United States

  • October 20, 2014
    Damaging relationships between disadvantaged communities and the police are not inevitable. Studies of policing and the procedures used in the justice system find that police gain legitimacy when their interactions with community members are perceived as fair.
  • January 30, 2014
    In some urban neighborhoods, encounters with police have become one of the primary points of contact between disadvantaged citizens and their government. Yet extant scholarship has only just begun to explore how criminal justice interventions help to shape the political lives of the urban poor. In this article, we ask: What are the consequences of the increased use of stop-and-frisks (Terry stops) in disadvantaged neighborhoods for communities’ engagement with the state? Relying on a novel measure of local citizen engagement (311 calls for service) and more than one million police stops, we find that it is not concentrated police surveillance per se that matters but, rather, the character of police contact. The concentration of police stops overall is associated with higher levels of community engagement, while at the same time, a high degree of stops that feature searches or the use of force, especially when they do not result in an arrest, have a chilling effect on neighborhood-level outreach to local government. Our article marks a first step toward understanding what concentrated policing means for the democratic life and political agency of American communities.
  • October 1, 2014
    This issue brief was prepared by Rachel Grob of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Mark Schlesinger of Yale University, Karen Pollitz of the Kaiser Family Foundation and Lori Grubstein of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
  • September 29, 2014
    Most American gun owners have their firearms for a simple reason: protection. However, these estimates are based on nationally representative samples that are likely to undersample residents of marginalized urban communities where rates of violent victimization, and presumably the need for personal protection, are much higher than the country as a whole. Yet, we know very little about the motivations for gun acquisition within high-crime neighborhoods, especially among “hidden” sub-populations within these communities such as active criminal offenders. Drawing on past work linking neighborhood violence to legal cynicism, and using data gathered by the Chicago Gun Project (CGP), I employ measures of police legitimacy to explore the effect of distrust of legal agents on protective gun ownership among active offenders in Chicago. These data confirm that lower levels of police legitimacy are significantly related to a higher probability of acquiring a firearm for protection. I also consider the ways that gang membership, legal changes in Chicago, and gun behaviors are related to protective gun ownership.
  • August 8, 2014
    We use an original dataset of death penalty decisions on the Courts of Appeals to evaluate how the institutions of multimember appellate courts, dissent, and discretionary higher-court review interact to increase legal consistency in the federal judicial hierarchy. First, beginning with three-judge panels, we show the existence of ideological diversity on a panel—and the potential for dissent—plays a significant role in judicial decision making. Second, because of the relationship between panel composition and panel outcomes, considering only the incidence of dissents dramatically underestimates the influence of the institution of dissent—judges dissent much less frequently than they would in the absence of this relationship. Third, this rarity of dissent means they are informative: when judges do dissent, they influence en banc review in a manner consistent with the preferences of full circuits. Taken together, these results have important implications for assessing legal consistency in a vast and diverse judicial hierarchy.
  • July 2, 2014
    To better evaluate the weight of economic versus cultural factors in determining individual attitudes toward open borders, this article reports on a survey experiment conducted over the course of the Great Recession. Over the course of the recession, we measured changes in attitudes on both immigration and trade policies, controlling for economic circumstance. Based on the data provided by respondents on both their current salaries as well as a subjective assessment of their economic well-being, we illustrate how both objective and subjective perceptions of the economy interact with cultural factors and influence attitudes on open borders. The panel provides a unique picture of the “stickiness” of policy attitudes in hard economic times, and by extension, the level of commitment in the United States to globalization.
  • June 30, 2014
    The Obama administration has made a major investment in comparative effectiveness research (CER) to learn what treatments work best for which patients. CER has the potential to reduce wasteful medical spending and improve patient outcomes, but the political sustainability of this initiative remains unclear because of concerns that it will threaten the doctor-patient relationship. An unresolved question is whether it is possible to boost public support for the use of CER as a cost-control strategy. We investigate one potential source of public support: Americans’ trust in physicians as faithful agents of patient interests. We conducted two national surveys to explore the public’s confidence in doctors compared to other groups. We find that doctors are viewed as harder workers, more trustworthy, and more caring than other professionals. Through survey experiments, we demonstrate that the support of doctors’ groups for proposals to control costs and use CER have a greater influence on aggregate public opinion than do cues from political actors including congressional Democrats, Republicans, and a bipartisan commission. Our survey results suggest that the medical profession’s stance will be an important factor in shaping the political viability of efforts to use CER as a tool for health care cost control.
  • May 6, 2014
    One way that principals can overcome the problem of informational asymmetries in hierarchical organizations is to enable whistleblowing. We evaluate how whistleblowing influences compliance in the judicial hierarchy. We present a formal model in which a potential whistleblower may, at some cost, signal noncompliance by a lower court to a higher court. A key insight of the model is that whistleblowing is most informative when it is rare. While the presence of a whistleblower can increase compliance by lower courts, beyond a certain point blowing the whistle is counterproductive and actually reduces compliance. Moreover, a whistleblower who is a “perfect ally” of the higher court (in terms of preferences) blows the whistle too often. Our model shows an important connection between the frequency of whistleblowing and the effectiveness of whistleblowing as a threat to induce compliance in hierarchical organizations.
  • March 12, 2014
    Prior work finds that voters punish candidates for sponsoring attack ads. What remains unknown is the extent to which a negative ad is more effective if it is sponsored by a party or an independent group instead. We conducted three experiments in which we randomly assigned participants to view a negative ad that was identical except for its sponsor. We find that candidates can benefit from having a party or group “do their dirty work,” but particularly if a group does, and that the most likely explanation for why this is the case is that many voters simply do not connect candidates to the ads sponsored by parties and groups. We also find that in some circumstances, a group-sponsored attack ad produces less polarization than one sponsored by a party. We conclude by discussing the implications our research has for current debates about the proper role of independent groups in electoral politics.
  • April 24, 2014
    On U.S. electoral history, a good deal of research and experience has accrued since the ‘realignments’ interpretation kicked in half a century ago. Illuminating work has come from political science, economics, sociology, and history. Perspectives on other countries have weighed in. New concepts and measures have been introduced. Today, the American record looks quite different than it did in the 1960s. In a discussion of pattern and cause, six topics need to be highlighted: economic conditions, national security crises, race, long-term parity between the parties, short-term homeostasis, and personal incumbency advantage.
  • April 15, 2014
    The current field experiment investigated if and how Latinos versus Anglos experience biased treatment in a setting where documentation is relevant. In an audit experiment, Latino customers were treated differently than a matched team of Anglo customers when making $10 check payments at retail stores. Specifically, Latinos were asked to present an identification card (ID) more frequently than Anglo customers, were quoted a higher minimum-dollar amount for purchasing a gift certificate, and received more negative affect from salespersons. Among those who were asked for identification, a municipal-issued ID card was declined at equal rates from Latinos and Anglos, while an unofficial ID card was declined more from Anglos than Latinos. The association of Latino identity with foreignness and undocumented immigration, and the potential of municipal-ID card programs to serve undocumented immigrants are discussed.
  • April 8, 2014
    Recent research finds that doubts about the integrity of the secret ballot as an institution persist among the American public. We build on this finding by providing novel field experimental evidence about how information about ballot secrecy protections can increase turnout among registered voters who had not previously voted. First, we show that a private group’s mailing designed to address secrecy concerns modestly increased turnout in the highly contested 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election. Second, we exploit this and an earlier field experiment conducted in Connecticut during the 2010 congressional midterm election season to identify the persistent effects of such messages from both governmental and non-governmental sources. Together, these results provide new evidence about how message source and campaign context affect efforts to mobilize previous non-voters by addressing secrecy concerns, as well as show that attempting to address these beliefs increases long-term participation.
  • March 5, 2014
    The Voting Rights Act of 1965, called one of the most effective pieces of civil rights legislation in U.S. history, generated dramatic increases in black voter registration across the South. We ask whether the increase in black voting rights was accompanied by an increase in blacks’ share of public spending. We exploit a key provision of the act—removal of literacy tests at registration—for identification. Employing a triple-difference framework over a 20-year period, we find that counties with higher black population shares in former literacy test states saw greater increases in both voter turnout and state transfers than comparison counties in non–literacy test states, a finding that is consistent with models of distributive politics.
  • February 18, 2014
    What explains the relative persistence of same-race romantic relationships? One possible explanation is structural–this phenomenon could reflect the fact that social interactions are already stratified along racial lines–while another attributes these patterns to individual-level preferences. We present novel evidence from an online dating community involving more than 250,000 people in the United States about the frequency with which individuals both express a preference for same-race romantic partners and act to choose same-race partners. Prior work suggests that political ideology is an important correlate of conservative attitudes about race in the United States, and we find that conservatives, including both men and women and blacks and whites, are much more likely than liberals to state a preference for same-race partners. Further, conservatives are not simply more selective in general; they are specifically selective with regard to race. Do these stated preferences predict real behaviors? In general, we find that stated preferences are a strong predictor of a behavioral preference for same-race partners, and that this pattern persists across ideological groups. At the same time, both men and women of all political persuasions act as if they prefer same-race relationships even when they claim not to. As a result, the gap between conservatives and liberals in revealed same-race preferences, while still substantial, is not as pronounced as their stated attitudes would suggest. We conclude by discussing some implications of our findings for the broader issues of racial homogamy and segregation.