Working Papers

Quantitative Political Science Research is Greatly Underpowered (with Vincent Arel-Bundock, Ryan Briggs, Hristos Doucouliagos, and T.D. Stanley)

Abstract:

The social sciences face a replicability crisis. A key determinant of replication success is statistical power. We assess the power of political science research by collating over 16,000 hypothesis tests from about 2,000 articles. Using generous assumptions, we find that the median analysis has about 10% power and that only about 1 in 10 tests have at least 80% power to detect the consensus effects reported in the literature. We also find substantial heterogeneity in tests across research areas, with some being characterized by high power, but most having very low power. To contextualize our findings, we survey political methodologists to assess their expectations about power levels. Most methodologists greatly overestimate the statistical power of political science research.


Abstract:

Undocumented immigrants contribute to the US economy by participating in the labor force, paying taxes, and starting businesses. They do so under constant fear of deportation and while being barred from government assistance programs. Nevertheless, misconceptions about how undocumented immigrants affect the job market and public finance persist, exacerbating negative attitudes and hindering policy reforms. Across three survey experiments and three national samples of Americans, I assess two strategies for promoting inclusion and shifting policy preferences: correcting information and perspective-getting narratives. Both yield positive effects among Democrats and especially Republicans, although anecdotal accounts of "hard-working" individual immigrants prove especially effective. These findings suggest providing information in narrative form might be more conducive to opinion change than objective facts alone.

The Limited Role of Context in the Globalization Backlash” (with Stephen Ansolabehere)

Abstract:

A wealth of research over the last decade has documented the causes and consequences of what it has termed a "globalization backlash." A recurring claim in this literature is that *local* exposure to globalization, as measured for instance with import penetration and foreigner influxes, has led to rising nationalism, populism, isolationism, protectionism, and xenophobia among the mass public. This paper synthesizes and re-evaluates the empirical implications of these findings. Leveraging 17 years of national surveys covering 600,000 unique respondents and 300 policy items, we estimate first-order associations between a range of contextual indicators of globalization exposure and individual preferences over trade, immigration, international cooperation, and the military. Contrary to prevailing expectations, we observe minimal relationships between contextual variables and public mood on globalization. This challenges a popular narrative and provides support for the argument that the backlash is due to issue polarization rather than public opinion swings against globalization.

Does Diversity Undermine Support for Redistribution?” (with Marcel Roman)

Abstract:

With rising income and wealth inequality, demand for redistribution might be expected to increase. However, public opinion on these issues has remained relatively stable in recent years. Concomitantly, the ethno-racial composition of the country has rapidly changed. Theories on ethnic diversity and racial threat predict such dynamics may reduce support for redistribution despite rising inequality, which would explain why support for redistribution remains stagnant in the U.S. We test these theories by  pairing local demographic data with national public opinion surveys of nearly a million Americans, including 3 panels of individuals who were interviewed multiple times between 2010 and 2022. Changes in neighborhood demographics do not significantly influence fiscal and social policy preferences. We rule out several sources of heterogeneity, conduct various sensitivity analyses, and replicate our findings using survey experiments and perceived measures of demographic change. These null results clash with established findings on diversity, intergroup conflict, and public finance.

The Partisan-Ideological Sorting of New American Citizens” (with Marcel Roman)

Abstract:

The share of immigrants comprising the electorate will increase in the coming decades. While mass partisan-ideological sorting has been studied extensively, it remains unclear if and how immigrants sort like the general population. Using several Asian, Black, and Latinx immigrant surveys (N = 12, 700), we observe null or weak associations between ideology and partisanship among non-citizens, but strong associations among naturalized immigrants. Notably, relative to non-citizens, citizen immigrants are partisan-ideologically sorted in a manner akin to Anglo whites, a highly sorted segment of the mass public. Our evidence suggests immigrant citizens politically assimilate on the dimension of partisan-ideological sorting and polarization may characterize the political behavior of new citizens.

 

Publications

Do Incumbents Gain from Calling a Snap Election? (with Semra Sevi and André Blais). Forthcoming, Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. [Replication files]

Abstract:

In many countries the incumbent party is free to call an early election. This gives them an advantage over opposition parties. But this decision can also backfire. In the present paper, we examine voters’ reactions to a snap election held despite a fixed election date, resistance by opposition parties, and a global pandemic. We conduct a survey experiment during the 2021 Canadian federal election campaign to assess whether voters are influenced by information about the fixed election law and the argument that the election call was opportunistic and unnecessary. While some respondents, particularly partisans of the Liberal Party, the incumbent party, moderately respond in a negative way to new information, our treatments overall do little to influence views about the snap election. However, negative attitudes toward the election call are a decisive consideration for many voters, inflicting an electoral cost to the Liberal Party which likely deprived it from a legislative majority.

Outgroup Bias and the Unacceptability of Tax Fraud.” 2024. (with Vincent Arel-Bundock, André Blais, Rita De La Feria, and Allison Harell). Political Studies Review. [Replication files]

Abstract:

In countries with well-developed welfare state systems, it is often claimed that racial or ethnic minorities impose a heavy burden on social assistance programs without contributing to public goods. In this study, we consider the attitudinal effects of anecdotal reports of tax cheating by minorities. We conduct survey experiments in France and the United States to assess if people react more harshly to tax fraud perpetrated by members of a minority rather than the majority group. We find no evidence that minority status affects judgments and perceptions about tax fraud, including among those on the right end of the political spectrum. Tax fraud is considered unacceptable regardless of the culprit's origin.

Jobs and Punishment: Public Opinion on Leniency for White-Collar Crime.” 2023. (with Simon St-Georges, Vincent Arel-Bundock, and André Blais). Political Research Quarterly. [Replication files]

Abstract:

Governments routinely offer deals to companies accused of white-collar crimes, allowing them to escape criminal charges in exchange for fines or penalties. This lets prosecutors avoid costly litigation and protects companies’ right to bid on lucrative public contracts, which can reduce the likelihood of bankruptcies or layoffs. Striking deals with white-collar criminals can be risky for governments because it could affect the perceived legitimacy of the legal system. This article explores the conditions under which the general public supports leniency agreements. Building on theoretical intuitions from the literature, we identify three characteristics that could affect mass attitudes: home bias, economic incentives, and retribution. We conduct a survey experiment in the United States and find moderate support for leniency agreements. Whether the crime occurs on US soil or abroad does not affect public opinion, and the number of jobs that would be jeopardized by criminal prosecution only has a small effect. Instead, survey respondents become much more supportive of a deal when it includes criminal charges for the corporate managers who were personally involved in the alleged wrongdoing. In the court of public opinion, punishing a handful of individuals appears to matter more than saving thousands of jobs

Abstract:

In late 2017, the first unified Republican government in 10 years enacted the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy. Why did so many citizens support a policy that primarily benefited people richer than them? The self-interest hypothesis holds that individuals act upon the position they occupy in the income distribution: richer (poorer) taxpayers should favor (oppose) regressive policy. Associations between income and policy preferences are often inconsistent, however, suggesting that many citizens fail to connect their self-interest to taxation. Indeed, political psychologists have shown compellingly that citizens can be guided by partisan considerations not necessarily aligned with their own interests. This article assesses public support for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Using data from the 2018 Cooperative Congressional Election Study as well as contemporaneous ANES and VOTER surveys to replicate our analyses, we show that self-interest and partisanship both come into play, but that partisanship matters more. Personal financial considerations, while less influential than party identification, are relevant for two groups of individuals: Republicans and the politically unsophisticated.

Reassessing Local Candidate Effects.” 2022. (with Semra Sevi and André Blais). Canadian Journal of Political Science. [Replication files]

Abstract:

In a seminal article published in 2003, Blais et al. demonstrated that local candidates mattered for about 5 per cent of voters in the 2000 Canadian federal election. This study's reliance on a single election raises external validity concerns. We replicate Blais et al.'s original analyses on four elections from 2000 to 2008 using a decade's worth of data from the Canadian Election Study. The local candidate effect first uncovered by Blais et al. is not specific to a single election. Local candidates are a decisive consideration for about 5 to 8 per cent of voters outside Quebec and for about 2 to 5 per cent of voters in Quebec.

Abstract:

An important body of literature shows that citizens evaluate elected officials based on their past performance. In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, the conventional wisdom in both media and academic discourse was that Donald Trump would have been a two-term president absent an unprecedented, global force majeure. In this research note, we address a simple question: did exposure to COVID-19 impact vote choice in the 2020 presidential election? Using data from the Cooperative Election Study, we find that Trump’s vote share decreased because of COVID-19. However, there is no evidence suggesting that Joe Biden loses the election when no voter reports exposure to coronavirus cases and deaths. These negligible effects are found at both the national and state levels, and are robust to an exhaustive set of confounders across model specifications.

Logarithmic versus Linear Visualizations of COVID-19 do not Affect Support for Confinement.” 2020. (with Semra Sevi, Gabrielle Péloquin-Skulski, Emmanuel Heisbourg, Paola Vegas, Maxime Coulumbe, Vincent Arel-Bundock, Peter J. Loewen, and André Blais). Canadian Journal of Political Science. [Replication files]

Abstract:

The SARS-CoV-2 virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, in late December 2019, and it quickly spread to many countries. By March 2020, the virus had triggered a global pandemic (World Health Organization, 2020). In response to this crisis, governments have implemented unprecedented public health measures. The success of these policies will largely depend on the public's willingness to comply with new rules. A key factor in citizens’ willingness to comply is their understanding of the data that motivate government action. In this study, we examine how different ways of presenting these data visually can affect citizen's perceptions, attitudes and support for public policy.