ballot from Duluth, Minnesota.

MPSAblog-VotingCanBeHard_NameOnly

Our medium level of information setting provided candidates’ occupations as well – just like this ballot from Alameda, California.

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In our highest information setting, we told voters candidates’ name, occupation, age, educational background, and incumbency status.

We find that voters do indeed rely on candidate characteristics when casting their ballots. While racial and ethnic minorities lose in low information settings, women win. However, as shown in the figure below, increasing the amount of information available to voters moderates both of these effects.

More information reduces the effect of candidate race and gender on vote choice

MPSAblog-VotingCanBeHard_Figure1

The figure shows the difference in the probability of voting for candidates with specific racial and gender characteristics – compared to white candidates and male candidates – under conditions of low, moderate, and high information. African-Americans suffer the greatest penalty in our low information experiments, followed by Asians and Latinos. Women are given a slight benefit when voters have the least information. Adding information about the candidates reduces these penalties and benefits.

But who is most likely to rely on candidate race and gender as cues….and why? In a separate experiment, we found that voters assume that black and Latino candidates are more liberal than white candidates, and that female candidates are viewed as more liberal than male candidates. How did this affect vote choice? We find that liberals and Democrats are substantially more likely than conservatives and Republicans to support female candidates and candidates of color in our lowest information settings. In fact, the preference for women in the lowest information setting is wholly driven by liberal and Democratic respondents. Voters seem to be drawing on racial and gender stereotypes to cast their ballots in our experimental elections.

But, does any of this hold outside of the lab? To determine the extent to which our findings apply outside the experimental context, we also evaluated a set of voting choices in a real, but very low information, election – the election for presidential convention delegates. In New York State, voters in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary voted in their Congressional Districts both for the presidential candidate that they preferred, and also directly for the delegates who would support those candidates at the Democratic National Convention. Democratic party rules dictate that half of all delegates to the convention be male and half female, so delegate candidates were equally divided by gender, mimicking our experimental design. In addition, voters had very little information about these delegates except for their names and their gender.

Each delegate on the ballot was pledged to one of the presidential candidates, but some of the ballot designs made that easier to understand than other ballots. We take advantage of this difference in ballots across counties to predict that any advantage given to female delegates should disappear when delegates are clearly linked to candidates (essentially, when we move from a very low information condition to a more moderate information condition). This is exactly what we find. As the figure below highlights, even in real world elections, more information decreases gender of candidate effects on vote choice.

Ballot clarity helps male delegates in NY State presidential primary

MPSAblog-VotingCanBeHard_Figure2.jpg

In sum, using three experiments and one real-world election, we show that when voters are forced to make decisions without any information about the candidates other than their names, they use the names to figure out who to pick. Adding information to voters’ ballots largely eliminates these penalties. Small amounts of virtually costless information decrease voters’ use of demographic traits to make decisions. In our real-world example simply clarifying the delegate’s pledged candidate largely eliminates the effect of gender and adding occupation to our experimental ballots significantly reduces the effects of race. Should a broader set of states adopt ballots with additional contextual information about candidates (as shown in the Alameda, California ballot above), or if media trends changed such that (especially local) political information was more widely accessible and consumed by voters, this could substantially affect the ways that voters make decisions about who governs them – at the local level and beyond.

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About the Authors: Melody Crowder-Meyer is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Davidson College, Shana Kushner Gadarian is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University, and Jessica Trounstine is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Merced. Their research “Voting Can Be Hard, Information Helps” presented at the 2017 MPSA conference, received the association’s inaugural Best Paper in American Politics.

Differential Electoral Coordination of House Republican Intraparty Organizations

By Zachary A. McGee of the University of Texas at Austin

Differential Electoral Coordination of House Republican Intraparty Organizations

At the start of the 115th Congress the Republican Party finally achieved unified government for the first time in more than a decade. Unfortunately for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, his conference was not unified, and in fact, they were prepared to organize against him. My project seeks to highlight the power of an understudied set of actors who are important for understanding dynamics in the lower chamber of Congress.

Intraparty organizations, such as the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) or the Republican Study Committee (RSC), play a critical role in rank-and-file members extracting benefits from powerful party leaders. Ruth Bloch Rubin shows the power these members can have when they organize in her recent book Building the Bloc. More specifically, she shows that these groups are able to obtain better committee assignments, legislative concessions, and privileged access to party leaders. My project builds on her work by asking whether the extraction of these benefits might lead to retribution by the party in subsequent electoral cycles and how these groups might insulate themselves from that retribution.

In the modern Congress members, not their parties, generate most of their own financial support. That is, members build their own war chests and most members give some of their money to their fellow members. This practice is especially prominent among party leaders or ambitious members seeking more power but has also gradually grown to be used by almost all rank-and-file members as well. At the 2017 MPSA conference, I presented a paper entitled “Keeping Your Friends Close: A Study of Punishment and Intraparty Insurgency.” In that paper, I argue that, in the same way that party leaders can raise and distribute funds to members in return for loyalty, intraparty organization members can raise and distribute funds to fellow group members for their loyalty and protection after squabbles with party leaders.

To test my claims about intraparty organizations’ electoral cooperation and political party retribution, I examine the House Republican Party in the 2014 and 2016 election cycles. My analysis focuses on the well-established Republican Study Committee and the newly established, and already infamous, House Freedom Caucus. I use social network analysis to map the member-to-member contribution networks for all House Republicans. That is, I create a network wherein each member of the House Republican Party is linked to every other member they transferred money to in each given election cycle. The contribution data are from itemized Leadership Political Action Committee (LPAC) disbursement data from the Federal Election Commission.

Figure 1: Member-to-Member Network (2016 Electoral Cycle) Note: Rank-and-file members are red nodes, party leaders and committee chairs are purple nodes, and House Freedom Caucus members are green nodes.
Figure 1: Member-to-Member Network (2016 Electoral Cycle)
 Note: Rank-and-file members are red nodes, party leaders and committee chairs are purple nodes, and House Freedom Caucus members are green nodes.

My analysis reveals that members who chose to join the House Freedom Caucus altered their electoral disbursements to disproportionately support fellow group members. In fact, I find not only an increase in HFC members’ activity but also that they cluster together in the 2016 network. This cluster, defined by HFC-centric disbursements, reveals three potential HFC members that do not formally affiliate with the group: Pete Sessions (TX-32), Daniel Webster (FL-11), and Thomas Massie (KY-4). This finding is particularly interesting since the formal HFC roster is not public knowledge.

The pattern of support identified within the House Freedom Caucus does not exist among members of the larger and older Republican Study Committee. In other words, there is no clear financial relationship between members of this well-established intraparty organization. This finding illustrates that electoral coordination is not uniform across all intraparty organizations, which is interesting because we know almost nothing about what attributes of these groups leads to more or less cohesive electoral strategies. Clearly, more work to parse out across-group variation is necessary.

Finally, I find that non-HFC House Republicans opted to support HFC members less after the group formally organized (i.e. in the 2016 electoral cycle). While I provide evidence that co-partisans treat intraparty organization members differently before and after their formation, one can only speculate about the extent to which this coordination was ordered by party leaders. Whether or not party leaders are able to execute micro-level management of their members’ contributions to one another is an interesting question. Unfortunately, evidence to answer this question remains elusive. Nevertheless, the management of intraparty organizations by party leaders remains an area ripe for scholarly inquiry.

The analysis presented in my paper provides an important first step in understanding how intraparty organizations persist to consistently extract benefits from party leaders (e.g. the House Freedom Caucus) or become bloated and ineffective (e.g. the Republican Study Committee). Moreover, the collective partisan responses to intraparty organization coordination suggest that these groups are likely perceived to have some impact on the legislative process causing members to withhold support from their colleagues who opt-in to these groups. It remains unclear how successful these groups actually are in impacting the policy process though.

For scholars, this project also demonstrates that member-to-member contribution networks are a useful tool for studying intraparty organizations. I presented an empirical evaluation of the electoral coordination of these groups, but I also showed that networks can be used to identify potential group members for groups with secret membership rolls (like the HFC). This method can certainly be applied to other groups like the Tuesday Group or the Blue Dog Democrats.

Outside of its academic contributions, my paper suggests that pundits and the public alike should not underestimate the power and longevity of well-organized groups of rank-and-file members. These groups can successfully and consistently challenge powerful party leaders and coordinate for their own survival. The successes of the HFC since the start of the 115th Congress alone should cement this point. But, the HFC is not the first, nor will it be the last, group to form and extract benefits from party leaders. The takeaway for any given citizen then is this, if your member of Congress is a member of any intraparty organization then you should research that organization’s mission and take it into consideration when casting your next ballot.

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About the Author: Zachary A. McGee is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. His research focuses on multiple aspects of intraparty organizations and their role in the U.S. Congress. More information can be found on his website
www.zacharymcgee.net and he can be reached at zmcgee@utexas.edu.

McGee’s research “Keeping Your Friends Close: A Study of Punishment and Intraparty Insurgency“, presented at the 2017 MPSA conference, received the award for Best Paper Delivered by a Graduate Student.

What 18,000 Declassified Documents (and a Computer) Reveal About the Credibility of Signals During Crises

By Eric Min of Stanford University

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Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, left, and U.S. President John F. Kennedy sit in the residence of the U.S. ambassador in Vienna, Austria, at the start of their historic talks. [AP/Wide World Photo/US Department of State]
For the last couple decades, international relations scholars have fervently debated the credibility of signals during crises. Thomas Schelling’s work, followed by James Fearon’s audience cost theory and its offshoots, has popularized the belief that public signals are more credible because they implicate higher costs to take back. More specifically, costs from hand-tying through public words are greater than those from cost-sinking through public deeds. Private words are cheap. Some recent research has countered these claims by arguing that private signals can be just as costly in reputation as their public counterparts.

Two forms of path dependency have shaped and limited the contours of this discussion. First, likely due to Schelling’s enormous influence, most studies have focused on costs as the main and potentially only source of credibility. Second, without systematic data on diplomatic signals or how elites interpret them, scholars have used formal models and historical case studies to bolster their points. These methods have been valuable but also allow for different forms of cherry-picking.

At the 2017 MPSA conference, my co-author Azusa Katagiri and I presented a paper entitled “The Credibility of Public and Private Signals: A Document-Based Approach,” which offers two corresponding innovations to this debate. First, we present a novel rationale for why words exchanged behind closed doors may be more informative, and thus credible, than words exchanged in public. Second, we use text analysis and machine learning methods to create a comprehensive set of data on private statements, public statements, public actions, and White House evaluations of the Soviet Union during the Berlin Crisis of 1958 to 1963. These data permit the first quantitative study of diplomatic signaling and its effects.

The core of our theoretical argument is based on information processing/perception and relies on a more realistic understanding of the diplomatic environment, where policymakers are overloaded with tasks to perform and information to process. It is also intuitive. (Our argument’s framing has changed since we presented in 2017, so please check the revised paper.) So many statements are made in public that governmental actors—whether low-ranking desk officers or Cabinet members—cannot reliably keep up with or process them. Moreover, even though public statements are designed for and directed toward specific audiences, nobody can prevent other actors from noticing and (mis)interpreting those words. Public diplomatic statements are very noisy. In contrast, private diplomatic statements are infrequent, precise, and directed at one audience, all of which decreases their likelihood of being ignored or misperceived. This gives them important informational value and credibility.

We test these claims using over 18,000 de-classified documents from the Berlin Crisis of 1958 to 1963, which we photographed at the National Archives and the Eisenhower and Kennedy Presidential Libraries. This is a full collection of cables and memos during one of the most serious crises in American history. The documents come from three sources, which align with our concepts of interest: the Department of State (private statements from the Soviet Union), the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (public statements from the Soviet Union), and the White House (American elites’ assessments of Soviet intentions).

To convert these documents into quantitative data, we use a series of text analysis and supervised learning methods to make weekly-level measures of private statements of Soviet resolve (ostensibly costless), public statements of Soviet resolve (hand-tying), and White House perceptions of Soviet resolve. We also use The New York Times to manually create a measure of costly public actions by the Soviet Union (cost-sinking).

Statistical analysis points to three results:

  • First, costly actions have far greater impacts on perceptions of resolve than either public or private statements.
  • Second, private statements are indeed less frequent and more focused compared to public statements.
  • Third, and consequently, private statements of resolve are more credible and affect White House perceptions of Soviet resolve than public statements.

These findings completely rearrange the hierarchy of signal credibility. Most research on costly signals would put them in this order of credibility:

Public statements > Public actions > Private statements

However, according to the information processing perspective, as well as our data, we get this:

Public actions > Private statements > Public statements

Our research has implications that are relevant to the current diplomatic situation with North Korea. President Trump’s bellicose tweets throughout 2017 and early 2018 were indeed unprecedented and increased the risk of grave unintended consequences, but fears about being committed to conflict were overblown. Not only have President Trump’s erratic and inconsistent statements already undermined his credibility, but his tweets were only one of multiple streams of public statements from his administration that were more measured or sought to engage in diplomacy. (For example, consider positions taken by Secretary Mattis or former Secretary of State Tillerson.) Conversely, claims that President Trump’s tweets recently intimidated North Korea into coming back to the table are also debatable. U.S. troop deployments and joint military exercises with South Korea have arguably been more important to American credibility.

Private diplomacy is a vital conduit through which to make clear and direct statements to one’s adversary, stripped away of incentives to perform for an outside audience. Unlike what President Trump has said about diplomacy with North Korea in the past, it is not “a waste of time.” Mike Pompeo’s secret trip to North Korea, while clearly unorthodox since he was then director of the CIA, underscores this point. But it is also for this reason that direct talks between Trump and Kim may be unwise. The higher up the ladder talks start (before lower-level officials already work out issues behind closed doors), the less likely they are to be truly private, and the more likely it becomes for both individuals to engage in public posturing instead of substantive discussions.

Our paper injects a new theoretical and empirical perspective to the study of signaling. Not only do we highlight the importance of private diplomatic activity, but we demonstrate how contemporary computational methods can be harnessed to explore the dynamics of crisis diplomacy. We look forward to extending this line of research in the future.

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About the Authors: Azusa Katagiri is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Global Affairs at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. His other research focuses on the micro-foundations of state behavior, and bureaucratic decision-making in conflict, and US-Japan relations. He can be reached at
azusak@ntu.edu.sg.

Eric Min is a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University and will be an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles starting in the fall of 2018. His broader research applies new data and methods to analyze the strategic interaction of fighting and negotiating during war. He can be reached at ericmin@stanford.edu and is also on Twitter.

Their research “The Effectiveness of Public and Private Signals: A Document-Based Approach, presented at the 2017 MPSA conference, received the Robert H. Durr Award which recognizes the best paper applying quantitative methods to a substantive problem.

Foster Care Privatization: How an Increasingly Popular Public Policy Leads to Increased Levels of Abuse and Neglect

MPSA blog - Eatough - Foster Care Privatization

Foster care in the United States is dramatically influenced by federal and state legislation. Since the late 1990s policies establishing privatized foster care have become increasingly popular throughout the country. The privatization of foster care, much like the privatization of other government services, has been favored because of perceived increases in efficiency and economic effectiveness by private providers. However, opponents of foster care privatization suggest that by prioritizing efficiency and cost-effectiveness over the quality of placements children in the system receive there is an increased potential for abuse and neglect in the system.

My project, Foster Care Privatization: How an Increasingly Popular Public Policy Leads to Increased Levels of Abuse and Neglect, evaluates how differentiation in foster care privatization policies may influence the quality of care received by children in the system – specifically focusing on the incidence of abuse and neglect – by measuring potential effects of privatization through three analyses:

  • Whether changes in foster care policies have an immediate effect on the privatization level or incidence of abuse or neglect in a state.
  • Whether there are differences in placement goals by privatized and non-privatized agencies that reflect the hypothesized cost-effectiveness of privatization.
  • Whether children in privatized placements are more likely to experience abuse or neglect than children in non-privatized placements.

To measure each of these effects I used a dataset of each foster care placement and removal in the United States from 2000 to 2014 (from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System or AFCARS). This dataset is the most comprehensive set of information about children in foster care in the United States and includes demographic and placement/removal information for each child.

The first analysis, a set of 86 time-series models, showed that changes in foster care legislation have the potential to cause an immediate effect on the privatization level and quality of placements received by children in the foster care system. While privatization legislation did not indicate an immediate change in the privatization level or incidence of abuse in every state, the immediate changes seen in half the states with major privatization policies passed indicates that privatization policies may have a direct and immediate influence on the lives of children in the foster care system.

The second analysis, a substantive comparison of placement goals for foster children based on placement privatization, showed that privatized placement agencies favor case goals that make placements efficient and less expensive. Most notably, a significant decrease is seen in the probability of a child being adopted from a privatized foster care placement when compared to placements by non-privatized agencies.

The third analysis, a set of proportional hazard models, showed that increased levels of privatization lead to an increase of unfit placements in the form of an increased risk of abuse and neglect of children. Figure 1 below shows the variation in the risk of physical abuse over time based on system privatization level (similar results were seen in models determining the risk of sexual abuse, neglect, and abandonment). Significant differences are seen between the risks of abuse and neglect the longer children have been in the foster care system, with the greatest differences seen when children remain in the system for eighteen years.

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Figure 1. Risk of Physical Abuse Over Time

Each of these outcomes indicates that as privatization in foster care increases, the quality of placements for foster care children has the potential to decrease. These results show that foster care privatization, an increasingly popular public policy, increases the risk of abuse and neglect for children in foster care. The political debates surrounding the privatization of foster care have relied heavily on anecdotal evidence that makes it nearly impossible to identify actual policy outcomes.

This project uses data that has been widely underused to address this highly politicized debate. I think that as social scientists it’s incredibly important to consider what data may be available in other disciplines (in the case of this project using a dataset predominantly used by social workers and child abuse experts) to address questions that we have. Looking for political data from the outset as a means of addressing political issues limits our ability to address important political issues. The AFCARS dataset isn’t framed as political, but it can be used to address important questions about privatization policies.

While this project focuses primarily on the anti-privatization arguments, I’m continuing work on this project to identify whether there are differences in cost-effectiveness and efficiency between privatized and non-privatized foster care placements. My hope is that this project encourages further research on the effect of public policies on those who they impact most, particularly the impact of the privatization of social services on the lives of those who rely on them. Policies that change the way individuals access or are provided services from the government are particularly important to evaluate because of the potential for immediate and detrimental outcomes for those who rely on the service.

This project has critical implications for the policy debate about the privatization of foster care both in terms of the outcome of implemented policies and the way privatization should be evaluated going forward. The identification of increased levels of abuse and neglect in privatized foster care placements suggests that if privatization is to remain the goal of American foster care, it must be improved upon. Foster care is a system that is meant to keep children from being in unsafe and unhealthy environments, it is up to the policies implemented by legislators about how the system is run to ensure that children are not being moved from one abusive situation to another.

MPSA_Awards_RecognizingOutstandingResearchAbout the Author: Mandi Eatough recently graduated from Brigham Young University with a B.A. in Political Science and will soon begin working toward earning a Ph.D. in Political Science at the University of Michigan. Eatough received the Best Undergraduate Paper Presented in a Poster Format for her research, “Foster Care Privatization: How an Increasingly Popular Public Policy Leads to Increased Levels of Abuse and Neglect “, presented at the 2017 MPSA conference.

Politics and Ontology in Thucydides’ story of Alcmaeon

By Borden Flanagan of American University

Flanagan-PullQuoteThe story of Alcmaeon, in an emphatically unnecessary digression, frames Periclean imperialism in terms of the cosmological themes of motion and rest, thereby suggesting how ontological questions are disclosed in fundamental political problems.

Thucydides’ Archaeology and war narrative are cast in terms of motion and rest. (Human community begins in constant motion, settles into a cycle of motion and rest; Athens the city of motion/empire, Sparta of rest/devotion to law, etc.) The Alcmaeon story begins with a description of motion and rest as expressed in the interplay of earth and water in the river Achelous, before turning to Alcmaeon himself. Condemned by Apollo to ceaseless motion for having murdered his mother, Alcmaeon settles finally on the Achelous river delta, land created by the motion of the river. It is unclear whether Alcmaeon circumvented Apollo’s curse by finding land that did not exist when Apollo declared all ground polluted for him, or settled there by Apollo’s direction. The former possibility suggests that divine commands are less powerful than natural processes, much as the Athenians argue that natural compulsion renders their empire blameless before gods and men. The latter suggests divine patience/forgiveness for human weakness and longing. Both possibilities undermine hope for justice, and call into question whether justice has a natural ground, yet without debunking it. Apollo recedes from the story.

Alcmaeon’s crime, matricide, suggests hubris by denying or forgetting one’s subordination to the order of generation, an order protected by divine and human law. It is to treat oneself as sui-generis and self-sufficient, free of the cycle of growth and decay, as if immortal. His punishment is to be homeless, without origin or end. This makes him miserable, suggesting that happiness requires accepting one’s rootedness in generation and mortality. Alcmaeon finds a home only by acknowledging his need to ground himself on the interplay of motion and rest, on the land created by water, and on this acceptance of his subordination to flux is thereby able to generate his own line and patrimony.

Several textual clues suggest a connection to Pericles. Thematically, Pericles’ imperial project resembles Alcmaeon’s hubris. Demoting the ancestors in his funeral speech, Pericles promises immortal glory for civic devotion, sums up Athenian virtue in the word autarkes or self-sufficiency, and treats Athens as subject to no principle above her own excellence. He never mentions the gods, and promises, through Athenian motion, a rest that is beyond all motion, abstracted from motion. The demotion of the ancestors suggests that ambition seeks self-sufficiency lest one’s glory be reduced to a reflection of another’s. One must deny one’s beginning as well as one’s end, because the former implies the latter; one must deny that one has been caused, that one is implicated in the process of motion and rest. Otherwise, glory would fail to assert one’s selfhood against the flux. The demotion of the ancestors is part and parcel of Pericles’ denial of the salience of the gods, for the apotheosis that is the promise of the empire requires subordination to neither. (In the last speech, where Pericles declares the irrelevance of the divine, imperial glory is cast as an escape from nature.)

The illusion of ontological self-sufficiency is the heart of matricidal hubris and love of glory. This is reflected in Pericles’ description of Athenian virtue, whose central theme is freedom and self-sufficiency. Easy courage, daring and deliberation, and autarkes or self-sufficiency all characterize Athens as a calm axis at the center of whirling motion, a rest from which motion flows but which is herself unmoved. Pericles presents Athens as cause par excellence, both as force compelling enemies and as school of Hellas.

Thucydides thus suggests that a core political passion, the eros for glory, has a transpolitical goal; politics seeks apotheosis. To understand politics one must understand the transpolitical character of its longings. Framing this longing in terms of motion/rest likewise reframes the soul. Eros is akin to motion, a seeking of what is beyond or absent, of a rest that is apontos. In eros for glory the soul seeks to be a self that is flash-frozen in the moment of maximal virtue, static but without an inside, beyond time and causality. The soul however is both motion and rest, is caused and is a locus of causes. It therefore cannot be thought of apart from its mortality; our longing to transcend our limits teaches us our limits. This prepares us for Alcmaeon’s acceptance of his rootedness in flux, the basis of his recovered happiness and sanity. But this education of eros requires its transformation, from a longing for immortality to a consideration of what that means to a reflection on its own character, and on what it has in common with the cosmic order whose permanence it wishes to assimilate.

Following out this hierarchy of questions raises, finally, the question of Being, in two ways. First, the dyad of motion and rest appears as a paradox; each is neither separable from nor reducible to the other, they cannot be understood separately, and so their being remains mysterious. Dialectic points beyond itself, must be resolved on a higher plane than the dialectic itself. If nature is motion and rest, by virtue of what? Second, toying with the problem of whether justice is precluded by natural necessity (the claim made by the Athenians about their empire) and whether motion/rest precludes divine authority and law (the same problem as captured in the Alcmaeon story) raises questions of ultimate grounds. Thucydides neither endorses nor debunks the Athenian Thesis on Justice. He successfully casts the question of justice in terms of nature but without offering an answer to that question.  Human nature needs and destroys justice, supports and undermines it. The questionable character of justice thereby suggests the questionable character of nature. By virtue of what is nature the way it is? If the problem inherent in the surface of Alcmaeon’s story is Apollo’s strange withdrawal from that story, the heart of it is the question of Being.


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About the Author: Borden Flanagan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Government at American University. His research “Alcmaeon’s Islands: Motion and Rest in Thucydides was recently honored with the Review of Politics Award for the best paper in normative political theory.

 

MPSA in 2017 – Accomplishments Worth Celebrating (video)

 

This year was confusing at times and exhausting at others, but it also had its high points. As we say goodbye to 2017, we welcome you to join us for the MPSA highlight reel. Our thanks to everyone who played a part in making these projects a reality, including our program chairs, council members, committee chairs, program partners, donors, volunteers, and members. May the new year welcome only the best to you both personally and professionally! – MPSA Staff

Bridging the Gaps: Phones, Gender, and Politics

By Matthew Bondy, College of William & Mary

Photo Courtesy of the Center for African Development
Photo Courtesy of the Center for African Development

The spread of mobile phones over the past thirty years to both developed and developing countries alike has changed the way people interact socially, commercially, and politically. However, access to this technology has not been universal. In particular, women in developing countries are less likely to own mobile phones than men and are less likely to participate in politics.

In my paper, “Mobile Phone Ownership, Gender, and Political Participation in Africa,” I examine whether owning a mobile phone is associated with increased likelihood of individuals engaging in the political process and whether there is any interaction between mobile phone ownership and gender when it comes to political participation.

These questions are worth examining because, first, the ability to use a friend or neighbor’s phone is different from actually owning one—a distinction that previous literature on the topic has not taken into account. And second, the paper brings together the literatures on the information and communication technologies (ICTs) revolution and the gender gap in political participation. To the extent that the Mobiles for Development (M4D) movement remains influential, these empirical questions are also relevant to decision-makers in the policy and development communities.

I theorize that mobile phone ownership leads to increased political participation. The ability to exchange information more easily could lead to an increased interest in politics or an awareness of the political process that allows for participation. Additionally, owning a mobile phone may be empowering—adding to a person’s sense of political efficacy, or sense in his or her ability to contribute to politics—which has been linked to participation.

In an observational study using the Afrobarometer dataset along with some additional country-level variables, I show that mobile phone ownership is associated with a statistically significant increase in political participation. In particular, I examine the likelihood that respondents contacted a member of parliament, attended a community meeting, attended a political rally, and the participants’ interest in politics overall.

In fact, my preliminary findings show that owning a mobile phone is associated with an approximately 3 percentage point increase in contacting a member of parliament. For attending a community meeting, that number is about 5 percentage points, and for attending a rally it is about 6 percentage points. Having a phone in the household (but not owning one individually) is associated with about only half as much of an increase in political participation.

The study also confirms that even controlling for other factors, being female is linked to decreased political participation. Although the interaction between mobile phone ownership and gender is not statistically significant for most of the models, there was a statistically significant relationship when the dependent variable was attending a community meeting. (5.3 percentage points, where the base outcome was that 57 percent of respondents attended a community meeting.)

These findings seem promising, but they don’t necessarily show a causal relationship between mobile phone ownership and political participation. In order to test the causal hypothesis, I plan to combine the observational study with experimental data as a part of my ongoing work with William & Mary’s Center for African Development (CAD).

Philip Roessler the director of CAD, along with Flora Myamba, Dan Nielson, and Peter Carroll, is conducting a field experiment on mobile phone ownership and women’s empowerment in Tanzania. The experiment entails the randomization of mobile technology training and handsets to non-phone owners. At this time, the field research for this project is still ongoing. But their most recent findings show that providing low-income women with mobile phones significantly boosts their access to and use of mobile money, especially for women who are literate or are relatively more educated. With this study we will also be able to assess whether mobile phone ownership has a causal effect on political participation by comparing the degree of political engagement of those who receive phones and those in the control group.

I was encouraged by the positive feedback and suggestions for improvement that I received on my poster at the MPSA conference in 2016 and I am excited to continue my research on this issue. Professor Roessler and I are exploring additional methods to tackle some of our remaining research questions and we hope that additional findings will be forthcoming.

About the Author: Matthew Bondy recently graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.A. in International Relations and will be returning in the fall to pursue a M.S. in Business Analytics. Bondy received the award for Best Paper Presented as a Poster for his research presented at the 2016 MPSA conference.

The Strategic Calculus of Bureaucratic Delay

By Rachel Augustine Potter, University of VirginiaThe Strategic Calculus of Bureaucratic Delay

Regulations created by bureaucratic agencies touch on nearly all areas of our lives, from vehicle fuel standards to whether the “Plan B” morning-after pill is available over-the-counter at the local pharmacy. Regulations—also known as rules—carry the same force-and-effect as laws passed by Congress, but we don’t pay nearly enough attention to them.

One element of the regulatory process that typically flies under the radar is timing. Rules can take government agencies many years or even decades to create. The reasons proffered for delay are numerous, often centering on procedural hurdles or bureaucrats’ ineptitude. In my award-winning paper “Slow-Rolling, Fast-Tracking, and the Pace of Bureaucratic Decisions in Rulemaking,” forthcoming in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Politics, I offer a different perspective on delay in the federal rulemaking process—that timing is strategic.

I begin by pointing out that not all regulatory actions move at a plodding pace. Indeed, agencies often create new regulations at a relatively rapid clip, but such actions rarely receive notice since bureaucracies do not generally receive attention for being expeditious or efficient. Why then do some rules move fast while others are so slow? I argue that underlying this variation in pacing is an element of strategic bureaucratic behavior.

Creating a new regulation requires considerable bureaucratic effort and resources. Yet, the president, Congress, and the courts have the ability to upend an agency’s rulemaking project. Each branch can overturn an agency’s rule or to punish the agency in some way for writing a rule that does not align with their preferences. Pacing can be a tool to help agencies protect their rules from these consequences. In other words, agencies can speed up (fast-track) or slow down (slow-roll) the rulemaking process in order to undermine political oversight from the constitutional branches. When the political climate is favorable agencies rush to lock in a rule, but when it is less favorable they wait on the chance that it will improve.

To empirically demonstrate this argument, I rely on an event history analysis of more than 11,000 agency rules from 150 federal bureaus. I show that the pace of these rules slows significantly when the president, the Congress, or the courts are more inclined to disagree with—and potentially punish—the agency issuing the rule in question. Importantly, I am able to show that this delay is not simply tied to how complex the underlying rule is; that is, the observed delay is not consistent with an explanation based on agencies “working harder” to make good policy.

These findings make it very clear that bureaucrats are not neutral parties in the policymaking process. Rather, they have their own set of interests that they actively work to protect. Strategic pacing in the regulatory process also offers an answer to a long-standing puzzle in the rulemaking process. Specifically, many scholars have noted that agencies rarely make changes to regulatory policies as they move through the rulemaking process. But if agencies are subject to constant political scrutiny, how are rules able to withstand calls for change? Strategic timing is one mechanism by which bureaucrats are able to resist these political pressures.

Of course, bureaucrats are responsible for carrying out the entire rulemaking process, and timing is just one element of this process. In a larger book project, I look at other procedural tools that bureaucrats have in their arsenal and how strategic bureaucratic behavior affects the regulations that are ultimately produced via this process.

About the Author: Rachel Augustine Potter is an Assistant Professor of Politics at the University of Virginia. Her paper, “Slow-Rolling, Fast-Tracking, and the Pace of Bureaucratic Decisions in Rulemaking” received the Kenneth J. Meier Award for the best paper in bureaucratic politics, public administration, or public policy presented at the 2016 MPSA Conference. The paper will be published in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Politics.

 

What Makes Citizens Support Gender Quotas?

By Tiffany D. Barnes and Abby Córdova, University of Kentucky

The following is part of a series of posts written by MPSA award recipients highlighting outstanding research presented at previous MPSA annual conferences and in the American Journal of Political Science. Tiffany D. Barnes and Abby Córdova, University of Kentucky

Gender quotas have been adopted in over a hundred countries in an effort to address gender disparities in national legislatures. Latin America has been a pioneer region in the implementation of gender quota laws, in which the state requires political parties to place female candidates on their party ballot. As of 2017, all but two countries in the Latin American region had implemented a state-mandated legislative gender quota. In our award-winning article, Making Space for Women: Explaining Citizen Support for Legislative Gender Quotas in Latin America”, published in the Journal of Politics (JOP), we carry out the first systematic examination of citizens’ views about gender quotas, and what makes them more or less inclined to support this gender equality policy.

To evaluate the extent of citizen support for quotas, we utilize a survey question included in the 2012 round of the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP) survey which covered 24 countries. On a scale from 1 (strongly disagree) to 7 (strongly agree), respondents were asked their extent of agreement with the following statement: “The state should require political parties to reserve some space on their lists of candidates for women, even if they have to exclude some men.” Based on data for this survey item, we find that the average level of support for gender quotas in the region is 5 points on the 1-7 scale. There is, however, wide variation in support levels across countries, ranging from 3.72 in Trinidad and Tobago to 5.95 in El Salvador (see Figure 1). As depicted by the frequency distributions of the gender quota item across countries in Figure 1, there is also substantial within country variation in quota support. Our article seeks to shed light on this puzzle, what explains differences within and across countries in citizen support for gender quotas in the Latin American region?

Figure 1. Frequency Distribution: Support for Gender Quotas by Country
Figure 1. Frequency Distribution: Support for Gender Quotas by Country

To address this question, we have developed a theory that emphasizes citizen preferences for government intervention and the extent of governance quality to explain citizen support for gender quotas. We focus, moreover, on how these two factors differentially influence men’s and women’s quota support. In this summary, we highlight two findings from our research. The first finding is that citizens’ normative beliefs about the role of government in society are important determinants of support for quota policies, which helps explain within country variation in support for quotas. Consistent with our expectations, high support for government involvement results in stronger quota support among women than men—most likely because women are more prone than men to attribute gender disparities to unfair treatment rather than to women’s decisions, which makes them more supportive of government intervention to improve gender equality. We illustrate this result in Figure 2, which plots the predicted probability of expressing strong support for quotas on the y-axis as support for government involvement increases across the x-axis.

Figure 2. Effect of Preferences for Government Involvement
Figure 2. Effect of Preferences for Government Involvement

We also find that citizens rely on heuristic information they draw on from their national context to determine their level of quota support. Differences across countries in the level of quota support are largely explained by governance quality. A government’s track record of governance quality serves as a cue to citizens trying to decide their level of quota support, and men are more inclined to resort to this contextual information than women. Given that men are less likely to see gender quota policies as serving their interests, men rely more heavily on cues from national context than on policy content to form their opinions on gender equality policies. In countries with a better track record of governance quality, men in particular become more confident that state-mandated gender quotas might be a good idea. Figure 3 plots this relationship. Specifically, we show the predicted probability of expressing strong support for quotas on the y-axis across different levels of government capabilities across the x-axis. The results plotted in Figure 3 indicate that in countries with better governance quality, the gender gap in support for gender quotas disappears.

Figure 3. Effect of Governance Quality
Figure 3. Effect of Governance Quality

The stronger effect of governance quality on quota support among men than women suggests that good governance may also narrow the gender gap in citizen support for other gender equality policies such as fair pay and equal access to employment. Beyond gender issues, governance quality can play a role in shaping support for other affirmative action policies currently topping the agendas of political elites and international organizations such as state-mandated quotas (or reserved seats) for ethnic and religious minorities in political decision-making bodies. Consequently, although political values such as support for government involvement may help explain attitude formation for policies intended to improve the lives of marginalized citizens, support for affirmative action policies in general is likely to be highest in countries with good governance. We are examining some of these issues in a new book project that leverages experimental data to test the theoretical mechanisms proposed in our JOP article.

MPSA_Awards_RecognizingOutstandingResearch

 

About the Authors: Tiffany D. Barnes and Abby Córdova are Assistant Professors in the Department of Political Science at the University of Kentucky. Their research “Making Space for Women: Explaining Citizen Support for Legislative Gender Quotas in Latin America was recently honored with the Sophonisba Breckinridge Award as the best paper on the topic of women and politics presented at the 2016 MPSA conference.