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Erschienen in: Political Behavior 4/2019

30.06.2018 | Original Paper

Does Partisan Self-interest Dictate Support for Election Reform? Experimental Evidence on the Willingness of Citizens to Alter the Costs of Voting for Electoral Gain

verfasst von: Daniel R. Biggers

Erschienen in: Political Behavior | Ausgabe 4/2019

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Abstract

Elite support for modifying electoral institutions and policies generally depends on whether a proposed change is expected to improve their party’s electoral prospects. Prior studies suggest that the average citizen evaluates potential reforms in a similar manner, but they fail to directly demonstrate that individuals actually consider their partisan self-interest when forming policy preferences. I address this limitation through two survey experiments that manipulate the specific group for whom reforms make voting more or less difficult. The results provide strong causal evidence that individuals update their attitudes as expected in response to that information. Members of both parties consistently express greater support for changes when framed as advancing their party’s electoral prospects than when characterized as benefiting their opponents. The findings have important implications for the constraints faced by political actors in gaming the electoral system in their favor and for understanding the role of self-interest in shaping policy attitudes.
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Fußnoten
1
Replication materials can be found in the Harvard Dataverse at https://​doi.​org/​10.​7910/​DVN/​LAYMOS.
 
2
Admittedly, the latter proposal may slow down the legislative process or generate an electorate less sympathetic to the president’s agenda. That the average citizen can rationalize the institutional change in this way, however, is simply assumed.
 
3
Other questions that demonstrate this relationship follow a similar design, framing the same outcome in terms of generic (not partisan) risks and losses.
 
4
Since 2000, 13 states have required photo ID to vote, 14 have adopted early voting procedures, and 8 have enacted EDR (though in some states these reforms have yet to be implemented or have been overturned by state legislatures or the courts). These policies are currently in place in 9, 37, and 11 states, respectively.
 
5
Voter ID laws disproportionately burden groups that tend to be Democratic supporters (e.g., African Americans, Latinos, and young people) and possess identification at lower rates than the general public (Barreto et al. 2007, 2009; Hood and Bullock 2008). Easier ballot access procedures, which are often perceived to benefit Democrats, have been used at higher rates by some party supporters in recent contests and may increase their participation (e.g., Alvarez et al. 2012; Hanmer 2009; Herron and Smith 2014).
 
6
This finding is limited to Democrats. Although seemingly consistent with the story of partisan self-interest, their prime describes those affected vaguely and does not mention any characteristics that could suggest they are co-partisans (though the prompt could prime pre-existing knowledge that voter ID laws disproportionately affect Democratic supporters).
 
7
MTurk is a web-based platform that permits the recruitment of subjects to perform tasks (in this case, take a survey). The use of this service to conduct social science research has expanded steadily in recent years, with a number of studies documenting the advantages (and limitations) of doing so (e.g., Berinksy et al. 2012; Buhrmester et al. 2011). MTurk samples are not nationally representative, but they are more representative and diverse than the student and convenience samples typically employed in political science experiments (Berinksy et al. 2012). Consistent with this expectation, the experiment’s sample is more Democratic and educated, younger, and consists of fewer females than the general population. Sample characteristics are reported in Supplemental Appendix 1.
 
8
A completed survey is defined as the respondent passing both screener questions and making it to the end of the survey (though not necessarily answering every question). Supplemental Appendix 2 reports a CONSORT diagram tracing the number of started surveys to the number of completed surveys. See Supplemental Appendix 3 for the survey instrument.
 
9
Senior citizens have become more reliable Republican voters over the past 15 years (see e.g., Tyson and Maniam 2016), though knowledge of this relationship would attenuate the effect of this treatment condition (as subjects aware of the partisan leanings of elderly voters would not update their attitudes as expected). As with minorities, senior citizens are less likely to have acceptable ID than the general public and may be more likely to use early voting methods (Alvarez et al. 2012; Barreto et al. 2007, 2009; Hood and Bullock 2008).
 
10
See Supplemental Appendix 4 for balance tests across treatments for each question.
 
11
Results are essentially the same when I treat the dependent variable as ordered (see Supplemental Appendix 6).
 
12
In the analyses below, these counts decrease to 660 and 238 due to item nonresponse on the reform questions or covariates.
 
13
Variable coding is detailed in Supplemental Appendix 7.
 
14
Supplemental Appendix 8 presents response marginals for Democrats and Republicans across the three items.
 
15
Supplemental Appendix 1 reports sample characteristics.
 
16
As in experiment 1, treatments were randomly assigned for each of the election reform questions, with these items spaced throughout the 10 minute survey (and their order randomized) to guard against concerns that a vignette might prime considerations for the subsequently assigned election reform.
 
17
YouGov draws a random sample from a comprehensive consumer list, then uses a matching algorithm to identify the panelist who is the closest match (on an extensive set of demographics) to each individual in that random sample. Those panelists are invited to take the survey, with the firm interviewing a larger number of subjects than the desired sample size to ensure coverage based on anticipated response rates. YouGov then reduces (or matches down) that initial pool of responses to generate the final sample designed to look like the randomly drawn consumer list sample. I use the larger dataset generated before the matching down process.
 
18
An additional 600 cases were purchased for the module on which these questions appeared to augment the standard 1000 observations provided by YouGov.
 
19
Theoretically, moving from the unmatched data to the matched data can induce imbalances across treatments on observable and unobservable subject characteristics, as treatment assignment is not used to match the initial dataset down to its reduced form. This is also a concern when survey weights are used with the matched dataset, as those weights are not estimated with regard to treatment assignment. In Supplemental Appendix 9, I show that I achieve better balance using the unmatched data than the matched data (either unweighted or weighted). Using multinomial logit to predict treatment assignment based on covariates, the chi-squared test for all covariates predicting assignment is significant at p < 0.1 for the voter ID and EDR questions using the matched dataset (both weighted and unweighted). This signals that the covariate distributions across treatments are imbalanced for these two questions.
 
20
Item nonresponse reduces these partisan counts to 1028 and 790, respectively (see the corresponding CONSORT diagram in Supplemental Appendix 2).
 
21
Ordered logit models for Tables 4 and 5, which produce similar results, appear in Supplemental Appendix 6. Survey marginals for both Democrats and Republicans are reported in Supplemental Appendix 8.
 
22
Across both samples, analyses reveal no consistent pattern that levels of political interest or exposure to the reforms (in the form of living in a state with the reform in question) condition the observed treatment effects.
 
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Metadaten
Titel
Does Partisan Self-interest Dictate Support for Election Reform? Experimental Evidence on the Willingness of Citizens to Alter the Costs of Voting for Electoral Gain
verfasst von
Daniel R. Biggers
Publikationsdatum
30.06.2018
Verlag
Springer US
Erschienen in
Political Behavior / Ausgabe 4/2019
Print ISSN: 0190-9320
Elektronische ISSN: 1573-6687
DOI
https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-018-9481-5

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