This article explores belief in political rumors surrounding the health care reforms enacted by Congress in 2010. Refuting rumors with statements from unlikely sources can, under certain circumstances, increase the willingness of citizens to reject rumors regardless of their own political predilections. Such source credibility effects, while well known in the political persuasion literature, have not been applied to the study of rumor. Though source credibility appears to be an effective tool for debunking political rumors, risks remain. Drawing upon research from psychology on 'fluency' - the ease of information recall - this article argues that rumors acquire power through familiarity. Attempting to quash rumors through direct refutation may facilitate their diffusion by increasing fluency. The empirical results find that merely repeating a rumor increases its power.
The right-left dimension is ubiquitous in politics, but prior perspectives provide conflicting accounts of whether cultural and economic attitudes are typically aligned on this dimension within mass publics around the world. Using survey data from ninety-nine nations, this study finds not only that right-left attitude organization is uncommon, but that it is more common for culturally and economically right-wing attitudes to correlate negatively with each other, an attitude structure reflecting a contrast between desires for cultural and economic protection vs. freedom. This article examines where, among whom and why protection-freedom attitude organization outweighs right-left attitude organization, and discusses the implications for the psychological bases of ideology, quality of democratic representation and the rise of extreme right politics in the West.
Despite the prevalence of anti-government rumors in authoritarian countries, little is currently known about their effects on citizens' attitudes toward the government, and whether the authorities can effectively combat rumors. With an experimental procedure embedded in two surveys about Chinese internet users' information exposure, this study finds that rumors decrease citizens' trust in the government and support of the regime. Moreover, individuals from diverse socio-economic and political backgrounds are similarly susceptible to thinly evidenced rumors. Rebuttals generally reduce people's belief in the specific content of rumors, but often do not recover political trust unless the government brings forth solid and vivid evidence to back its refutation or win the endorsement of public figures broadly perceived to be independent. But because such high-quality and strong rebuttals are hard to come by, rumors will erode political support in an authoritarian state. These findings have rich implications for studies of rumors and misinformation in general, and authoritarian information politics in particular.
Access to information is a hallmark of democracy, and democracy demands an informed citizenry. Knowledge of party positions is necessary for voters so that electoral choices reflect preferences, allowing voters to hold elected officials accountable for policy performance. Whereas most vote choice models assume that parties perfectly transmit positions, citizens in fact obtain political information via the news media, and this news coverage can be biased in terms of salience - which leads to asymmetric information. This study examines how information asymmetries in news coverage of parties influence knowledge about political party positions. It finds that the availability of information in the news media about a party increases knowledge about its position, and that party information in non-quality news reduces the knowledge gap more than information in quality news.
Recent research on parliamentary institutions has demonstrated that legislatures featuring strong committees play an important role in shaping government policy. However, the impact of the legislators who lead these committees - committee chairs - is poorly understood. This study provides the first examination of whether the partisan control of committee chairs in parliamentary systems has a systematic impact on legislative scrutiny. The article argues that committee chairs can, in principle, use their significant agenda powers to serve two purposes: providing opposition parties with a greater ability to scrutinize government policy proposals, and enabling government parties to better police one another. Analyzing the legislative histories of 1,100 government bills in three parliamentary democracies, the study finds that control of committee chairs significantly strengthens the ability of opposition parties to engage in legislative review. The analysis also suggests that government parties' ability to monitor their coalition allies does not depend on control of committee chairs.
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.
External threats such as war have been shown to disrupt representation as politicians 'put politics aside' and cooperate across cleavages. This article examines whether a severe economic crisis can have a similar effect. It introduces a new approach that provides a spatial representation of how political parties represent societal actors in their public interactions, based on more than 140,000 machine coded news events from eleven eurozone countries between 2001 and 2011. The study shows that in bad economic times, there is a compression of political representation: parties' relationships with the societal groups they are closest to become less cooperative, while their relationships with the groups they are least close to become less conflictual.
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.
This article reports on the effects of domestic election observers on electoral fraud and violence. Using an experimental research design and polling station data on fraud and violence during Ghana's 2012 elections, it shows that observers reduced fraud and violence at the polling stations which they monitored. It is argued that local electoral competition shapes party activists' response to observers. As expected, in single-party dominant areas, parties used their local political networks to relocate fraud to polling stations without an election observer, and, in contrast, party activists relocated violence to stations without observers in competitive areas - a response that requires less local organizational capacity. This highlights how local party organization and electoral incentives can shape the manipulative electoral strategies employed by parties in democratic elections.
This article explores if (and how) national elections affect the chances of concluding an international agreement. Drawing on a literature about the informational efficiency of elections, it examines how political uncertainty in the run-up to an election impacts the dynamics of international negotiations. Using the case of decision making in the European Union (EU), it finds that (1) pending national elections significantly reduce the chances of reaching an agreement at the international level (2) this effect is strongest during close elections with uncertain outcomes and (3) the effect is particularly pronounced in the case of elections in larger member states. The findings highlight the fruitfulness of further research on the dynamics between national and international politics. The article has positive and normative implications for the literature on two-level games, international negotiations and legislative bargaining in the EU.
This article provides the first systematic cross-country analysis of interest group appearances in the news media. The analysis included three countries - the UK, Spain and Denmark - each representing one of Hallin and Mancini's(1) three overall models of media and politics: the liberal system, the polarized pluralist system and the democratic corporatist system. It finds important similarities across countries with high levels of concentration in media coverage of groups, more extensive coverage of economic groups than citizen groups, and differential patterns of group appearances across policy areas and between right-and left-leaning papers. It also identifies country variation, with the highest degree of concentration among group appearances in Spanish newspapers and the most attention to economic groups in Danish newspapers.
Do changes in health lead to changes in the probability of voting? Using two longitudinal datasets, this article looks at the impact of three measures of health - physical health, mental health and overall well-being - on voting trajectories in young adulthood. The results show that self-rated health is associated with a lower probability of voting in one's first election, depression is related to a decline in turnout over time and physical limitations are unrelated to voting. Some familial resources from childhood are also found to condition when the health-participation effect manifests.
Election-oriented elites are expected to emphasize issues on which their party possesses 'issue ownership' during campaigns. This article extends those theories to the content of executive and legislative agendas. Arguing that executives have incentives to pursue their party's owned issues in the legislature, it theorizes three conditions under which these incentives are constrained: when governments are responsive to issues prioritized by the public, when a party has a stronger electoral mandate and under divided government. The theory is tested using time-series analyses of policy agendas of US congressional statutes and State of the Union addresses (1947-2012) and UK acts of Parliament and the Queen's Speech (1950-2010). The results offer support for the theory, and are particularly strong for the US State of the Union address, providing insights into institutional differences. The implications provide reassurance concerning the conditions under which governments focus attention only on their partisan issue priorities.
This article presents results from survey experiments investigating conditions under which Britons are willing to pay taxes on polluting activities. People are no more willing if revenues are hypothecated for spending on environmental protection, while making such taxes more relevant to people - by naming petrol and electricity as products to which they will apply - has a modestly negative effect. Public willingness increases sharply if people are told that new environmental taxes would be offset by cuts to other taxes, but political distrust appears to undermine much of this effect. Previous studies have argued that political trust shapes public opinion with respect to environmental and many other policies. But this article provides the first experimental evidence suggesting that the relationship is causal, at least for one specific facet: cynicism about public officials' honesty and integrity. The results suggest a need to make confidence in the trustworthiness of public officials and their promises more central to conceptualizations of political trust.
In recent years scholars have observed a restrictive turn in West European immigrant integration policies towards conditioning access to permanent residence and citizenship on language proficiency, knowledge of history, institutions, culture and political values, national loyalty and labour market integration. This has been accompanied by a strong reaction among European politicians and publics emphasizing that newcomers must share in certain liberal-democratic values and virtues that characterize the national community. Yet, the influential scholar Christian Joppke argues, among others, that liberal values cannot define national particularity, nor can cultural integration be enforced because legislation and policies are legally and normatively constrained by the same liberal values. Hence, prevalent liberal conceptions of national identity are paradoxical and inconsequential for the formulation of public policies. This article critically examines this argument in detail. It argues that the paradox of universalism does not exist, and that therefore nationalism should not be dismissed as a central factor behind recent policy developments.
Some parties are more popular among men, while other parties attract more female voters. This article proposes that these differences can be partially explained by two recurring gender differences in the socio-psychological literature. It argues that men's generally lower sensitivity to social cues makes them more likely to vote for stigmatized and small parties, whereas women's greater concern with social harmony is expected to make them less likely to vote for extreme parties. The models are tested at the individual and party levels using three waves of Comparative Study of Electoral Systems data from twenty-eight countries. Ceteris paribus, men are more likely than women to vote for parties that are socially stigmatized or ideologically extreme. This has consequences for the current understanding of gender gaps in voting, and reiterates that voting has important social aspects.
Does evidence help politicians make informed decisions even if it is at odds with their prior beliefs? And does providing more evidence increase the likelihood that politicians will be enlightened by the information? Based on the literature on motivated political reasoning and the theory about affective tipping points, this article hypothesizes that politicians tend to reject evidence that contradicts their prior attitudes, but that increasing the amount of evidence will reduce the impact of prior attitudes and strengthen their ability to interpret the information correctly. These hypotheses are examined using randomized survey experiments with responses from 954 Danish politicians, and results from this sample are compared to responses from similar survey experiments with Danish citizens. The experimental findings strongly support the hypothesis that politicians are biased by prior attitudes when interpreting information. However, in contrast to expectations, the findings show that the impact of prior attitudes increases when more evidence is provided.
The application of spatial voting theories to popular elections presupposes an electorate that chooses political representatives on the basis of their well-structured policy preferences. Behavioral researchers have long contended that parts of the electorate instead hold unstructured and inconsistent policy beliefs. This article proposes an extension to spatial voting theories to analyze the effect of varying consistency in policy preferences on electoral behavior. The model results in the expectation that voters with less consistent policy preferences will put less weight on policy distance when learning about candidates who should represent their political positions. The study tests this expectation for the 2008 US presidential election, and finds that for respondents with less consistent self-placements on the liberal-conservative scale, policy distance less strongly affects their voting decision. The results have implications for the quality of political representation, as certain parts of the electorate are expected to be less closely represented.