Experiments Workshop: Josh Kalla and Alex Coppock

Event time: 
Friday, April 4, 2014 - 4:00pm through 5:00pm
Event description: 

Congressional Officials Grant Access Due To Campaign  Contributions: A Randomized Field Experiment

By Josh Kalla and David Broockman

Concern that lawmakers grant preferential treatment to individuals because they have contributed to political campaigns has long occupied jurists, scholars, and the public. However, the effects of campaign contributions on legislators’ behavior have proven notoriously difficult to assess. We report the first randomized field experiment on the topic. In the experiment, a political organization attempted to schedule meetings between 191 Members of Congress and their constituents who had contributed to political campaigns. However, the organization randomly assigned whether it informed legislators’ offices that individuals who would attend the meetings were contributors. Congressional offices made considerably more senior officials available for meetings when offices were informed the attendees were donors, with senior officials attending such meetings more than three times as often (p < 0.01). Influential policymakers thus appear to make themselves much more accessible to individuals because they have contributed to campaigns, even in the absence of quid pro quo arrangements. These findings have significant implications for ongoing legal and legislative debates. The hypothesis that individuals can command greater attention from influential policymakers by contributing to campaigns has been among the most contested explanations for how financial resources translate into political power. The simple but revealing experiment presented here elevates this hypothesis from extensively contested to scientifically supported.

Is Voting Habit Forming? New Evidence from Experiments and Regression Discontinuities
By Alex Coppock and Donald P. Green
Abstract: For more than a decade, researchers have used field experiments and regression discontinuity designs to test whether voting is habit forming. These design-based approaches detect habit formation by examining the extent to which a random shock to voting in one election affects outcomes in subsequent elections. This paper contributes to this literature by bringing to bear a vast amount of new statistical evidence on the long-term consequences of both random inducements to vote and quasi-random inducements associated with eligibility to vote on one’s 18th birthday. These experiments and discontinuities provide strong evidence of persistence in voting patterns and help clarify the discrepant findings reported in previous research. The degree of persistence appears to vary by electoral context | what time of year elections occur and whether they are general or primary elections | and by the attributes of those who comply with an initial inducement to vote. Of special theoretical importance is the fact that voting habits are neither especially strong nor weak in presidential battleground states. This fact, coupled with a discontinuity analysis of American National Election Study surveys, suggests that over-time persistence cannot be attributed to voters receiving more intensive mobilization efforts from political campaigns.

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