Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy
About the workshops
Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy are weekly seminars hosted by the Center for Political Studies. Speakers present current research on a wide range of topics. Abstracts of past workshops are available in the menu to the right.
Why do political parties drop out of coalition negotiations? Before coalition governments are established, political parties engage in extensive coalition talks in which the coalition’s policy agenda and the distribution of ministerial offices are negotiated. Although they may have spent weeks or even months in negotiations with potential parties, parties do abandon coalition talks, thereby significantly delaying government formation. Despite the central importance of timely government formation for the stability and performance of political systems, we know very little about why parties abandon coalition talks, giving up attractive ministerial posts and risking public blaming. We argue that parties learn about the policy horizon of the other parties during the negotiation process as they are conducted away from the scrutiny of the public and media. When there is no overlap between a party’s own policy horizon and that of its negotiation partners, the likelihood of a party dropping out of coalition talks increases. To test our theoretical argument comparatively and over time, we have compiled a comprehensive dataset covering 380 political parties in 27 countries following 160 elections from 1991 until 2017. Our results have important implications for our understanding of coalition governments, democratic representation and the stability of democratic systems.
Past events in this series
Race, Inequality, Policing and the 2020 Election
September 22, 2020 | 7:00 to 8:30 PM EDT
Data Science, History, and US Politics
September 23, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
David Shor, Director of Political Data Science at Future Forward USA
Using over one million survey responses and machine learning to learn what happened in the 2016 and 2018 election, why nobody saw Trump coming, and how data science is being used in the 2020 election
Testing Cannot Tell Whether Ballot-Marking Devices Alter Election Outcomes
September 30, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Philip Stark, University of California Berkeley
Like all computerized systems, ballot-marking devices (BMDs) can be hacked, misprogrammed, and misconfigured. BMD printout might not reflect what the BMD screen or audio conveyed to the voter. If voters complain that BMDs misbehaved, officials have no way to tell whether BMDs malfunctioned, the voters erred, or the voters are attempting to cast doubt on the election. Several approaches to testing BMDs have been proposed. In pre-election logic and accuracy (L&A) tests, trusted agents input known test patterns into the BMD and check whether the printout matches. In parallel or live testing, trusted agents use the BMDs on election day, emulating voters. In passive testing, trusted agents monitor the rate at which voters “spoil” ballots and request another opportunity to mark a ballot: an anomalously high rate might result from BMD malfunctions. In practice, none of these methods can protect against outcome-altering problems. L&A testing is ineffective against malware in part because BMDs “know” the time and date of the test and the election. Neither L&A nor parallel testing can probe even a small fraction of the combinations of voter preferences, device settings, ballot language, duration of voter interaction, input and output interfaces, and other variables that could comprise enough votes to change outcomes. Under mild assumptions, to develop a model of voter interactions with BMDs accurate enough to ensure that parallel tests could reliably detect changes to 5% of the votes (which could change margins by 10% or more) would require monitoring the behavior of more than a million voters in each jurisdiction in minute detail—but the median turnout by jurisdiction in the U.S. is under 3000 voters, and 2/3 of U.S. jurisdictions have fewer than 43,000 active voters. Moreover, all voter privacy would be lost. Given an accurate model of voter behavior, the number of tests required is still larger than the turnout in a typical U.S. jurisdiction. Even if less testing sufficed, it would require extra BMDs, new infrastructure for creating test interactions and reporting test results, additional polling-place staff, and more training. Under optimistic assumptions, passive testing that has a 99% chance of detecting a 1% change to the margin with a 1% false alarm rate is impossible in jurisdictions with fewer than about 1 million voters, even if the “normal” spoiled ballot rate were known exactly and did not vary from election to election and place to place. Passive testing would also require training and infrastructure to monitor the spoiled ballot rate in real time. And if parallel or passive testing discovers a problem, the only remedy is a new election: there is no way to reconstruct the correct election result from an untrustworthy paper trail. Minimizing the number of votes cast using BMDs is prudent election administration.
The Politics of Place: How Southern Identity Shapes Americans’ Racial Attitudes & Policy Preferences
October 7, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
This project investigates the role of place-based identification in influencing Americans’ racial attitudes and policy preferences. Specifically, I argue that Southern identity (i.e., identification with the American South) is an influential but omitted factor in the study of political behavior across racial groups. In this project, I create a novel survey measurement of Southern identity and assess its impact on public opinion. Contrary to the extant literature, this work argues that Southern identity has political consequences for the opinion formation of Black Americans as well as for White Americans. I expect that Southern identity will be associated with group-centric racial beliefs reflecting the perceived communalistic nature of Southern culture. Analyses from three original surveys suggest that Southern identity influences both Black and Whites to adopt distinct racial beliefs different from their non-southern racial group members. These results hint at a challenge to the claim that Southern identity among Black Americans is not as politically relevant as it is for White Americans. This work also speaks to the need for more nuanced approaches to understanding American’s racial beliefs across race and place.
Refugees and the Radical Right: Evidence from Post-WWII Forced Migrations
October 14, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Do refugees reshape long-term political behavior in receiving areas? To investigate this question, I examine the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe into West Germany at the end of WWII. Expellees were strangers to the cultural practices in their new surroundings. Tensions with natives forced expellees to rely on each other and helped foster a strong group identity. I argue that this shared identity, coupled with political circumstances speciﬁc to Germany, engendered support for the radical right among expellees. Using district-level data from 32 elections spanning 100 years, I ﬁnd that communities which received greater shares of expellees remain more supportive of the radical right in the short, medium, and long term. This legacy of forced migration responds to changes in the political context within Germany, and is driven primarily by districts that received greater shares of expellees who were not citizens of the Third Reich during the interwar period.
How Patrons Select Brokers: Efficacy and Loyalty in Urban Indian Machines
October 21, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Despite a large comparative literature on party machines in distributive politics, few studies have systematically examined how party leaders select local brokers to staff their party organizations. We provide a theoretical framework for studying these selection decisions. We argue that patrons must balance two key concerns: a broker’s efficacy among clients and their loyalty to party and patron. We test the relative importance of these concerns through a conjoint experiment conducted with 343 local political patrons across two Indian cities. Briefly, we find patrons strongly prefer loyal brokers, and not simply brokers who are popular with clients. We suggest this preference reflects the high threat of broker exit under conditions of inter-party competition and intra-party factionalism. Further, we find that patrons value a broker’s everyday problem-solving efficacy more highly than their election-time mobilizing efficacy. We validate our experimental findings against actual broker promotion patterns in our study cities, drawing on data from a unique survey of 629 brokers operating within migrant slums.
Willing but Unable: Reassessing the Effects of Racial Group Consciousness on Black Political Participation
October 28, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
In this paper we reexamine the role of racial group consciousness (RGC) in explaining why Black Americans choose to engage in costly, to the individual, political action. Attempting to add clarity to decades of inconsistent and at times contradictory findings, we argue that the effect of RGC at inspiring political action among racial minorities is conditional on 1) the relevance of the political activity to achieving a group-based ends, and 2) individual capacity to assume the cost associated with engaging in the activity. Given these conditions, we designed a series of behavioral experiments that vary the group relevance of political action while holding capacity to engage constant. We find that while nearly all measures of RGC exhibit a consistently strong relationship with engagement in low-cost political behavior (stated support or intent to support), only RGC beliefs that directly capture perceptions of discrimination reliably explain Black Americans’ willingness to engage in costly, to the individual, group based political behavior. This work has important implications for how we understand the role that race plays in black political decision making.
Examining the Co-Evolution of State-Militant Violence Using a New Micro-Level Dataset of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
November 11, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
How do militants and governments strategically adapt their military tactics in asymmetric conflict contexts? This paper presents patterns from the new Palestinian-Israeli Insurgency & Militarism (PA’ILIM) dataset, which includes information on approximately 180,000 Israeli military (and settler) actions and over 5,000 acts of Palestinian political violence from 2009 to 2018. This event-level dataset uses local Israeli and Palestinian NGO reports to capture fine-grained information on patterns of violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including more low-level negative interactions between Israelis and Palestinians than is typically covered in datasets reliant on news stories. As such, PA’ILIM provides a fuller picture of the broad repertoire of violence used by both sides as well as the daily realities of violence for the communities involved in this long-standing conflict. To illustrate the utility of this dataset, I use the data to examine changes in patterns of violence over time, demonstrating how the unique strategic dilemmas facing each actor manifest in distinct tactical choices. This dataset will be useful to scholars interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and, more generally, in the conduct of asymmetric warfare, strategic adaptation in conflict, state violence or repression, and repertoires of militant violence.
The Politics of Inclusion and Exclusion: Perceived Belonging to U.S. Society among Latinos
December 2, 2020 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
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How do perceptions of belonging or lack of belonging to American society influence political interest and political engagement? To date, there have been few inquiries that systematically investigate notions of perceived belonging to U.S. society and the political ramifications of these predispositions. This project addresses this puzzle and investigates how a sense of perceived social inclusion or exclusion influences political engagement among Latinos, the largest, one of the fastest growing and most pivotal groups in American politics. By bridging literatures in political science, sociology and psychology, this book project offers a novel framework centering on the idea that notions of belonging are fundamentally tied to political attitudes and political behavior for members of marginalized groups. I argue that members of marginalized groups develop different understandings of inclusion in the U.S. according to their every-day experiences, and that these perceptions have the potential of conditioning their political attitudes and political behaviors. To advance this argument, this multi-method project, leverages surveys, experiments and in-depth interviews. I develop a new set of items to measure perceptions of inclusion and exclusion from U.S. society. I examine these items in over six state and national surveys including the 2016 and 2020 Collaborative Multi-racial Post-election Surveys (CMPS) as well as the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES). Relying on multiple survey experiments, I assess the extent to which elite messaging can shift perceptions of belonging, and how shifts in these predispositions have behavioral consequences. Belonging and claims of membership have been at the core of the political struggle of racial and ethnic groups in America, but as a psychological construct the notion of perceived belonging has received little attention in political science. Through a novel framework rooted in interdisciplinary perspectives and by empirically testing a new measure of perceived belonging to U.S. society, this project makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the factors that shape political behavior among members of marginalized and stigmatized groups.
I develop a theory of presidential behavior based on the idea that what they actually accomplish doesn’t matter. Most scholarship on the American presidency argues that presidents care about what the government they lead accomplishes in terms of policy. I argue the power of the contemporary presidency is mostly found in the ability to put on a compelling show of governance for some critical audience, and that the substantive impacts of policy are not important. Presidential initiatives often masquerade as policymaking intended to alter the status quo—but yet, leave that status quo untouched. This is because the president’s accountability relationship with the public does not require them to be effectual, and their motivations to leave a historical legacy are typically overstated. Presidential actions are mostly useful ideological signaling and credit claiming devices that help them retain office. As a result, the constitutional and legal barriers to action enforced by the separation of powers are less important for explaining presidents’ behavior than previously thought.