How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote: The Effect of Legislator Credit Claiming on Constituent Credit Allocation
American Political Science Review (November 2012)
Abstract: Particularistic spending, a large literature argues, builds support for incumbents. This literature equates the amount spent with the credit constituents allocate to legislators. Yet, constituents lack the necessary information, expertise, and motivation to allocate credit based on the amount spent in the district. Rather, we show how legislators' credit claiming efforts--and not just money spent in the district--systematically affect how constituents allocate credit. We use a massive new collection of House press releases to characterize what legislators claim credit for, use innovative experimental designs to isolate the effect of those messages, and then a robust observational design to demonstrate the far-reaching effects of those statements. Together our results have broad implications for political representation and the empirical and theoretical study of particularistic spending and its effect on U.S. Congressional elections.
Selective Exposure in the Age of Social Media: Endorsements Trump Partisan
Source Affiliation when Selecting Online News Media
Communication Research (Forthcoming)
With Solomon Messing
Abstract: Much of the literature on polarization and selective exposure presumes that the internet exacerbates the fragmentation of the media and the citizenry. Yet, this ignores how the widespread use of social media changes news consumption. Social media provide readers a choice of stories from different sources that come recommended from politically heterogeneous individuals, in a context that emphasizes social value over partisan affiliation. Building on existing models of news selectivity to emphasize information utility, we hypothesize that social media’s distinctive feature, social endorsements, trigger several decision heuristics that suggest utility. In two experiments, we demonstrate that stronger social endorsements increase the probability that people select information, and that their presence reduces partisan selective exposure to levels indistinguishable from chance.
The Role of Knowledge, Polarization and Persuasion in Deliberative Opinion Change
Political Communication (Revise and Resubmit)
With Solomon Messing
Abstract:There are currently two dominant models that claim to explain opinion change in deliberation: (1) knowledge-driven refinement and (2) polarization. Neither model accounts for psychological phenomena that we expect to occur during deliberation, most critically, persuasive exchanges between participants. We formulate and test hypotheses based on theories of persuasion, and examine them against traditionally accepted models of deliberative opinion change. This is possible because of a major data collection effort: we coded each statement made during a nationally representative deliberative poll, using the discourse quality index (DQI), and structured participant interactions as network data. We find that well-justified arguments made in the context of direct engagement are a consistent predictor of opinion change. Individual-level persuasion, not simply knowledge-driven refinement and/or polarization, is occurring. This suggests the need to account for individual-level psychological phenomena such as persuasion in models of deliberation opinion change.