Advantages, Challenges, and Limitations of Audit Experiments with Constituents
with Patrick Kuhn, Gidon Cohen, Sarah Cohen, Florian Foos, Kyriaki Nanou, Neil Visalvanich, and Nick Vivyan
Political Studies Review
Audit experiments examining the responsiveness of public officials have become an increasingly popular tool used by political scientists. While these studies have brought significant insight into how public officials respond to different types of constituents, particularly those from minority and disadvantaged backgrounds, audit studies have also been controversial due to their frequent use of deception. Scholars have justified the use of deception by arguing that the benefits of audit studies ultimately outweigh the costs of deceptive practices. Are deception-free audit experiments possible? This paper reviews audit study designs differing in their amount of deception. It then discusses the organisational and logistical challenges of a UK confederate study design where all letters were solicited from MPs’ actual constituents and reflected those constituents’ genuine opinions. We call on researchers to avoid all forms of deception unless absolutely necessary and engage in ethical design innovation of their audit experiments, on ethics review boards to raise the level of justification needed studies involving fake identities and misrepresentation, and on journal editors and reviewers to require researchers to fully justify why deception was unavoidable.
Do Voters Want Domestic Politicians to Scrutinize the EU?
with Roman Senninger
Political Science Research & Methods
In the light of important political topics that go beyond the nation state (e.g., migration crisis, climate change, Brexit), domestic politicians are increasingly pressured to scrutinize and speak out on European policy-making. This creates a potential trade-off between allocating effort to domestic and European affairs, respectively. We examine how citizens perceive legislator involvement in European Union (EU) politics with a pre-registered conjoint experiment in Germany. Our results show that Members of Parliament (MPs) are not disadvantaged when allocating effort to European affairs as compared to local and national affairs. In addition, MPs are rewarded for their reform efforts in EU policy-making. As demands for legislator involvement in European politics are on the rise, we provide empirical evidence that MPs can fulfill this demand without being disadvantaged by the electorate.
Tabloid Media Campaigns and Public Opinion: Quasi-Experimental Evidence on Euroscepticism in England
with Florian Foos
American Political Science Review
Whether powerful media outlets have consequential effects on public opinion has been at the heart of theoretical and empirical discussions about the media’s role in political life. The effects of media campaigns are difficult to study because citizens self-select into media consumption. Using a quasi-experiment — the 30-years boycott of the most important Eurosceptic tabloid newspaper, “The Sun”, in Merseyside caused by the Hillsborough soccer disaster — we identify the effects of “The Sun” boycott on attitudes towards leaving the EU. Difference-in-differences designs leveraging public opinion data spanning three decades, supplemented by official referendum results, show that the boycott caused EU attitudes to become more positive in treated areas. This effect is driven by cohorts socialized under the boycott, and by working class voters who stopped reading “The Sun”. Our findings have implications for our understanding of public opinion, media influence, and ways to counter such influence, in contemporary democracies.
How Transnational Party Alliances Influence National Parties’ Policies
with Roman Senninger & Lawrence Ezrow
Political Science Research & Methods
Previous research reports that parties in established European democracies learn from and emulate successful parties abroad. We theorize and show that belonging to the same European Parliament party group enhances learning and emulation processes between national political parties.
Do Legislative Agendas Respond to Public Opinion Signals?
with Luca Bernardi & Ruud Wouters
Journal of European Public Policy
Legislators adapt their policies and agendas to public priorities. Yet research on dynamic representation usually focuses on the influence of public opinion through surveys leaving out other public opinion signals. We incorporate mobilization of the public through protest. Combining insights from social movement studies and political science, we expect protest not to have a direct effect on attention change in legislative agendas. If anything protest should have an amplification effect on public priorities. Using a new and unique data set covering collective action, public opinion and legislative agendas across almost 40 years in four Western democracies, we confirm the effect of public opinion through surveys but find no support for a direct effect of protest. Protest rarely moves legislators: only in very specific issues will protest interact with public priorities and affect attention change in legislative agendas. Our results have important implications for policy representation.
What Makes Parties Adapt to Voter Preferences? The Role of Party Organisation, Goals and Ideology
with Markus Wagner
British Journal of Political Science
A landmark finding in recent research on party competition is that parties differ in how they react to public opinion shifts.1 In their influential study, Adams et al.2 find that niche parties – which they define as communist, green and radical-right parties – fail to track changes in the median voter position, while other (mainstream) parties do respond to such changes. They do not argue that something inherent to these three party families makes them less likely to follow changes in the median voter position. Instead, they suggest that these party families tend to prioritize policy over office and tend to be activist led, which explains why they do not track the median voter. In this research note, we replicate and extend their analysis but replace their simple dichotomy based on party families with the party differences that they argue drive the pattern they find: party goals and party organization. We also add a third aspect of niche parties not alluded to by Adams et al.,3 party ideology, specifically the extent to which parties focus on niche issues. All three of these mechanisms may contribute to the pattern they found. Our analysis examines how these three aspects of parties act as mechanisms connecting median voter change to party policy change and thereby contributes to the ongoing scholarly debate over which party characteristics drive party responsiveness to voters.
Do Voters Polarize when Radical Parties Enter Parliament?
with Markus Wagner
American Journal of Political Science
Do voters polarize ideologically when radical views gain political legitimacy, or does the rise of radical voices merely reflect societal conflict? We argue that elite polarization as signaled by radical parties’ first entrance into parliament leads to voter divergence. Immediately after the election, legitimization and backlash effects mean that voters on both ideological sides move toward the extremes. In the longer term, this polarization is solidified because of radical parties’ parliamentary presence. A panel study of Dutch voters shows that the 2002 parliamentary entrance of a radical-right party indeed led to immediate ideological polarization across the political spectrum. Estimating time-series cross-sectional models on Eurobarometer data from 17 countries (1973–2016) shows an additional long-term impact of radical-right party entry on polarization. The presence of radical voices on the right has polarizing effects, illustrating how such institutional recognition and legitimization can have a far-reaching impact on society.
The P-value Debate in Social Science: An Introduction to the Dos and Don’ts
with Mariken van der Velden
Swiss Political Science Review
(guest editor of special issue)
P-values are the most frequently employed metric to assess the significance of statistical findings in the social sciences. Since the earliest years of their usage the meaning and usefulness of p-values were topics of heated discussion (Berkson 1942; Fisher 1935). Lately the reproduction/replication crisis resuscitated this debate (Benjamin et al. 2018; Gelman 2018; Lakens et al. 2018; McShane et al. 2019; Nuzzo 2014; Trafimow and Marks 2015). Meanwhile, the skepticism has not stopped at the gates of political science. Most prominently the journal “Political Analysis” banned p-values “in regression tables or elsewhere” after the new editor took over the board of editors in 2017 (Gill 2018: 1).1 Also political scientists contributed to a swelling debate suggesting to lower the threshold for p- values to 0.005 (Benjamin et al. 2018; Esarey 2017).
Party Policy Diffusion in the European Multilevel Space: What It Is, How It Works, and Why It Matters
with Roman Senninger & Fabio Wolkenstein
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion & Parties
Almost since the end of World War II, transnational cooperation among political parties has been a common feature of European politics. This paper makes the case for studying transnational partisan cooperation in the European multilevel space, focusing in particular on the phenomenon of “party policy diffusion.” At the heart of the paper is a conceptual discussion of party policy diffusion in the EU. Specifically, we look at the (1) aims that lead parties to learn from or emulate parties in other countries; (2) the mechanisms through which this may work; and (3) the wider implications of this practice both for domestic and European politics. Drawing on this conceptual discussion, the paper then goes on to offer leads as to how the phenomenon of party policy diffusion can be studied in the European multilevel space. To this end, we briefly point to possible ways of testing hypotheses about party policy diffusion using spatially explicit modeling strategies such as spatial regression models and exponential random graph models for transnational party networks.
Simple Politics for the People? Complexity in Campaign Messages and Political Knowledge
with Roman Senninger
European Journal of Political Research
Which parties use simple language in their campaign messages, and do simple campaign messages resonate with voters’ information about parties? This study introduces a novel link between the language applied during election campaigns and citizens’ ability to position parties in the ideological space. To this end, how complexity of campaign messages varies across parties as well as how it affects voters’ knowledge about party positions is investigated. Theoretically, it is suggested that populist parties are more likely to simplify their campaign messages to demarcate themselves from mainstream competitors. In turn, voters should perceive and process simpler campaign messages better and, therefore, have more knowledge about the position of parties that communicate simpler campaign messages. The article presents and validates a measure of complexity and uses it to assess the language of manifestos in Austria and Germany in the period 1945–2013. It shows that political parties, in general, use barely comprehensible language to communicate their policy positions. However, differences between parties exist and support is found for the conjecture about populist parties as they employ significantly less complex language in their manifestos. Second, evidence is found that individuals are better able to place parties in the ideological space if parties use less complex campaign messages. The findings lead to greater understanding of mass-elite linkages during election campaigns and have important consequences for the future analysis of manifesto data.
Working in Unison: Political Parties and Policy Issue Transfer in the Multi-Level Space
with Roman Senninger
European Union Politics
In this study, we examine whether and how policy issues addressed by political parties travel across the national and European legislative arena. We define ‘party policy issue transfer’ as the articulation of similar issues in the work of political parties at different parliamentary venues in short distance of time and argue that issues particularly transfer within the same party. This is mainly so for three reasons: exchange of information between parties across levels, national parties’ attempts to influence European Union policies, and career incentives of representatives at the supranational level. We test our theoretical framework using unique data on parliamentary questions asked by Danish representatives (the Folketing and the European Parliament, 1999–2009) and a dyadic data structure. Our results show that parties’ policy issues—in particular those over which the European Union holds legislative power—transfer across the national and European levels on a regular basis and that issues are more likely to travel within parties.
Ideological Congruence between Party Rhetoric & Policy-Making
West European Politics
Scholars, citizens and journalists alike question whether political parties keep their electoral promises. A growing body of literature provides empirical evidence that parties do indeed keep their electoral pledges. Yet little is known about the congruence between party rhetoric between elections and the policies delivered by them. Given the increasing influence of party rhetoric in the media with respect to voting decisions, it is highly relevant to understand if parties ‘walk like they talk’. The article suggests that due to electoral reasons parties face strong incentives to deliver policy outputs which are congruent to their daily rhetoric. Analysing data on 54 policy outputs on nuclear energy, drafted by 24 parties after the Fukushima accident, the analysis finds overwhelming evidence that parties deliver ideologically congruent policy outputs to their rhetoric (incongruent only in 7.89%). These findings have important implications for our understanding of the linkage between party communication and the masses in modern media democracies.
New Graphic Schemes for Stata: plotplain & plottig
[STATA FIGURES: HOW TO/FAQ]
While Stata’s computational capabilities have intensively increased over the last decade, the quality of its default graphic schemes is still a matter of debate among users. Some of the arguments speaking against Stata’s default graphic design are subject to individual taste but others are not, for example, horizontal labeling, unnecessary background tinting, missing gridlines, and over- sized markers. In this article, I present two new graphic schemes, plotplain and plottig, that attempt to address these concerns. These schemes provide users a set of 21 colors, of which 7 colors are distinguishable for people suffering from color blindness. I also give an introduction on how users can program their own graphic schemes.
The Effects of the Fukushima Disaster on Nuclear Energy Debates and Policies: A Two-Steps Comparative Examination
with Luca Bernardi, Laura Morales & Maarja Lühiste
Towards a Renewal of the Niche Party Concept: Parties, Market Shares and Condensed Offers
Scholars’ attention to the concept of niche parties has greatly increased. While researchers agree that niche parties matter in a variety of ways, the definitions and measurements of such parties are manifold and an accordance remains yet to be found. I argue the given conceptualizations of niche parties (a) suffer from gaps between their measurements and theoretical concepts or (b) conceptual clarity. The theoretical concept I propose understands niche parties as (a) predominantly competing on niche market segments neglected by their competitors and (b) not discussing a broad range of these segments. By measuring exactly these two components in an additive index drawn from the MARPOR data, the validation shows that parties emphasizing niche segments differentiate themselves from their competitors also by using a condensed message on these segments. In particular, this component of party competition, the specialization of party offers, has not been studied in the literature on niche parties and should receive more attention.
Repression as a Double-Edged Sword: Resilient Monarchs, Repression and Revolution in the Arab World
with Simon Fink
Swiss Political Science Review
The Arab world shows a puzzling variation of political violence. The region’s monarchies often remain quiet, while other autocracies witness major upheaval. Institutional explanations of this variation suggest that monarchical rule solves the ruler’s credible commitment problems and prevents elite splits. This article argues that institutional explanations neglect the role of repression: increasing the scope of repression raises the costs of rebellion and deters rebels. However, the deterrence effect disappears if repression is used indiscriminately. If remaining peaceful offers no benefits, repression creates new rebels instead of deterring them. A time-series- cross-section analysis of repression and political violence in the Middle East and North Africa corroborates our argument and shows the u-curve relation between repression and violence. Once we control for repression, monarchies have no special effect anymore. Thus, our article addresses the discussion about monarchical exceptionalism, and offers an explanation why repression deters as well as incites political violence.
Minority-Ethnic MPs and the Substantive Representation of Minority Interests in the House of Commons, 2005-2011
with Thomas Saalfeld
Black, Asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) citizens are under-represented in the House of Commons. Nevertheless, the Chamber’s ethnic composition has become more reflective of the general population as a result of the 2005 and 2010 parliamentary elections. The article seeks to map and explain variations in the extent to which BAME Members of Parliament (MPs) use the Chamber to ar- ticulate issues relevant to minority constituents. We compare the content of all parliamentary questions for written answer asked by BAME MPs between May 2005 and December 2011 to the questions asked by a matching sample of non-minority legislators. We find that BAME MPs ask more questions relating to the problems and rights of ethnic minorities in, and immigration to, the UK. However, we also find that all British MPs are responsive to the interests of minor- ity constituents where these are geographically concentrated. Building on theor- etical predictions derived from (1) models focusing on MPs’ political socialisation and (2) on the electoral incentives they are facing, we discover that the MPs in our sample respond systematically to electoral incentives, especially in the politically salient area of immigration policy. While these findings are in line with an ‘elect- oral-incentives model’, a ‘socialisation model’ is better suited to explain the larger number of questions on the interests of ethnic minorities asked by Labour MPs.