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Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy Archive 2018

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.

2018-2019 Events

From Pews to Politics in Africa and Beyond

September 26, 2018
Rachel Beatty Riedl (Northwestern University)


There is a popular view that religious teachings motivate political participation, but much political science scholarship hesitates to attribute causal influence to religious teachings. The dissonance between these two perspectives presents a puzzle. Do religious teachings influence political engagement? To what extent, and to what end? Examining contemporary Christian sermons in sub-Saharan Africa, we argue that exposure to religious teachings can shape political engagement, even when those teachings are not explicitly political. In the context we examine, religious teachings provide metaphysical instruction about the causal logics of the spiritual and physical worlds and about the possibilities for change. We find that exposure to such teachings can influence both whether people engage in politics and also how they do so: for instance, whether they seek political change through individual transformation or through structural reform. We also argue that links between religious world views and political behavior, rather than necessarily being deep-seated and immovable, can be short-term (even detectable in the lab) and exploited for those short-term effects or reactivated through frequent exposure. The project leverages experimental results, survey data, focus groups, and case studies from across sub-Saharan Africa. The findings challenge us to pay greater attention to the episodic, content-dependent influence of religious teachings on political behavior, and to religious teachings as part of a larger class of metaphysical messages that can shape citizens’ approaches to politics.

Risk or Retribution: How Citizens Respond to Terrorism

October 3, 2018
Carly Wayne (Univ. of Michigan)


Despite the widespread assumption regarding terrorism’s “terrifying” effect, there has been little systematic testing of the factors that make terrorism so emotionally and politically powerful. This hinders our understanding of the strategic considerations undergirding militants’ use of this tactic and our ability to address public health in the wake of terrorist violence. In this paper, I employ three survey experiments to examine the psychological mechanisms motivating the public’s political responses to terrorism. I find that the predominant emotional response to terrorism is anger rather than fear, and this drives support for retributive violence. Indeed, increased support for military retaliation in the wake of terror attacks is driven by those citizens who feel the least personally threatened by terrorist violence but the most morally outraged. These results belie the predominant narrative of the public’s terror and overestimation of personal risk in the wake of terrorist violence and suggest that vengeance may be a more powerful driver of citizens’ responses to this type of militant violence. This work thus provides insight into a major puzzle in the terrorism literature — why terrorists rarely receive concessions from states, but often provoke strong military responses — and has important implications for undermining the efficacy of terrorism as a tool of political violence.

Political Tolerance and the 2017 Charlottesville, VA Protests: the Asymmetrical Role of Racial Resentment

October 10, 2018
Monika McDermott (Fordham Univ.)


Existing studies of political tolerance — defined as allowing public airing of views from those with whom one disagrees — pay little attention to the realities of group tolerance in America, most frequently focusing on hypothetical situations. In addition, little attention is given to racial effects despite a frequent focus on the Ku Klux Klan as a tolerance target. My research addresses these gaps through an experimental survey measuring tolerance for the Black Lives Matter movement and white nationalist movements involved in the violent Charlottesville, VA protests in 2017, and the role of racial resentment in individuals’ willingness to tolerate these two groups.

The Local Dead in U.S. Civil War & Post-war Elections

October 17, 2018
Nathan Kalmoe (Louisiana State Univ.)

The Civil War slaughtered Americans on a scale unmatched by any conflict before or since, fundamentally transforming the nation and its politics. As the extent of death grew several times greater than other U.S. wars, how did voters respond when offered the choice to sustain or extinguish the war at the ballot box—and in elections over the decades that followed? Leveraging records from over one million individual Union soldiers in 15 loyal states linked to election results in their home counties, I find local casualties hurt vote shares for Lincoln and his fellow Republicans in pre-war Democratic areas but not in Republican strongholds. The scale of these local dead ensured electoral effects that endured through Reconstruction and into the 20th century, leaving a lasting mark on local political culture. This work challenges previous scholarship on wartime opinion and Civil War history with new evidence from America’s most consequential and costly conflict. It fits within a book project on partisan persistence & polarization that illuminates the tangled relationship between partisanship and violence in the Civil War era, with broader implications for partisan conflict at other times and in other places.

Split Feelings: Understanding how Political Message Influence Implicit and Explicit Attitudes

October 31, 2018
Timothy Ryan (Univ. of North Carolina – Chapel Hill)


Existing literature on campaign advertising has long suggested that people respond not only to the substantive content of an advertisement, but also its emotional content. Cues such as music, images and colors, research suggests, are important because they can alter an individual’s affective response to the ad and these affective changes may, in turn, influence their stated feelings about a candidate. This line of argument rests on the idea that ads not only change individuals’ explicit attitudes about a candidate but also their implicit attitudes. In this paper, we use psychological theories as a foundation to consider the conditions under which campaign stimuli differentially affect implicit and explicit attitudes. We do so through two pre-registered studies which track how shifts in the emotional content of ads affect both, explicit and implicit attitudes. Our work suggests that while there are means of differentiating between stimuli that affect implicit attitudes and those that move explicit attitudes, previous psychological models that differentiate between these attitude types may not be easily translatable to political contexts.

Election 2018: A Round Table Discussion

November 1, 2018, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Ashley Jardina (Duke University)
Stuart Soroka (University of Michigan)
Brendan Nyhan, (University of Michigan)

Click here to read about the round table and view the recording.

What Policymakers Want From Us Revisited: Preliminary Results From a Follow-up Survey

November 7, 2018
Michael Desch (Univ. of Notre Dame)


In 2014, Avey and Desch reported the results of a unique survey of current and former policymakers intended to gauge when and how they use academic social science to inform national security decision making. They found that policymakers do regularly follow academic social science research and scholarship on national security affairs, hoping to draw upon its substantive expertise. But their results also called into question the direct relevance to policymakers of the most scientific approaches to international relations. Their piece has subsequently generated much discussion and in an effort to further explore what policymakers want from academic social science Avey and Desch teamed up with the TRIP project at the College of William and Mary to survey a broader spectrum of U.S. foreign policy policymakers and endeavored to deepen the pool of respondents to include a younger and otherwise more diverse set of views on what policymakers want from academics. This talk will report some initial top-line results from this follow-up survey.

Election 2018: What Happened?

November 13, 2018, 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm
Ken Goldstein (University of San Francisco)
Walter Mebane (University of Michigan)
Vince Hutchings (University of Michigan)

Click here to read about the round table and view the recording.

Unorthodox Lawmaking and Legislator Productivity

November 14, 2018
Jessica Preece (Brigham Young University)


Legislators can create law via three mechanisms: (1) traditional bill sponsorship, (2) bill amendments, and (3) unorthodox lawmaking–such as incorporating language into omnibus legislation or in conference committee. We measure a legislator’s lawmaking success in each of these areas by creating a productivity metric at both the chamber and congressional level for members of the 103-114th Congresses. In addition to including commonly used data on bill sponsorship/passage, we incorporate data on amendment sponsorship/passage and a measure of unorthodox bill influence that builds on Wilkerson et al. (2015)’s bill text reuse method. We combine achievements from each of the three lawmaking mechanisms to create our Lawmaking Productivity Metric (LawProM). We find that a significant portion of lawmaking happens through amendments and unorthodox bill influence–and is therefore ignored by traditional measures of legislative effectiveness. Members of the minority party are especially likely to legislate through amendments and unorthodox bill influence.

Hot Rod: Weighting Biases, Political Preferences, and an Online Racecar Game

November 28, 2018
Stuart Soroka (Univ. Of Michigan)


This project examines deep-seated pre-dispositions in information processing, and the connections between these predispositions and media consumption and political attitudes. We focus on weighting biases that prioritize information based on valence; and we identify these biases using Hot Rod, a new purpose-built online video game. Performance in Hot Rod is correlated with risk preferences, news consumption, and political preferences. These results are considered as they relate to the cognitive and biological precursors of political behavior.

Journalists Exhibit Ideological Bias in the News They Choose to Cover

December 5, 2018
Hans Hassell (Florida State University)


Research on media bias has focused almost entirely on how the media chooses to frame the news and the way they talk about the issues found in the news. However, journalists also have large leeway in deciding what to cover. Using a large scale survey of political reporters and editors combined with an audit study of those same individuals, we show that the media is not immune to ideological bias in deciding what to cover. Specifically, we show that ideological biases change the nature of elections by changing which political candidates are more likely to be covered. Our results show that reporters are more willing to express an interest in covering a candidate whose ideology and party affiliation matches their own. Moreover, we show that these results are not driven by the ideological composition of the population in the area where the newspaper is published. We show that the ideology of journalists affects the likelihood that candidates of one party or another are provided coverage in the news.

Becoming Black: Immigrant Visibility, Racial Identity Formation, and Political Integration Among African Immigrants in the US

January 16, 2019
Amanda Robinson (Ohio State University)


Integration into American society by non-black immigrants tends to increase with time and result in improved economic outcomes. In contrast, scholars note a form of “black exceptionalism”: black immigrants integrate at the slowest rates among all immigrants and their socioeconomic status and residential integration decline with each generation. This is because the segment of the host population into which they would most likely assimilate – black Americans – is itself a marginalized minority. As a result, previous research finds that, in contrast to other immigrant groups, resistance to assimilation among black immigrants often yields better outcomes. Such resistance is a strategic response to racial discrimination in the US, and the risk that such discrimination poses to black immigrants who are perceived to be black American. Yet black immigrants in the United States are a diverse group, and not all are equally “mistaken” for black Americans. While some black immigrants’ recent foreign heritage is highly visible, other black immigrants’ differences from black Americans are “invisible.” This variation, and its implications for black immigrant integration in the US, has not yet been theoretically developed or empirically tested. We offer a systematic study of African immigrant integration, with a particular focus on racial identity formation and its political implications. Our theoretical framework predicts that immigrant visibility facilitates black identity formation by reducing the disincentives for assimilation that stem from racial commonality with black Americans, and that racial identity formation will in turn affect political attitudes and engagement. We evaluate these expectations through in-depth interviews with African immigrants paired with a lab experimental measure of immigrant visibility, and through a large scale survey among the Somali communities of Columbus, OH. Preliminary results suggest that immigrant visibility does indeed shape racial identification, and racial identification is related to both race-related political attitudes and engagement with American politics. However, contrary to our expectations, immigrant visibility is associated with weaker racial identification, which our results suggest is due to less experience with race-based discrimination. This research improves our understanding of racial identity formation among black immigrants, and highlights potential changes in the nature of racial politics amid an increasingly diverse US racial landscape.

Identity Portfolios: A Study of persistent and situational identities among Latino Immigrants

February 13, 2019
Sergio Garcia-Rios (Cornell University)


Demographic changes are at the core of American politics. The US is projected to shift from majority White to “majority-minority” by 2050 and Hispanics figure as the fastest growing minority group, projected to be about 30% of the population by 2050. The growing presence of Latino immigrants both numerically and culturally pose interesting challenges to understanding the way immigrants from Latin America make the U.S. su casa. Some researchers question the degree to which Latino identity, given its direct link with immi- grants, jeopardizes the core of “American values” (Huntington, 2004). On the other hand, extant literature argues that subsequent generations of Latinos in fact incorporate and acculturate despite continuing influx of immigrants from Latin America (see De la Garza et al. 1996; Fraga and Segura 2006; Fraga et al. 2010). Yet, while finding that their adaptation across generations is similar to the behavior of previous waves of immigrants (Sassler, 2006), researchers also note that such adaptation is complicated by the fact that Latinos also want to maintain their cultural traditions (Fraga et al., 2006). Researchers who observe this simultaneous adaptation and resistance tend to focus on cross- generational acculturation patterns (e.g. Berry 1997; Portes and Rumbaut 2001), but few studies have undertaken a deep investigation of identity formation and transformation among immigrants. This apparent paradox of change and continuity raises the following question: how does the identity of Latino immigrants change as they live their life away from home – and make the U.S. their new home? In this book, I develop a new theory that explains the formation and transformation of what I call one’s identity portfolio among immigrants from Latin America. This theory departs from dichotomous assumptions of Latino identity. I argue that one’s identity portfolio contains all the identity categories used in the political decision making processes, but the degree of attachment to each of these categories varies considerably among individuals. This is especially relevant for immigrants from Latin America who, in fact, do not see themselves as Latino upon arrival to the US. Rather, I ague, this identity is embraced as a response to a set of internal and external dynamics. Moving from dichotomous assumptions of identity (in which one can be Latino or not) allows for a clearer understanding of the way in which these identities are used instrumentally. It also allows me to differentiate identities as “persistent” or “situational” This theoretical framework, I suggest, allows for a better understanding of Latino heterogeneity than umbrella assumptions of pan-ethnicity.

Where you live determines whether you vote: The effect of neighborhood on individual turnout

March 13, 2019
Alberto Simpser (ITAM-CIE)


How do neighborhood influence political behavior? Many causes of political behavior have been extensively studied, but the effect of local context has not been rigorously established. Meanwhile, recent work has documented a dramatic effect of neighborhoods on various non-political outcomes. We use panel data for twelve million voters in Mexico to study the effect of local context on individual voter turnout. We exploit variation in local context induced by citizens who move homes between the 2012 and 2015 federal elections. We find that differences in average turnout between the origin and destination localities substantially influence a mover’s probability of turning out to vote subsequent to moving. We next try to adjudicate between mechanisms relating to selection, infrastructure, political party mobilization, and peer effects. Selection cannot easily account for the fact that a mover’s voting history influences turnout behavior at the destination locality, or for the robustness of the main result to restricting the analysis to citizens within a small geographical unit who move from one block to another. The results are also not explained by distance to polling station, violence, or campaign spending. Our findings are most strongly consistent with peer effects: movers adopt local norms over time, and these spill over to household members who did not move.

Media Frames and Public Attitudes during Periods of Inequality

April 10, 2019
Derek Epp (University of Texas-Austin)


The political preferences of those with high and low incomes are highly correlated and both groups become less supportive of redistributive spending as economic inequality increases. This article looks for the source of these inter-income group correlations by examining trends in media coverage. We find that during periods of higher inequality media outlets are more likely to frame welfare recipients as lazy rather than as victims of adverse circumstances. Using observational and experimental data, we show that this shift in media frames can explain declining support for welfare spending, even for those with low incomes who might benefit from redistribution. These findings help explain the reactions of the American public to rising inequality.

The Resistance as Role Model: Disillusionment and Protest Among American Adolescents After 2016

April 17, 2019
Christina Wolbrecht (University of Notre Dame)


In this paper, Christina Wolbrecht and Dave Campbell examine whether the unprecedented 2016 presidential election led to political disillusionment among young people, whether that disillusionment led to a withdrawal from politics or an intention to be more politically active, and if those effects vary by gender and partisan identity.

The Electoral Effect of Stop-and-Frisk

April 24, 2019
Chris Dawes (New York Univ.)


Recent scholarship has documented the negative effect of incarceration on political engagement. However, there has been relatively little research on the effect of more common forms of contact with the criminal justice system. In this paper, we test whether neighborhood police stops depress the political engagement. To do so, we combine individual electoral participation in the 2010 and 2014 federal midterm elections with records of “Stop, Question and Frisk” (SQF) in New York City. These two elections allow us to take advantage of a change in New York Police Department (NYPD) policy that dramatically reduced the number of stops. Our results show that overall, SQF reduced turnout. Further, the effect of SQF was strongest among Black registered voters, the racial group disproportionately stopped by the NYPD. Consistent with our proposed mechanism that SQF demobilizes voters by creating a negative orientation towards the police and government more generally, we find that the effect of SQF is weaker in low crime neighborhoods where stops would likely be viewed as harassment or racial profiling compared to high crime neighborhoods where they are more likely to be considered a legitimate tool to reduce crime. Taken together, our results suggest that crime prevention strategies may have negative consequences for civic engagement and may exacerbate inequality in representation.