Title: “Voter Placement of Candidate Ideology: A Test of Competing Theories”
Co-Author: Michael Peress
SPSA 2017 in New Orleans
Emory Political Economy Conference (2017)
When asked to place candidates on an ideological spectrum, voters show a surprising level of variation in where they place candidates. One explanation for this variation is simply that voters receive different information cues about the candidates’ positions. Assimilation and Contrast effects suggest voters may place candidates either closer or further away from their own position based on their attitude towards the candidates. Finally, voters may have strategic reasons for misreporting the position of candidates, such as “Cheerleading” for their favored candidate by moderating the placement of that candidate to make them appear more appealing. Previous work on voter placement of candidates has been stymied by difficulties in placing both the actual and perceived positions of voters and candidates on the same scale and has tested these theories one at a time rather than comparatively. We develop an approach for placing candidates, voters, and the voter’s perceptions of the candidates on the same scale and develop an instrumental variables approach for distinguishing between the competing theories. We find evidence for Assimilation and Contrast among low knowledge voters and Cheerleading among high knowledge voters. We also find evidence that the actual position of the candidate has a detectable but small effect on voter’s perceptions of that candidate, limiting the extent to which House candidates are held individually accountable for the positions they take. Contrarily, we find evidence that voters cue off of the positions of the party’s other candidates, allowing for the possibility that candidates for a political party are held collectively accountable.
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Title: “Looking for a Fight? Conflict Avoidance and Responses to Uncivil Politics”
Conference: APSA 2016 in Philadelphia
How does exposure to uncivil political conflict affect the willingness of individuals to participate in politics? I investigate the effect of an individual’s level of conflict avoidance, which is the willingness to avoid or approach conflict, on this question. Based on the current literature regarding uncivil political conflict and personality, higher levels of this trait are associated with more susceptibility to the negative effects of uncivil politics. I theorize, however, that low levels of this trait may be associated with higher levels of political participation. Observational and experimental data indicate that conflict avoidant individuals become less politically engaged when exposed to uncivil political conflict while those more comfortable with conflict become more politically engaged compared to civil political conflict situations.