Recent Faculty Publications

Trump, Twitter, and News Media Responsiveness: A Media Systems Approach
by Dhavan Shah and Ayellet Pelled with Chris Wells, Josephine Lukito, Jon Pevehouse, and JungHwan Yang

How populists engage with media of various types, and are treated by those media, are questions of international interest. In the United States, Donald Trump stands out for both his populism-inflected campaign style and his success at attracting media attention. This article examines how interactions between candidate communications, social media, partisan media, and news media combined to shape attention to Trump, Clinton, Cruz, and Sanders during the 2015–2016 American presidential primary elections. We identify six major components of the American media system and measure candidates’ efforts to gain attention from them. Our results demonstrate that social media activity, in the form of retweets of candidate posts, provided a significant boost to news media coverage of Trump, but no comparable boost for other candidates. Furthermore, Trump tweeted more at times when he had recently garnered less of a relative advantage in news attention, suggesting he strategically used Twitter to trigger coverage.

Wells, C., Shah, D., Lukito, J., Pelled, A., Pevehouse, J. C., & Yang, J. (2020). Trump, Twitter, and News Media Responsiveness: A Media Systems Approach. New Media & Society.

Voting for Development? Ruling Coalitions and Literacy in India
by Rikhil Bahavnani with Francesca Jensenius

Across the world, governments skew the distribution of state resources for political gain. But does such politicisation of resource allocation affect development trajectories in the long run? We focus on the long-term effects of voting for the ruling coalition on primary education in India. Using a close-election instrumental variable design and drawing on a new socio-economic dataset of India’s state assembly constituencies in 1971 and 2001, we examine whether areas represented by members of ruling coalitions experienced greater increases in literacy over 30 years. We find no evidence of this being the case, in the overall data or in relevant sub-samples. The null results are precisely estimated, and are consistent across OLS and 2SLS specifications and several robustness checks. These findings suggest the politicised distribution of some funds in the short run does not affect long-term development trajectories.

Bhavnani, R. R., & Jensenius, F. R. (2019). Voting for development? Ruling Coalitions and Literacy in India. Electoral Studies.

The Contingent Effects of Candidate Sex on Voter Choice
by Barry Burden with Yoshikuni Ono

A prominent explanation for why women are significantly underrepresented in public office in the U.S. is that stereotypes lead voters to favor male candidates over female candidates. Yet whether voters actually use a candidate’s sex as a voting heuristic in the presence of other common information about candidates remains a surprisingly unsettled question. Using a conjoint experiment that controls for stereotypes, we show that voters are biased against female candidates but in some unexpected ways. The average effect of a candidate’s sex on voter decisions is small in magnitude, is limited to presidential rather than congressional elections, and appears only among male voters. More importantly, independent voters display the greatest negative bias against female candidates. The results suggest that partisanship works as a kind of “insurance” for voters who can be sure that the party affiliation of the candidate will represent their views in office regardless of the sex of the candidate.

Ono, Y., & Burden, B. C. (2019). The Contingent Effects of Candidate Sex on Voter Choice. Political Behavior.

Voter Identification and Nonvoting in Wisconsin—Evidence from the 2016 Election
by Michael DeCrescenzo and Kenneth Mayer

How much did Wisconsin’s voter identification requirement matter in 2016? We conducted a survey of registered nonvoters in the counties surrounding the cities of Milwaukee and Madison to estimate the number of registrants who experienced ID-related voting difficulties in the 2016 presidential election. We estimate that 10 percent of nonvoters in these counties lack a qualifying voter ID or report that voter ID was at least a partial reason why they did not vote in 2016, and six percent of nonvoters lacked a voter ID or cited voter ID as their primary reason for not voting. Theoretically, we argue that voter ID requirements “directly” affect voters who lack qualifying IDs but also “indirectly” affect voters who are confused about their compliance with the law. We find evidence of such confusion, with many respondents mistakenly believing that they did not have the necessary ID to vote when they actually did. Our analysis permits us to calculate bounds on the possible turnout effect in 2016. Most of our credible estimates suggest that the voter ID requirement reduced turnout in these counties by up to one percentage point.

DeCrescenzo, M., & Mayer, K. (2019). Voter Identification and Nonvoting in Wisconsin—Evidence from the 2016 ElectionElection Law Journal. 

The Long War over Party Structure: Democratic Representation and Policy Responsiveness in American Politics
by Byron Shafer with Regina Wagner

A long-standing debate in American politics is about the proper structure for political parties and the relative power that should be afforded to party professionals versus issue activists. In this book, Byron E. Shafer and Regina L. Wagner draw systematically on new data and indexes to evaluate the extent to which party structure changed from the 1950s on, and what the consequences have been for policy responsiveness, democratic representation, and party alignment across different issue domains. They argue that the reputed triumph of volunteer parties since the 1970s has been less comprehensive than the orthodox narrative assumes, but that the balance of power did shift, with unintended and sometimes perverse consequences. In the process of evaluating its central questions, this book gives an account of how partisan alignments evolved with newly empowered issue activists and major post-war developments from the civil rights movement to the culture wars.

Shafer, B. E., & Wagner, R. L. (2019). The Long War over Party Structure. Cambridge University Press.

Social Distraction? Social Media Use and Political Knowledge in Two U.S. Presidential Elections
by Michael Xenos with Sangwon Lee

With increasing numbers of people using social media to get news and political information, whether social media helps users learn about politics has become an important question. Intrigued by the potential of social media to politically educate people, researchers have begun to explore the effects of social media on political knowledge. However, the findings from these studies have been far from conclusive. Drawing on both cross-sectional and panel data from two recent United States presidential elections, this study examines how political social media use and general social media use influence political knowledge. Overall, the results of the cross-sectional and panel analyses lead to the same conclusions. Both show that political social media use does not have a significant effect on political knowledge, while general social media use has a moderately negative effect on political knowledge. Thus, on balance, the overall impact of social media on political knowledge appears to be negative. Implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Lee, S., & Xenos, M. (2019). Social distraction? Social Media Use and Political Knowledge in Two US Presidential ElectionsComputers in Human Behavior.

“Campaigns Inc”
by Robert Yablon 

Election campaigns have become the domain of a thriving industry of paid political service providers. While leading scholars in other fields regard the rise of the campaign industry as a defining feature of our nation’s politics, the industry is strikingly absent from the legal literature. This Article seeks to bring the campaign industry into election law discourse and contends that doing so has important practical and theoretical payoffs.

Yablon, R. (2018). Campaigns, IncMinn. L. Rev.

“Little Marco,” “Lyin’Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” and the “Biased” Media: How Trump Used Twitter to Attack and Organize
by Ayellet Pelled and Dhavan Shah with Josephine Lukito, Fred Boehm, and JungHwan Yang

Donald Trump received an unprecedented amount of news coverage during his presidential campaign, on occasions drawing as much as five times more volume than all of the other candidates combined. Trump, the controversial contender, a reality-television celebrity and media persona, mainly known for his business empire, has been an object of public interest for decades. Long before The Apprentice even aired, Trump had been dabbling in the entertainment arena, promoting his hotels, casinos, and golf courses, alongside his products, programs, and events (Yanofsky, 2015). His presidential candidacy reflects the quintessential intersection between media, politics, and entertainment.

Pelled, A., Lukito, J., Boehm, F., Yang, J., & Shah, D. (2018). “Little Marco,” “Lyin’Ted,” “Crooked Hillary,” and the “Biased” Media: How Trump Used Twitter to Attack and Organize. In Digital Discussions (pp. 186-206). Routledge.

22 Media and Civic Engagement
by Lewis Friedland with Chris Wells

The meaning and forms of civic engagement have changed significantly from the end of WWII to the present. This chapter charts civic engagement through a broader framework for understanding community and civil society. The meanings of civic engagement have changed through three periods: from World War II to the 60s; large collective movements from the 60s to the 90s; and the rise of “post-materialism” from the 90s on. We pay particular attention to the rise and impact of new communication technologies on civic and public life, and the theory of “actualizing citizenship.” The chapter concludes with a discussion of “blended” media and civil activism, arguing that the new communication ecology both shapes and is shaped by citizen action. We distinguish between the different ecological configuration of the contemporary right and left, arguing that contemporary media-centricanalysis of civic engagement should yield to more integrated analytical, sociological, and historical accounts.

Friedland, L., & Wells, C. (2018). 22 Media and Civic Engagement. Mediated Communication. De Gruyter.

Polls and Elections: Institutional Dynamics and Nominating Processes: The Latest Twists on a Familiar Story or the Emergence of a Brave New World?
by Byron E. Shafer with Elizabeth M. Sawyer

The presidential nominating contests of 2016 were extremely fertile ground for hypothesizing by media analysts about alternative outcomes. Lacking much theoretical grounding, most of these were almost destined to be embarrassed by actual events—and 2016 proved extremely good at that. Yet the practical collapse of these journalistic hypotheticals does raise insistent theoretical questions, most of which are variants of one central puzzle: Were the nominating dynamics of 2016 ever very different from those of previous years? If so, how? If not, why not? There is, in fact, an established theoretical approach in political science with which to frame some answers. This article sets out to embed those answers within that established wisdom.

Sawyer, E. M., & Shafer, B. E. (2018). Polls and Elections: Institutional Dynamics and Nominating Processes: The Latest Twists on a Familiar Story or the Emergence of a Brave New World?Presidential Studies Quarterly.

Campaigns, Inc.
by Robert Yablon

Election campaigns have become the domain of a thriving industry of paid political service providers. While leading scholars in other fields regard the rise of the campaign industry as a defining feature of our nation’s politics, the industry is strikingly absent from the legal literature. This Article seeks to bring the campaign industry into election law discourse and contends that doing so has important practical and theoretical payoffs.

The Article begins by adding legal texture to existing accounts of the campaign industry’s development. It observes that the industry emerged partly as an unintended consequence of efforts to reform political parties and campaign finance. The Article then considers the industry’s repercussions. For campaigners and political donors, campaign professionals can provide tremendously valuable services, but they can also generate substantial countervailing agency costs. Widening the lens, the campaign industry has significant systemic effects on the pool of candidates who seek office, on the nature of campaigning, on substantive policy decisions, and more. Building on this descriptive account, the Article explores the industry’s implications for ongoing jurisprudential and policy debates about money in politics and the role of political parties. The Article concludes by surveying potential public and private interventions to address the campaign industry’s drawbacks.

Yablon, R. (2018). Campaigns, Inc. Minnesota Law Review.

The Stealth Media? Groups and Targets Behind Divisive Issue Campaigns on Facebook
by Young Mie Kim, Jordan Hsu, and Levi Bankston with David Neiman, Colin Kou, Soo Yun Kim, Richard Heinrich, Robyn Baragwanath, and Garvesh Raskutt

In light of the foreign interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, the present research asks the question of whether the digital media has become the stealth media for anonymous political campaigns. By utilizing a user-based, real-time, digital ad tracking tool, the present research reverse engineers and tracks the groups (Study 1) and the targets (Study 2) of divisive issue campaigns based on 5 million paid ads on Facebook exposed to 9,519 individuals between September 28 and November 8, 2016. The findings reveal groups that did not file reports to the Federal Election Commission (FEC)—nonprofits, astroturf/movement groups, and unidentifiable “suspicious” groups, including foreign entities—ran most of the divisive issue campaigns. One out of six suspicious groups later turned out to be Russian groups. The volume of ads sponsored by non-FEC groups was four times larger than that of FEC- groups. Divisive issue campaigns clearly targeted battleground states, including Pennsylvania and Wisconsin where traditional Democratic strongholds supported Trump by a razor thin margin. The present research asserts that media ecology, the technological features and capacity of digital media, as well as regulatory loopholes created by Citizens United v. FEC and the FEC’s disclaimer exemption for digital platforms contribute to the prevalence of anonymous groups’ divisive issue campaigns on digital media. The present research offers insight relevant for regulatory policy discussion and discusses the normative implications of the findings for the functioning of democracy.

Kim, Y. M., Hsu, J., Neiman, D., Kou, C., Bankston, L., Kim, S. Y., … & Raskutti, G. (2018). The Stealth Media? Groups and Targets Behind Divisive Issue Campaigns on FacebookPolitical Communication, 1-29.

The Effects of Malapportionment on Cabinet Inclusion: Subnational Evidence from India
by Rikhil Bhavnani

Malapportionment doubly penalizes people from relatively large electoral districts or constituencies by under-representing them in the legislature and in the political executive or cabinet. The latter effect has not been studied. This article develops theoretical reasons for large constituency disadvantage in the cabinet formation process, and tests them using a new repeated cross-sectional dataset on elections and cabinet formation in India’s states, from 1977–2007. A one-standard-deviation increase in relative constituency size is associated with a 22 per cent fall in the probability of a constituency’s representative being in the cabinet. Malapportionment affects cabinet inclusion by causing large parties to focus on winning relatively small constituencies. These effects are likely to hold in parliamentary systems, and in other contexts where the legislature influences cabinet inclusion.

Bhavnani, R. R. (2018). The Effects of Malapportionment on Cabinet Inclusion: Subnational Evidence from IndiaBritish Journal of Political Science48(1), 69-89.

Political Behavior of the American Electorate
by Michael W. Wagner with Elizabeth Theiss-Morse

The 2016 elections took place under intense political polarization and uncertain economic conditions, to widely unexpected results. How did Trump pull off his victory?

Political Behavior of the American Electorate, Fourteenth Edition, attempts to answer this question by interpreting data from the most recent American National Election Study to provide a thorough analysis of the 2016 elections and the current American political behavior. Authors Elizabeth Theiss-Morse and Michael Wagner continue the tradition of Flanigan and Zingale to illustrate and document trends in American political behavior with the best longitudinal data available. The authors also put these trends in context by focusing on the major concepts and characteristics that shape Americans’ responses to politics.

In the completely revised Fourteenth Edition, readers will explore get-out-the-vote efforts and the reasons people voted the way they did, as well as the nature and impact of partisanship, news media coverage, and other issues in 2016—all with an eye toward understanding the trends that led up to the historic decision.

Theiss-Morse, E. A., Wagner, M. W., Flanigan, W. H., & Zingale, N. H. (2018). Political Behavior of the American Electorate (14th ed.). Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.