United States

  • July 25, 2016
    Regular church attendance is strongly associated with a higher probability of voting. It is an open question as to whether this association, which has been confirmed in numerous surveys, is causal. The repeal of the laws restricting Sunday retail activity (‘blue laws’) is used to measure the effects of church-going on political participation. Blue laws’ repeal caused a 5 percent decrease in church attendance. Its effect on political participation was measured and it was found that, following the repeal, turnout fell by approximately 1 percentage point. This decline in turnout is consistent with the large effect of church attendance on turnout reported in the literature, and suggests that church attendance may have a significant causal effect on voter turnout.
  • July 19, 2016
    Technology and the decreased cost of survey research have made it possible for researchers to collect data using new and varied modes of interview. These data are often analyzed as if they were generated using similar processes, but the modes of interview may produce differences in response simply due to the presence or absence of an interviewer. In this paper, we explore the differences in item non-response that result from different modes of interview and find that mode makes a difference. The data are from an experiment in which we randomly assigned an adult population to an in-person or self-completed survey after subjects agreed to participate in a short poll. For nearly every topic and format of question, we find less item non-response in the self-complete mode. Furthermore, we find the difference across modes in non-response is exacerbated for respondents with low levels of cognitive abilities. Moving from high to low levels of cognitive ability, an otherwise average respondent can be up to six times more likely to say “don’t know” in a face-to-face interview than in a self-completed survey, depending on the type of question.
  • June 23, 2016
    An important development in social psychology is the discovery of minor interventions that have large behavioral effects. A leading example is a recent PNAS paper showing that a modest intervention inspired by psychological theory—wording survey items to encourage subjects to think of themselves as voters (noun treatment) rather than as voting (verb treatment)—has a large positive effect on political participation (voter turnout). We replicate and extend these experiments. In a large-scale field experiment, we find that encouraging subjects to think of themselves as voters rather than as voting has no effect on turnout and we estimate that both are less effective than a standard get out the vote mobilization message.
  • May 5, 2016
    We develop and assess an information account of representation. Accordingly, politicians face uncertainty about voter opinion and use previous vote margins to gauge future electoral outcomes. Losses in vote support elicit ideological moderation given new information about electorates. To test this account, we use rain around Election Day as a natural experiment in voting in the US House races from 1956 to 2008. We find that each additional inch of rainfall exogenously dampens Democratic vote margins by 1.4–2.0 percentage points and shifts incumbents rightward in their roll call positions in subsequent Congresses. We find responsiveness mainly in competitive districts with the greatest risk of defeat, and by Democrats rather than Republicans, suggesting an asymmetry in party representation. Overall, we highlight the importance of elite information uncertainty as a mechanism driving the electoral connection, and we show that idiosyncratic electoral effects can meaningfully impact legislative behavior.
  • April 18, 2016
    Beginning in November 2012, New Haven, Connecticut, served as the pilot site for Project Longevity, a statewide focused deterrence gun violence reduction strategy. The intervention brings law enforcement, social services, and community members together to meet with members of violent street groups at program call-ins. Using autoregressive integrated moving average models and 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 group member involved (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 research confirming the efficacy of focused deterrence approaches to reducing gun violence.
  • April 5, 2016
    Reputation has long been considered central to international relations, but unobservability, strategic selection, and endogeneity have handicapped quantitative research. A rare source of haphazard variation in the cultural origins of leaders-the fact that one-third of US presidents were raised in the American South, a well-studied example of a culture of honor-provides an opportunity to identify the effects of heightened concern for reputation for resolve. A formal theory that yields several testable predictions while accounting for unobserved selection into disputes is offered. The theory is illustrated through a comparison of presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and systematically tested using matching, permutation inference, and the nonparametric combination of tests. Interstate conflicts under Southern presidents are shown to be twice as likely to involve uses of force, last on average twice as long, and are three times more likely to end in victory for the United States than disputes under non-Southern presidents. Other characteristics of Southern presidencies do not seem able to account for this pattern of results. Theresults provide evidence that concern for reputation is an important cause of interstate conflict behavior.
  • January 19, 2016
    Excerpt: "Could it be that public misperceptions of existing gun control laws also contribute to the absence of public mobilisation for new legislation? To answer this question, we undertook a nationally representative survey through the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study (n=1384)."
  • January 5, 2016
    Theories of human behavior suggest that individuals attend to the behavior of certain people in their community to understand what is socially normative and adjust their own behavior in response. An experiment tested these theories by randomizing an anticonflict intervention across 56 schools with 24,191 students. After comprehensively measuring every school’s social network, randomly selected seed groups of 20–32 students from randomly selected schools were assigned to an intervention that encouraged their public stance against conflict at school. Compared with control schools, disciplinary reports of student conflict at treatment schools were reduced by 30% over 1 year. The effect was stronger when the seed group contained more “social referent” students who, as network measures reveal, attract more student attention. Network analyses of peer-to-peer influence show that social referents spread perceptions of conflict as less socially normative.
  • December 31, 2015
    Partisanship seems to affect factual beliefs about politics. For example, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say that the deficit rose during the Clinton administration; Democrats are more likely to say that inflation rose under Reagan. What remains unclear is whether such patterns reflect differing beliefs among partisans or instead reflect a desire to praise one party or criticize another. To shed light on this question, we present a model of survey response in the presence of partisan cheerleading and payments for correct and “don’t know” responses. We design two experiments based on the model’s implications. The experiments show that small payments for correct and “don’t know” answers sharply diminish the gap between Democrats and Republicans in responses to “partisan” factual questions. Our conclusion is that the apparent gulf in factual beliefs between members of different parties may be more illusory than real. The experiments also bolster and extend a major finding about political knowledge in America: we show (as others have) that Americans know little about politics, but we also show that they often recognize their own lack of knowledge.
  • December 15, 2015
    We use insurance claims data for 27.6 percent of individuals with private employer-sponsored insurance in the US between 2007 and 2011 to examine the variation in health spending and in hospitals’ transaction prices. We document the variation in hospital prices within and across geographic areas, examine how hospital prices influence the variation in health spending on the privately insured, and analyze the factors associated with hospital price variation. Four key findings emerge. First, health care spending per privately insured beneficiary varies by a factor of three across the 306 Hospital Referral Regions (HRRs) in the US. Moreover, the correlation between total spending per privately insured beneficiary and total spending per Medicare beneficiary across HRRs is only 0.14. Second, variation in providers’ transaction prices across HRRs is the primary driver of spending variation for the privately insured, whereas variation in the quantity of care provided across HRRs is the primary driver of Medicare spending variation. Consequently, extrapolating lessons on health spending from Medicare to the privately insured must be done with caution. Third, we document large dispersion in overall inpatient hospital prices and in prices for seven relatively homogenous procedures. For example, hospital prices for lower-limb MRIs vary by a factor of twelve across the nation and, on average, two-fold within HRRs. Finally, hospital prices are positively associated with indicators of hospital market power. Even after conditioning on many demand and cost factors, hospital prices in monopoly markets are 15.3 percent higher than those in markets with four or more hospitals.
  • December 15, 2015
    The two studies reported here tested whether a classroom-based psychological intervention that benefited a few African American 7th graders could trigger emergent ecological effects that benefited their entire classrooms. Multilevel analyses were conducted on data that previously documented the benefits of values affirmations on African American students’ grades. The density of African American students who received the intervention in each classroom (i.e., treatment density) was used as an independent predictor of grades. Within a classroom, the greater the density of African American students who participated in the intervention exercise, the higher the grades of all classmates on average, regardless of their race or whether they participated in the intervention exercise. Benefits of treatment density were most pronounced among students with a history of poor performance. Results suggest that the benefits of psychological intervention do not end with the individual. Changed individuals can improve their social environments, and such improvements can benefit others regardless of whether they participated in the intervention. These findings have implications for understanding the emergence of ecological consequences from psychological processes.
  • December 15, 2015
    Influential theories depict politicians as, alternatively, strongly constrained by public opinion, able to shape public opinion with persuasive appeals, or relatively unconstrained by public opinion and able to shape it merely by announcing their positions. To test these theories, we conducted unique field experiments in cooperation with sitting politicians in which U.S. state legislators sent constituents official communications with randomly assigned content. The legislators sometimes stated their issue positions in these letters, sometimes supported by extensive arguments but sometimes minimally justified; in many cases, these issue positions were at odds with voters’. An ostensibly unrelated survey found that voters often adopted the positions legislators took, even when legislators offered little justification. Moreover, voters did not evaluate their legislators more negatively when representatives took positions these voters had previously opposed, again regardless of whether legislators provided justifications. The findings are consistent with theories suggesting voters often defer to politicians’ policy judgments.
  • October 15, 2015
    Can the U.S. Congress address major challenges? Can Congress govern? Questions like these keep getting asked. This article addresses them by consulting the record since 1789. Given the separation-of-powers structure of the American system, such questions cannot be addressed directly. They need to be deconstructed. The presidency needs to enter the discussion, too. Also, what is a major challenge? To identify such challenges, and to supply a way of seeing how and in what respects Congress, as well as in a background frame the U.S. system more broadly, has performed, I draw on comparative analysis. How has the United States participated in thirteen major “impulses” that have invested a comparable set of nations at various times since the late eighteenth century? These challenges range from launching a new nation through building a welfare state through dealing with climate change and debt/deficit problems today.
  • 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.