Scholarly research has demonstrated rather conclusively that American political elites have undergone a marked partisan polarization over the past thirty years. There is less agreement, however, as to whether the American electorate is polarized. This review article evaluates the evidence, causes and consequences of polarization on both the elite and mass levels. A marked difference between the two is found. Elites are polarized by almost any definition, although this state of affairs is quite common historically. In contrast, mass attitudes are now better sorted by party, but generally not polarized. While it is unclear whether this potentially troubling disconnect between centrist mass attitudes and extreme elite preferences has negative policy consequences, it appears that the super-majoritarian nature of the US Senate serves as a bulwark against policy outcomes that are more ideologically extreme than the public would prefer. Moreover, a public more centrist than those who represent it has also at times exerted a moderating influence on recent policies. [PUBLICATION ABSTRACT
Although spatial theory posits that political parties adjust their policies in response to rival parties' policy strategies, there is little comparative research that evaluates this hypothesis. Using the Comparative Manifesto Project data, we analyse the relationship between parties' policy programmes and the policies of their opponents in twenty-five post-war democracies. The authors conclude that parties tended to shift their policy positions in the same direction that their opponents had shifted their policies at the previous election; furthermore, parties were particularly responsive to policy shifts by other members of their 'ideological families', i.e. leftist parties responded to other leftist parties while right-wing parties responded to right-wing parties. Their findings have important implications for spatial models of elections, for the dynamics of party systems and for political representation.
This article attempts to reformulate and resuscitate the seemingly prosaic methodological task of description, which is often derided in favour of causal analysis. First, the problem of definition is addressed: what does this category of analysis ('description') refer to? Secondly, a taxonomy of descriptive arguments is offered, emphasizing the diversity contained within this genre of empirical analysis. Thirdly, the demise of description within political science is charted over the past century, with comparisons to other disciplines. Fourthly, it is argued that the task of description ought to be approached independently, not merely as a handmaiden of causal theories. Fifthly, the methodological difficulties of descriptive inference are addressed. Finally, fruitful research areas within the rubric of description are reviewed.
Procedural fairness theory posits that the way in which authoritative decisions are made strongly impacts people's willingness to accept them. This article challenges this claim by contending that democratic governments can achieve little in terms of acceptance of policy decisions by the procedural means at their disposal. Instead, outcome favorability is the dominant determinant of decision acceptance. The article explicates that while central parts of procedural fairness theory are true, outcome favorability is still overwhelmingly the strongest determinant of individuals' willingness to accept authoritative decisions. It improves on previous research by locating all key variables into one causal model and testing this model using appropriate data. Findings from a large number of experiments (both vignette and field) reproduce the expected relationships from previous research and support the additional predictions.
While previous research on the reciprocal effects of citizens' issue attitudes and their party support emphasize citizens' issue positions, political competition revolves equally around issue salience - that is, debates over which issue areas political parties should prioritize. Using multi-wave panel survey data from Germany and Great Britain, this study analyzes the reciprocal effects of citizens' issue salience and their party support, and concludes that citizens' issue priorities both influence and are influenced by their party attachments and, moreover, that these effects are linked to parties' long-term associative issue ownership. This effect is strongest among supporters of a small issue-orientated niche party, the German Greens.
In contrast to much of the political economy literature, this article explores acts of refusal that obstruct attempts to impose austerity measures on advanced industrial democracies. It thereby complements a literature that has thus far focused far more upon the (apparently unobstructed) imposition of austerity. In doing so, it uses two typically 'low-resistance' countries - Japan and the UK -as least-likely cases and finds that austerity is rarely uncontested. Using fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis, it highlights the 'causal recipes' sufficient for both (1) anti-austerity activity to have a significant impact on austerity proposals and (2) the smooth (unobstructed) imposition of austerity. The politics of austerity is shown to be better understood as an iterative interaction between proposals for austerity and the acts of refusal they encounter. These obstacles to austerity appear more straightforward to activate effectively in Japan's coordinated model of capitalism, whilst the UK's liberal market economy tends to generate more innovative forms of dissent that (if they are sufficiently militant) provide an alternative route towards the obstruction of austerity.
What motivates politicians to engage in legislative activities? In multilevel systems politicians may be incentivized by ambitions to advance their careers either at the state or federal level. This article argues that the design of the electoral institutions influences how politicians respond to these incentives. Analyzing a unique dataset of both 'stated' and 'realized' career ambitions of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), it finds that those who seek to move from the European to the national (state) level participate less in legislative activities than those who plan to stay at the European (federal) level. For MEPs who aim to move to the state level, attendance and participation in legislative activities is substantively lower among legislators from candidate-centered systems. Importantly, the effect of career ambitions on legislative participation is stronger in candidate-centered systems than in party-centered systems. These findings suggest that the responsiveness associated with candidate-centered systems comes at the expense of legislative activity.
The ability of the news media to mobilize voters during an election campaign is not well understood. Most extant research has been conducted in single-country studies and has paid little or no attention to the contextual level and the conditions under which such effects are more or less likely to occur. This study tests the mobilizing effect of conflict news framing in the context of the 2009 European Parliamentary elections. The unique multi-method and comparative cross-national study design combines a media content analysis (N548,982) with data from a two-wave panel survey conducted in twenty-one countries (N532,411). Consistent with expectations, conflict framing in campaign news mobilized voters to vote. Since the effect of conflict news was moderated by evaluations of the EU polity in the general information environment, conflict framing more effectively mobilized voters in countries where the EU was evaluated more positively.
Inequality and democracy are far more compatible empirically than social conflict theory predicts. This article speaks to this puzzle, identifying the scope conditions under which democratization induces greater redistribution. Because autocrats sometimes have incentives to expropriate economic elites, who lack reliable institutions to protect their rights, elites may prefer democracy to autocratic rule if they can impose roadblocks to redistribution under democracy ex ante. Using global panel data (1972-2008), this study finds that there is a relationship between democracy and redistribution only if elites are politically weak during a transition; for example, when there is revolutionary pressure. Redistribution is also greater if a democratic regime can avoid adopting and operating under a constitution written by outgoing elites and instead create a new constitution that redefines the political game. This finding holds across three different measures of redistribution and instrumental variables estimation. This article also documents the ways in which elites 'bias' democratic institutions.
Although the Paris Agreement arguably made some progress, interest in supplementary approaches to climate change co-operation persist. This article examines the conditions under which a climate club might emerge and grow. Using agent-based simulations, it shows that even with less than a handful of major actors as initial members, a club can eventually reduce global emissions effectively. To succeed, a club must be initiated by the 'right' constellation of enthusiastic actors, offer sufficiently large incentives for reluctant countries and be reasonably unconstrained by conflicts between members over issues beyond climate change. A climate club is particularly likely to persist and grow if initiated by the United States and the European Union. The combination of club-good benefits and conditional commitments can produce broad participation under many conditions.
What explains variation in the tactical choices of non-governmental organizations (NGOs)? This article uses network autocorrelation models to establish how the tactical choices of climate change NGOs are shaped by their embeddedness in transnational advocacy networks. Specifically, it finds that NGOs are more likely to adopt protest tactics when adjacent organizations - those with whom they have direct ties - have already done so. The choices of equivalent organizations - those that occupy similar relational roles in the network - do not appear to be influential. Qualitative evidence also shows that NGOs are affected by relational pressure from their peers, which alters their perception of costs and benefits. These findings enhance understanding of how networks influence actors' behavior and offer insights into the relational processes that generate protest in global politics.
What kind of content do citizens in a developing and authoritarian country like to acquire from Western free media? What are the effects of their potentially selective exposure? In a survey experiment involving 1,200 Chinese internet users from diverse socio-demographic backgrounds, this study finds that Chinese citizens with higher pro-Western orientations and lower regime evaluations are more inclined to read content that is positive about foreign countries or negative about China. More importantly, reading relatively positive foreign media content about foreign countries can improve rather than worsen the domestic evaluations of citizens who self-select such content. The article argues that this is because reputable Western media outlets' reports are generally more realistic than overly rosy information about foreign socio-economic conditions that popularly circulates in China. Consequently, foreign media may have a corrective function and enhance regime stability in an authoritarian country by making regime critics less critical. The article also introduces a new variant of the patient preference trial design that integrates self-selection and random assignment of treatments in a way that is useful for studying information effects.
How does district magnitude affect electoral outcomes? This article addresses this question by exploiting a combination of two natural experiments in Argentina between 1985 and 2015. Argentine provinces elect half of their congressional delegation every two years, and thus districts with an odd number of representatives have varying magnitudes in different election years. Furthermore, whether a province elects more representatives in midterm or concurrent years was decided by lottery in 1983. I find that district magnitude (a) increases electoral support for small parties, (b) increases the (effective) number of parties that gain seats and (c) reduces electoral disproportionality. The last two results are driven by the mechanical rather than the psychological effect of electoral rules.
Can rebel organizations in a civil conflict use social media to garner international support? This article argues that the use of social media is a unique form of public diplomacy through which rebels project a favorable image to gain that support. It analyzes the Libyan civil war, during which rebels invested considerable resources in diplomatic efforts to gain US support. The study entails collecting original data, and finds that rebel public diplomacy via Twitter increases co-operation with the rebels when their message (1) clarifies the type of regime they intend to create and (2) emphasizes the atrocities perpetrated by the government. Providing rebels with an important tool of image projection, social media can affect dynamics in an ever more connected international arena.
Many developed democracies are experiencing high immigration, and public attitudes likely shape their policy responses. Prior studies of ethnocentrism and stereotyping make divergent predictions about anti-immigration attitudes. Some contend that culturally distinctive immigrants consistently generate increased opposition; others predict that natives' reactions depend on the particular cultural distinction and associated stereotypes. This article tests these hypotheses using realistic, video-based experiments with representative American samples. The results refute the expectation that more culturally distinctive immigrants necessarily induce anti-immigration views: exposure to Latino immigrants with darker skin tones or who speak Spanish does not increase restrictionist attitudes. Instead, the impact of out-group cues hinges on their content and related norms, as immigrants who speak accented English seem to counteract negative stereotypes related to immigrant assimilation.
Coalition governance requires parties to come to collective policy decisions while simultaneously competing for votes. This reality has inspired a vibrant literature on coalition policy making, which is focused on legislative organization and behavior, though it is not clear how it affects the electorate. This article addresses this gap in the literature by examining how voters' perceptions of compromise in coalition policy making affect their vote choices. Analyzing data from six parliamentary democracies where multiparty governance is the norm, it finds that voters punish parties they view as compromising. More specifically, voters are found to discount the policy accomplishments and policy promises of compromising parties, and that this tendency is more pronounced among previous incumbent cabinet supporters and the politically disinterested. These findings have important implications for the study of voting as well as coalition policy making.
Does exposure to political violence prompt civilians to support peace? We investigate the determinants of civilian attitudes toward peace during ongoing conflict using two original panel datasets representing Israelis (n=996) and Palestinians in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza (n=631) (149 communities in total). A multi-group estimation analysis shows that individual-level exposure to terrorism and political violence makes the subject populations less likely to support peace efforts. The findings also confirm psychological distress and threat perceptions as the mechanism that bridges exposure to violence and greater militancy over time. The study breaks ground in showing that individual-level exposure - necessarily accompanied by psychological distress and threat perceptions - is key to understanding civilians' refusal to compromise in prolonged conflict.
Previous authors have found greater political support among electoral winners than losers, but they define winners and losers at a single time point, and employ a dichotomous categorization that neglects possible variations within each group. This study considers both the past history of winning or losing and the impact of ideological distance from the government on a political support indicator -satisfaction with democracy. Using a multilevel model covering thirty-one countries, the authors show that the relationship between winner/loser status and satisfaction with democracy has a marginal dynamic nature and a policy content. Among present losers, previous experience of victory assuaged dissatisfaction, while among those presenting a consolidated ' winning' record, only high ideological proximity to the current government boosted political support.
This article explores an agency model in which voters learn about both an incumbent and an opponent. They observe the incumbent's policy record and update their beliefs about his opponent via a campaign. Although the former is relatively more informative, it can be costly for the voter to learn about the incumbent from her policy record. This is because policy reforms, which allow a voter to learn an incumbent's ability, are risky and can leave the voter worse off. Then the voter may prefer the incumbent to take safer actions. The efficient level of reform - the one preferred by the voter - balances the value of learning with the expected policy costs/benefits. In a world where the opponent's campaign is uninformative, reform can be too low due to the incumbent's fear of failure. Or it can be too high: the incumbent may gamble on success. This article shows that the presence of an opponent who can reveal information via a campaign exacerbates these inefficiencies. An incumbent who anticipates the effect of an opponent's campaign on voter beliefs is more likely to make inefficient policy choices. Further, such campaigns can lead to an overall welfare loss when they reveal little about the opponent's ability and yet have an impact on the incumbent's policy choice.