United States

  • October 20, 2015
    Beginning in November of 2012, New Haven, CT served as the pilot site for a statewide, focused deterrence gun violence reduction strategy named Project Longevity. Drawing on the group violence intervention (GVI) model pioneered in the 1990s as Boston Ceasefire, Longevity looked to reduce gun violence by focusing law enforcement, social services, and community members on members of violent street groups that are disproportionately involved in gun violence as victims and offenders. Using autoregressive integrated moving average models, we test for a programmatic effect of the Longevity intervention on group member involved (GMI) shootings and homicides. Controlling for the possibility of a non-New Haven specific decline in gun violence, a decrease in group offending patterns, and the limitations of police-defined GMI categorization of shootings and homicides, the results of our analysis show that Longevity is associated with a reduction of almost five GMI incidents per month. These findings bolster the growing body of research confirming the efficacy of focused deterrence approaches to reducing gun violence, and suggest the need for further research on similar initiatives across the varying contexts in which they are implemented.
  • October 20, 2015
    (Excerpt) Despite a decrease in homicides during the 90s and early 2000s, New Haven’s homicides once again began trending upward starting in 2003. By 2011, New Haven recorded 34 homicides, just shy of its 1991 high of 36; the city’s murder rate of 26.2 per 100,000 steadily outpaced the rates of larger cities such Washington, D.C. and Chicago, and mirrored that of Oakland, California. To address the rising death toll, state officials, city leadership, and the newly returned chief of police, Dean Esserman, moved to implement a group violence reduction strategy that had shown success in other urban centers, such as Cincinnati, Chicago, and Boston. This strategy is based on the tenets of focused deterrence.
  • September 24, 2015
    In partnership with state Democratic parties and the Obama campaign, the authors surveyed staffers from nearly 200 electoral campaigns in 2012, asking about the expected vote share in their races. Political operatives’ perceptions of closeness can affect how they campaign and represent citizens, but their perceptions may be wildly inaccurate: campaigns may irrationally fear close contests or be unrealistically optimistic. Findings indicate that political operatives are more optimistic than fearful, and that incumbent and higher-office campaigns are more accurate at assessing their chances. While the public may be better served by politicians fearing defeat, campaigns are typically staffed by workers who are over-confident, which may limit the purported benefits of electoral competition.
  • September 23, 2015
    To what extent are television viewers affected by the behaviors and decisions they see modeled by characters in television soap operas? Collaborating with scriptwriters for three prime-time nationally-broadcast Spanish-language telenovelas, we embedded scenes about topics such as drunk driving or saving money at randomly assigned periods during the broadcast season. Outcomes were measured unobtrusively by aggregate city- and nation-wide time series, such as the number of Hispanic motorists arrested daily for drunk driving or the number of accounts opened in banks located in Hispanic neighborhoods. Results indicate that while two of the treatment effects are statistically significant, none are substantively large or long-lasting. Actions that could be taken during the immediate viewing session, like online searching, and those that were relatively more integrated into the telenovela storyline, specifically reducing cholesterol, were briefly affected, but not behaviors requiring sustained efforts, like opening a bank account or registering to vote.
  • September 22, 2015
    Political scientists have studied why so few women run for office in the United States, but explanations concerning the challenge of balancing work and life have received little empirical support. I present two forms of data to show how expectations about work-life balance affect the supply of potential women politicians. The common thread in these analyses is that time spent traveling to and from work is particularly burdensome for those who spend time caring for children. Because women do a majority of the child care and housework, commuting is particularly burdensome to women. Analyzing a novel data set, I find that women are less likely to run for state legislative office in districts further from state capitals. I validate these results with an original survey experiment run on undergraduates in the midst of choosing their own careers. I find that female students weigh proximity to home twice as heavily as male students do in a hypothetical decision of whether to run for higher office. These results suggest that equal representation of women in government would require men and women to share household responsibilities more equally.
  • April 22, 2015
    The significance of class is increasing in the USA, in the sense that economic inequality is rising within the black and Latino populations as well as among whites. Growing inequality is associated with increasing disparities in lived experiences. Is class also increasingly significant in political life? Survey evidence shows that the answer is yes: compared with previous decades, well-off blacks and Latinos are less strongly liberal in some policy preferences and feel more politically efficacious, while poor blacks and Latinos tend to move in the opposite direction. Well-off non-whites have not, however, lost any commitment to racial justice or identity, so the USA is not becoming ‘post-racial’. Given the complex patterns of change and persistence in opinions, Wilson's arguments about when and how race is significant remain as important and controversial as when first expressed.
  • September 2, 2015
    The Internet has dramatically expanded citizens’ access to and ability to engage with political information. On many websites, any user can contribute and edit “crowd-sourced” information about important political figures. One of the most prominent examples of crowd-sourced information on the Internet is Wikipedia, a free and open encyclopedia created and edited entirely by users, and one of the world’s most accessed websites. While previous studies of crowd-sourced information platforms have found them to be accurate, few have considered biases in what kinds of information are included. We report the results of four randomized field experiments that sought to explore what biases exist in the political articles of this collaborative website. By randomly assigning factually true but either positive or negative and cited or uncited information to the Wikipedia pages of U.S. senators, we uncover substantial evidence of an editorial bias toward positivity on Wikipedia: Negative facts are 36% more likely to be removed by Wikipedia editors than positive facts within 12 hours and 29% more likely within 3 days. Although citations substantially increase an edit’s survival time, the editorial bias toward positivity is not eliminated by inclusion of a citation. We replicate this study on the Wikipedia pages of deceased as well as recently retired but living senators and find no evidence of an editorial bias in either. Our results demonstrate that crowd-sourced information is subject to an editorial bias that favors the politically active.
  • August 18, 2015
    We argue that politicians systematically discount the opinions of constituents with whom they disagree and that this “disagreement discounting” is a contributing factor to ideological incongruence. A pair of survey experiments where state and local politicians are the subjects of interest show that public officials rationalize this behavior by assuming that constituents with opposing views are less informed about the issue. This finding applies both to well-established issues that divide the parties as well as to nonpartisan ones. Further, it cannot be explained by politicians’ desires to favor the opinions of either copartisans or likely voters. A third survey experiment using a sample of voters shows that the bias is exacerbated by an activity central to representative governance—taking and explaining one's policy positions. This suggests that the job of being a representative exacerbates this bias.
  • June 29, 2015
    Medicare was born of interest group politics. The hostility of the American Medical Association (AMA)—the fiercest lobby in Washington from the 1930s to the 1960s—convinced advocates of public health insurance to start with the most vulnerable and difficult-to-insure segment of the population, the elderly. It also convinced Medicare’s advocates and early administrators to foreswear serious instruments for cost control that were in use in other rich democracies, such as fee schedules and restrictions on capital expenditures.
  • July 29, 2015
    We introduce experimental research design to the study of policy diffusion in order to better understand how political ideology affects policymakers’ willingness to learn from one another's experiences. Our two experiments–embedded in national surveys of U.S. municipal officials–expose local policymakers to vignettes describing the zoning and home foreclosure policies of other cities, offering opportunities to learn more. We find that: (1) policymakers who are ideologically predisposed against the described policy are relatively unwilling to learn from others, but (2) such ideological biases can be overcome with an emphasis on the policy's success or on its adoption by co-partisans in other communities. We also find a similar partisan-based bias among traditional ideological supporters, who are less willing to learn from those in the opposing party. The experimental approach offered here provides numerous new opportunities for scholars of policy diffusion.
  • July 23, 2015
    We leverage the institutional features of American courts to evaluate the importance of whistleblowers in hierarchical oversight. Drawing on a formal theory of signaling in the judicial hierarchy, we examine the role of whistleblowing dissents in triggering en banc review of three-judge panels by full circuits of the Courts of Appeals. The theory generates predictions about how dissent interacts with judicial preferences to influence circuits' review and reversal decisions, which we test using original and existing data. First, we show that judges who dissent counter to their preferences are more likely to see their dissents lead to review and reversal. Second, we show that dissents are most influential when the likelihood of non-compliance by a three-judge panel is highest. Our results underscore the importance of dissent in the judicial hierarchy and illustrate how judicial whistleblowers can help appellate courts target the most important cases for review.
  • June 22, 2015
    How can we assess relative bargaining power within the Supreme Court? Justices cast two votes in every case, one during the initial conference and one on the final merits of the case. Between these two votes, a justice is assigned to draft the majority opinion. We argue that vote switching can be used to detect the power of opinion authors over opinion content. Bargaining models make different predictions for opinion content and therefore for when other justices in the initial majority should be more or less likely to defect from initial positions. We derive hypotheses for how opinion authorship should affect vote switching and find that authorship has striking effects on switching. Authors thus have disproportionate influence and by extension so do chief justices, who make most assignments. This evidence is compatible with only the “author influence” class of bargaining models, with particular support for one model within this class.
  • April 22, 2015
    Excerpt: "According to the news media, 2014 was the year that the GOP “Establishment” finally pulled Republicans back from the right-wing brink. Pragmatism, it seemed, had finally triumphed over extremism in primary and general election contests that The New York Times called “proxy wars for the overall direction of the Republican Party.” There’s just one problem with this dominant narrative. It’s wrong. The GOP isn’t moving back to the center.
  • March 30, 2015
    Excerpt: Over the past decade, a data collection procedure called the group or gang audit has been developed for use in focused deterrence policing and violence prevention initiatives. Group audits extract this type of experiential, ―on the ground intelligence through focus-group style working sessions with law enforcement and other gang ―experts, such as case workers or members of community organizations. The information obtained through the audit lends itself to use in social network analysis, which is itself particularly useful for linking individual stores of knowledge in order to examine patterns of the whole… This chapter describes the audit process, how it relates to focused-deterrence strategies and social network analysis, and in what ways the group audit, in conjunction with social network analysis, can support and strengthen violence reduction initiatives. We begin by briefly reviewing the audit process, paying particular attention to systematic methods of relational data gathering and analysis. We then summarize the findings from audits in New Haven and demonstrate how the analysis of the networks among violent groups can address some definitional problems surrounding groups and gangs, as well as provide unique insight into groups and their relationships.
  • March 30, 2015
    Why does the relationship between income and partisanship vary across U.S. regions? Some answers to this question have focused on economic context (in poorer environments, economics is more salient), whereas others have focused on racial context (in racially diverse areas, richer voters oppose the party favoring redistribution). Using 73 million geocoded registration records and 185,000 geocoded precinct returns, we examine income-based voting across local areas. We show that the political geography of income-based voting is inextricably tied to racial context, and only marginally explained by economic context. Within homogeneously nonblack localities, contextual income has minimal bearing on the income-party relationship. The correlation between income and partisanship is strong in heavily black areas of the Old South and other areas with a history of racialized poverty, but weaker elsewhere, including in urbanized areas of the South. The results demonstrate that the geography of income-based voting is inseparable from racial context.