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Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy Archive 2021

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.

Past Events

Why You Should and Should Not be Worried about American Democracy

The Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professorship in Political Science, Inaugural Lecture

Sept. 21, 2021 | 4:00 to 5:00 PM EDT
Ken Kollman (University of Michigan)
Details available on the University of Michigan Events Calendar.

Gender, Social Recognition, and Political Influence

October 6, 2021 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Cesi Cruz (UCLA)
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What determines women’s political influence? While the literature on political engagement focuses on individual traits, attitudes, and participation, we argue that how these factors translate to political influence is fundamentally a social process that requires recognition from the broader community, with important implications for understanding women’s political engagement. Using new data on networks of political influence in Philippine villages, we show that even after controlling for socioeconomic status or political participation, women are still markedly less likely to be recognized as influential. Furthermore, we show that engagement in politics through traditional means–running for office, participating in councils, or joining parties–are only associated with political influence for men. The determinants of influence are more complex for women: embeddedness in the community and participation in community activities are more important than traditional modes of political participation.

Trust in Religious Leaders & Voluntary Compliance: Lessons from Social Distancing during COVID-19 in Central Asia

October 20, 2021 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Pauline Jones (University of Michigan)
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What is the relationship between trust in religious leaders and voluntary compliance with policies that are costly to the individual? Religious leaders have the moral authority to affect individuals’ willingness to adopt pro-social behaviors across many societies. Less clear is whether that influence will be positive or negative. It cannot be assumed ex ante that religious leaders will uniformly support social distancing guidelines both because they may be reluctant to discourage congregants from attending services and because their leadership within a country is often decentralized. We investigate how trust in religious leaders affects compliance in countries where religious authority is centralized and state aligned. We argue that, under these conditions, greater trust in religious leaders will be associated with more voluntary compliance, but that this effect will be limited to religious celebrations and rituals. Using novel data from surveys fielded in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan during the COVID-19 pandemic, we find support for both hypotheses but only in Kazakhstan, where religious leaders consistently offered adherents substitutes that enabled them to practice their faith while social distancing. The influence of religious leaders on voluntary compliance, therefore, may depend as much on the content of the message as it does on the source.

Remembering the life and work of Ronald F. Inglehart

On Friday, October 22, 2021, friends and colleagues gathered to celebrate the life and work of Ronald F. Inglehart. A recording of this memorable event is now available below. Thank you to all of the people who shared memories and honored the significance of Ron’s life and his professional and personal impact.

Flyer for an event celebrating the life and work of Ronald F. Inglehart. Includes a photo of Dr. Inglehart and event details.

View a four-minute video of appreciation for Ron: 

View the full event recording: 

Emotional Sensibility: Exploring the Methodological and Ethical Implications of Research Participants’ Emotions

October 27, 2021 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Wendy Pearlman (Northwestern University)
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Building upon the term “ethnographic sensibility,” this article makes the case for an “emotional sensibility” that seeks to glean the emotional experiences of the people whom we study and who participate in our research. I argue that an emotional sensibility is relevant for any human subjects research, including interviews, surveys, and experiments, even when emotions are not a direct variable under study. Methodologically, attention to research participants’ emotions can improve research because these emotions are themselves data, influence the validity of other data, and affect our ability to collect data in the future. Ethically, it balances ethics committees’ rationalist emphasis on elements such as information and cognitive capacity with appreciation for how emotions infuse consent, vulnerability, and experiences of risk and benefit. Against the tendency to narrow concern about participants’ emotions to a medicalized notion of retraumatization, an emotional sensibility encourages deeper thinking about research participants’ emotional experiences beyond harm and about emotional harms that do not qualify as trauma. Upon presenting these and other claims about how an emotional sensibility can make political science research more empirically valid and ethically sound, the article outlines strategies for cultivating and upholding an emotional sensibility in practice.

TADA 2021: 11th Annual Conference on New Directions in Analyzing Text as Data

October 28-29, 2021 
TADA is an interdisciplinary conference, drawing scholars from across the social sciences, computer science, and related fields. Learn more at

Coordinated Dis-Coordination

November 3, 2021 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Mai Hassan (Univ. of Michigan)
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Dissidents face a tension when coordinating mobilization against a repressive regime. Dissidents benefit from making coordination public: this increases the spread of the call, and thus the potential size of mobilization. But public calls are heard by the regime, giving the security apparatus advanced knowledge of, and improved ability to, stifle mobilization. How do dissidents coordinate collective action under repressive environments? Using interview and ethnographic data, I examine mobilization during Sudan’s 2018-19 uprising. I find that, on the surface, it appeared that mobilization was publicly coordinated by a social movement organization through internet and communicative technologies, consistent with common channels of coordination identified by existing literature. Yet some dissidents independently used these widespread calls to secretly organize simultaneous collective action away from main protest sites, intentionally deviating from centrally organized calls to confuse the security forces. By looking deeply within the internal workings of a protest movement, this paper suggests that existing literature may be mis-attributing successful coordination in repressive environments to public-facing channels of mobilization. 

Behavioral Foundations of Presidential Accountability

November 10, 2021 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Kenny Lowande (Univ. of Michigan)
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Presidents possess vast authority over policies and outcomes. Recent studies suggest the public checks this unilateralism through expressive opinions and political participation. We examine this accountability link by investigating the empirical implications of a model of presidential leadership. We present findings from a pre-registered panel survey prior to the 2020 presidential election and a dataset of news coverage of unilateral actions from 1993-2020. We find that presidents pay no net public cost — and may even benefit— by acting. Though respondents penalized presidents for failing to achieve their goals, our analysis of news coverage reveals that most action receives asymmetric media coverage. News stories are positive, assign credit for actions at their announcement, and rarely follow-up on realized outcomes. On balance, our theoretical and empirical evidence suggests that unilateral directives are credit-claiming devices most often unrestrained by public opinion and that presidents’ accountability relationship can incentivize actions that are welfare-reducing. 

This is joint work with Benjamin Goehring.

Consequences of Secular and Religious Civic Education Among Youth: Evidence from the Lead-Up to General Elections in Zambia

November 17, 2021 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Gwyneth McClendon (New York University)
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Debate persists as to whether, and under what conditions, civic education increases political knowledge and political participation, particularly among younger voters. This project contributes new evidence to these debates through a community-collaborative field experiment in Zambia in the lead-up to its 2021 general elections. The study was conducted in collaboration with major religious coalitions, which are the most prevalent providers of civic education in Zambia and prevalent providers of civic education worldwide. The study randomly assigned youth (ages 18-35) participants in a WhatsApp-based civic education program into one of three conditions: civic information only (with no motivational messages), or civic information accompanied by either religious or non-religious motivational messages.  We then measured political knowledge, political attitudes, and participation in the lead-up to and during the 2021 elections. The study found that the information-only course and the non-religiously motivated course both had compensatory effects on political participation, raising political knowledge and participation most robustly among young women and often reducing the ex-ante gender gap. However, the religiously motivated course increased participation most robustly among those who already occupied church leadership positions and often led to a retreat from participation among those without leadership positions (an exacerbating effect). The study shows that one should not take for granted that religious civic education will have large positive and compensatory effects on political participation, even in highly religious contexts. More generally, the paper underscores that the content of civic education courses can have consequences not just for the courses’ influence on aggregate political participation but also for the distribution of political involvement across groups.

The Role of Group Identity in Fostering Political Polarization

December 1, 2021 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Yan Chen (Univ. of Michigan)
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Identifying the foundations of political polarization is a pressing issue across the social sciences. Our study lends insight to this matter through a nationally representative online experiment exploring how (partisan) group identity shapes the process of political opinion formation. In the week prior to the 2020 US presidential election, we incentivized participants to predict how policy-sensitive statistics develop over the next year, conditional on which candidate becomes president. Participants can update their initial predictions after selecting or exogenously receiving factually similar articles on the respective topics curated from news sources with a right- or left-leaning slant. Our results show that those individuals whose behavior is responsive to group identities are both initially more politically polarized and exhibit a stronger partisan bias during the process of opinion formation: (i) their initial predictions about the development of policy-sensitive statistics more strongly depend on whether their candidate becomes president or not; (ii) the partisan gap between these predictions increases more strongly after reading two curated articles with a right- and left-leaning slant, respectively; and (iii) they exhibit a stronger taste for articles curated from politically congenial than politically opposing news sources. Further, in a treatment manipulation we find that reducing the salience of group identity by de-labeling the source of information decreases partisan bias in information demand, especially for participants sensitive to group identity. Overall, our results suggest that through its role in the process of opinion formation, the group identity roots of partisanship are a key factor contributing to political polarization.

All In The Family: The Effects Of Familial Cues On Attitudes Toward Women’s Rights

January 26, 2022 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Sara Morell (Univ. of Michigan)
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Why is gender such an unreliable predictor of support for policies that promote gender equality? Women and men alike are generally raised in households and local contexts where men play an outsized role in shaping norms and wield a disproportionate amount of physical, economic, and social power, influencing the development of attitudes toward gendered policies. Across two national surveys, we look at the influence of various local institutions on attitudes toward gendered policies and find that family norms play a uniquely important role. In a follow-up survey experiment conducted on a national probability sample of American teenagers, we show that thinking of a single family member with liberal or conservative attitudes towards gender can shape teenage support for gender-related policies, particularly among boys. Together our findings highlight the powerful role that a single family member can play in shaping public opinion on gender equality. 


Moving Beyond the White-Black Binary: Investigating Latino Ethno-racial Resentment

February 9, 2022 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Angela Ocampo (Univ. of Michigan)
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Existent scholarship has established that racial resentment is a strong driver of anti-Black attitudes and policies associated with African Americans. The scale has been adopted by hundreds of researchers and has also been used to account for prejudice towards other ethno-racial minorities yielding mixed results. In this project, we develop a theory of Latino ethno-racial resentment (LERR) where we aim to identify and measure a prejudice-oriented belief system that individuals might have toward Latinos. Our theory identifies several themes that reflect a consistent logic about the status of Latinos in the U.S. These three themes, we argue, are at the core of an anti-Latino belief system that drives racial prejudice toward members of this group and policies associated with or targeted toward Latinos. We develop a novel measure of LERR comprised of 9 unique items that tap into this prejudice. We test these unique items in three studies of White, Black and Latino respondents. This novel approach and new measure provide a needed contribution to broaden our understanding of racial attitudes and existent theories to better understand how prejudice shapes political attitudes beyond a White and Black dichotomy. 

State-criminal alliances and community predation: Evidence from Rio de Janeiro militias

February 23, 2022 | Noon to 1:00 PM EST
Edgar Franco Vivanco (Univ. of Michigan)
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Vigilante and paramilitary groups are prevalent in many different contexts around the globe. Although many of these groups are associated with extortion and extralegal violence, the conflict literature has emphasized how, when they experience long-time horizons, these actors can also provide security and governance. However, these explanations fail to account for the fact that these groups tend to transition from protection rackets to violent actors, often indistinguishable from the groups they were allegedly fighting in the first place. This paper studies these questions focusing on the governance practices of militia groups in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. We document how these groups emerged as a police-derived state-sponsored protection racket that initially curbed the power of Organized Criminal Groups (OCGs). However, as militias diversified their portfolio, they became as violent towards the community as OCGs with an important qualitative characteristic: they are supported by the authorities. This paper empirically tests the evolution of the militias and their harmful impact on communities with a novel dataset of criminal governance based on more than 500,000 anonymous citizen reports, cross-validated with police intelligence data, and news sources. Using text analysis techniques, preliminary evidence shows that, when a community transitions to militia control, economic predation increases, whereas practices that physically harm community members (i.e. torture, murder, rape) decrease. However, these violent practices steadily rise as militia control becomes more stable. This article has implications for the understanding of criminal governance and the role of the state as an enabler of extralegal violence.

Democracy without Policy Competition: Voter Preferences and Single-Party Dominance in Japan

March 10, 2022 | Noon to 1:30 PM EST

Yusaku Horiuchi, Dartmouth College
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This event is part of the Center for Japanese Studies Thursday Lecture Series


Based on a nationwide survey administered before the House of Representatives election in Japan, which was held on October 31, 2021, we examine voters’ multidimensional preferences for policies based on conjoint analysis. A specific aim is to examine a puzzle in contemporary Japanese politics: why the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) dominates elections in Japan, despite proposing policies that seem to be unpopular with voters.

Yusaku Horiuchi is a Professor of Government and the Mitsui Professor of Japanese Studies at Dartmouth College. His research focuses on applying experimental designs and statistical methods to a range of empirical questions in political science. His substantive research interests include political behavior, public opinion, electoral institutions, and Japanese politics.

This colloquium series is made possible by the generous support of the U.S. Department of Education Title VI grant.

This event is free and open to the public, but registration is required if you intend to participate virtually. Once you’ve registered, the joining information will be sent to your email. Webinar registration link to be announced. The Center for Japanese Studies will follow state, local, and University of Michigan guidelines for in-person events. 

Henry Russel Lecture

March 14, 2022 | 4:30 to 5:30 PM EDT
Donald Kinder will address democracy and prejudice during the 97th Henry Russel Lecture.
Pendleton Room of the Michigan Union and streamed online
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Advisers and Aggregation in Foreign Policy Decision-Making

April 13, 2022 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Joshua Kertzer (Harvard University)
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Do advisers affect foreign policy and, if so, how? Recent scholarship on elite decision-making prioritizes leaders and the institutions that surround them, rather than the dispositions of advisers themselves. We argue that despite the hierarchical nature of foreign policy decision-making, advisers’ predispositions towards the use of force shape state behavior through participation in deliberations. We test our argument by introducing an original dataset of 2,881 foreign policy deliberations between US presidents and their advisers from 1947 to 1988. Applying a novel machine learning approach to estimate the hawkishness of 1,073 Cold War-era foreign policy decision-makers, we show that adviser-level hawkishness has consistently large effects on foreign policy decisions. Conflictual policy choices grow more likely as hawks increasingly dominate the debate, even when accounting for leader dispositions. These results enrich our understanding of international conflict by demonstrating that advisers’ dispositions, which aggregate via deliberation, systematically shape foreign policy.

The Direct Cost to Voters of Polling-Site Closure & Consolidation

April 20, 2022 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Scott Abramson (Univ. of Rochester)
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Restrictive voting laws are an increasingly salient and contested feature of American politics. However, estimating their unbiased direct impact on voter turnout is challenging given the strategic and often simultaneous actions of political actors who can both impose and mitigate the costs of these laws. Using individual-level data from Davidson County, Tennessee, we leverage variation induced by an early-morning tornado on Super Tuesday 2020 to estimate the direct causal effect of polling-site closures and consolidations on voter turnout. We find that moving to a new polling station decreases in-person turnout by 6.4% on average. Specifically, travel costs, rather than search costs, drive almost all of this decrease. Additionally, we find that voting at a consolidated polling-site only decreases turnout when the number of voters assigned to a given station increases by more than 140%. This suggests prolonged wait-times and overcrowding may also dampen in-person turnout.

Voted In, Standing Out: Public Response to Immigrants’ Political Accession

April 27, 2022 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Guy Grossman (Univ. of Pennsylvania)
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In a context of nativism and poor representation of immigrant-origin ethnic minorities, what is the reaction of the host society when immigrants succeed at integration in political institutions? Building on threat theory—which links minorities’ political power to hostility against minoritized groups—we argue that when they win political office, immigrants pose a threat to natives’ dominant position. This in turn triggers a hostile reaction from a violent-prone fringe, the mass public and the elites. We test these dynamics across the last four UK general elections, using hate crime police records, public opinion data, and text data from over 500,000 news articles from 350 national and local newspapers. We identify the public’s hostile reactions with a regression discontinuity design that leverages close election results between minority-immigrant and dominant group candidates. Our findings suggest a public backlash against ethnic minority immigrants’ integration into majority settings.

The Performative State: Public Scrutiny and Environmental Governance in China

May 4, 2022 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Iza Ding (University of Pittsburgh)
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What does the state do when public expectations exceed its governing capacity? The Performative State shows how the state can shape public perceptions and defuse crises through the theatrical deployment of language, symbols, and gestures of good governance—performative governance. Iza Ding unpacks the black box of street-level bureaucracy in China through ethnographic participation, in-depth interviews, and public opinion surveys. She demonstrates with vivid detail how China’s environmental bureaucrats deal with intense public scrutiny over pollution when they lack the authority to actually improve the physical environment. Bureaucrats assuage public outrage by appearing responsive and benevolent before citizens. But performative governance is hard work. Environmental bureaucrats paradoxically work themselves to exhaustion even when they cannot effectively implement environmental policies. Instead of achieving “performance legitimacy” through actual good governance and its desirable outcomes, the state can shape public opinion with theatrical performance of goodwill and sincere effort. The book also explains why performative governance sometimes fails at impressing its audience, and when governance becomes less performative and more substantive.