2011-2012 Fall

Wendy Gross, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Stanford University

September 26, 2011

Measuring Anti-Hispanic Racism

ABSTRACT: Racial divisions have shaped American society since colonization. In the last half-century, social science researchers have proposed a variety of theories about the origins of racism (defined here as the dislike of a racial group), including the impact of psychological, sociological, and political factors on these opinions. From this body of work, we have learned a great deal about racism, and these findings have been used in attempts to alleviate racial discrimination.

A great deal of the research on racism has focused on the black-white divide. However, a host of societal changes has made evident that this dichotomy is no longer the only politically relevant racial division in the United States. Hispanics have been the largest minority group in the United States since 2000, and the growth of this ethnic group has outpaced that of every other racial or ethnic group. This ethnic group is diverse in its political opinions, but its size is not yet reflected in voter rolls, making Hispanics a “sleeping giant” in American politics.

The changing ethnic and racial composition of American society makes obvious an exciting opportunity for the academic literature on racism – the exploration of anti-Hispanic racism and its connection to opinions on public policies. In my dissertation, I develop measures of implicit and symbolic anti-Hispanic racism and explore the sources and consequences of anti-Hispanic racism among non-Hispanic whites.”

Wendy Gross
Cecilia Mo, PhD Candidate, Political Economics, Stanford University

September 27, 2011

Dual Process Theories of the Mind and Vote Choice: The Consequences of Implicit and Explicit Attitudes on the Judgment of Voters

ABSTRACT:  Researchers in cognitive psychology have proposed that there are two distinct cognitive systems underlying reasoning. Both automatic and unconscious type 1 processing that results in “implicit” attitudes, and controlled and effortful type 2 processing that results in “explicit” attitudes can be active concurrently, and the two cognitive operations compete for the control of overt responses. What are the consequences of “two minds” in the judgment of voters? Dual process theories of the mind suggest that ignoring implicit attitudes in the study of vote choice largely underestimates the relationship between attitudes on ascriptive characteristics and the judgment of voters, and overlooks the possibility that socially undesirable forms of prejudice can be overridden in certain contexts. Empirical tests of the consequence of dual cognitive processes on voting behavior are conducted by analyzing the relationship between explicit and implicit measures of gender attitudes on vote choice using an original survey experiment (study 1). The implications of a “two minds” hypothesis are tested in a second domain of prejudice by studying the effects of explicit and implicit racial attitudes on the 2008 Presidential election between Barack Obama and John McCain using a nationally representative sample (study 2). In both cases, the predictions of dual process theories of the mind hold. Both explicit and implicit attitudes of ascriptive characteristics (e.g., gender and race) are non-redundant consequential predictors of vote choice. Further, when an individual is motivated and capable of overriding implicit attitudes, the effects of implicit attitudes on vote choice are largely overridden by the effortful and reflective explicit attitude. The two studies jointly point to the significance of a dual process account of reasoning in understanding the manifestation of voter prejudice in the ballot box.

Cecilia Mo
Phil Garland, Vice President Methodology, Survey Monkey

October 10, 2011

The landscape of market research and non-academic job life as an academic

Dave Vanette, PhD Candidate, Communication, Stanford University

October 17, 2011

Do Interviewers Make Good Tailors? The Impact of Conversational Introductions on Survey Participation

ABSTRACT:  In an effort to increase survey participation, telephone interviewers are often encouraged to tailor their introductions so that they are comfortable delivering them and can address potential respondent concerns. But very little research has examined how interviewers may tailor their introductions or the effects that this tailoring may have on participation. However, previous research has demonstrated that interviewer behavior can have a significant impact on response rates. This article presents evidence that interviewers do indeed tailor their introductions and that different components of the content of these tailored introductions may have positive and negative effects on respondents’ decision to participate.

David Vannette
Mike Tomz, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

October 24, 2011

Political Pledges: "No New Taxes" and Budget Policy Making

ABSTRACT: Nearly every Republican in the U.S. House and the Senate has signed the "No New Taxes" pledge, sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. We use survey experiments to study how the pledge affects public opinion, voting behavior, and budget policy making. We find that candidates in Republican primaries have enormous electoral incentives to sign the pledge. We further find that signing the pledge ties the hands of legislators by raising the price they would pay if they subsequently advocated taxes. This cost arises, in part, because voters draw negative inferences about the character of candidates who break the pledge. Finally, we identify the optimal campaign strategies of candidates in an environment that includes the pledge. We show that it is almost never electorally advantageous for signatories to compromise on the issue of taxes, and we discuss the implications of this finding for budget policy making and the future of the U.S. national debt.

Michael Tomz
Yphtach Lelkes, PhD Candidate, Communication, Stanford University

October 31, 2011

More than Ideology: Conservative–Liberal Identity and Receptivity to Political Cues

ABSTRACT: To many commentators and social scientists, Americans’ stances on political issues are to an important extent driven by an underlying conservative–liberal ideological dimension. Self-identification as conservative vs. liberal is regarded as a marker of this dimension. However, past research has not thoroughly distinguished between ideological identity (a self-categorization) and ideology (an integrated value system). This research evaluates the thesis that conservative–liberal identity functions as a readiness to adopt beliefs and attitudes about newly politicized issues that one is told are consistent with the socially prescribed meaning of conservatism–liberalism.

Greg Walton, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

November 14, 2010

Affirmative Meritocracy

ABSTRACT: We argue that in important circumstances meritocracy can be realized only through a specific form of affirmative action we call affirmative meritocracy. These circumstances arise because common measures of academic performance systematically underestimate the intellectual ability of members of negatively stereotyped groups (e.g., non-Asian ethnic minorities, women in quantitative fields). This bias results not from the content of performance measures but from common contexts in which performance measures are assessed—from psychological threats like stereotype threat that are pervasive in academic settings, and which undermine the performance of people from negatively stereotyped groups. To overcome this bias, schools and employers should be changed to reduce stereotype threat. In such environments, admitting or hiring more members of devalued groups would promote meritocracy, diversity, and organizational performance. Evidence for this bias, it causes, magnitude, remedies, and implications for social policy and for law are discussed.

George Walton
David Yeager, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Texas, Austin

November 28, 2011

Implicit theories of personality and peer victimization at the transition to secondary school

ABSTRACT: Infants develop naïve or “implicit” theories about people, and use them to guide their response to novel events in the social world. Very little research, however, has examined the causal effect of these theories on older children’s behavior in new and challenging social contexts over time.  We addressed this by experimentally changing teenagers’ implicit theories about the malleability of human traits during the transition to secondary school—a transition fraught with social adversity and novel demands—and we tracked their behavior over the year. We conducted an intervention that lasted two class periods at the beginning of 9th grade and taught a malleable theory of people’s traits.  Controls learned a parallel message that did not address this theory. The malleability-theory treatment led participants to interpret an acute experience of social adversity as less stressful and, because of this, at the end of the year to experience less stress overall and earn higher grades.  This study provides causal evidence for the importance of implicit theories about people’s traits in shaping stress and achievement in socially-adverse contexts.  More generally, it shows that a minimal but psychologically-attuned intervention can decrease the effects of social adversity over time in real-world settings.

Cheryl Boudreau, Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis

December 5, 2011

Informing the Electorate? How Party Cues and Policy Information Affect Public Opinion about Initiatives

ABSTRACT: In states with direct democracy, political parties, interest groups, and others spend vast sums to publicize their endorsements of initiatives and disseminate policy information about them.  How does this affect public opinion?  To address this question, we conduct survey experiments where citizens express their opinions about pending initiatives.  We manipulate whether they receive party cues, policy information, both, or neither type of information.  Contrary to much existing research, we find that policy information affects citizens¹ opinions even when party cues are present. The nature of the effects depends upon whether the policy information reinforces, undermines, or is neutral with respect to citizens¹ own political party¹s positions on the initiatives. In some instances, the presence of a party cue can alter how citizens respond to policy information.  When the policy information is neutral, citizens respond more positively to it when party cues are present versus absent. However, citizens do not discount information that undermines their party¹s positions when party cues are present.  These results suggest lessons for political scientists who study the effects of information and for political parties, interest groups, and others who seek to influence citizens¹ opinions.

Cheryl Boudreau