Political psychology is a thriving field of social scientific inquiry. Political psychologists attempt to understand the psychological underpinnings, roots, and consequences of political behavior. Some of this work attempts to understand political phenomena by applying theories developed through research done in psychological laboratories. Findings regarding mediation and moderation of real-world effects have often led to extensions and revisions of the inspiring psychological theories. Other political psychology research involves the development of completely new theory to provide psychological accounts of political phenomena. The empirical testing and refinement of these theories also contributes to basic understanding of how the mind works and how social interaction takes place.

Political psychologists employ a wide range of research methods in doing their work. Some studies are done in laboratories with college student participants. Some studies are national surveys with representative samples of adults. Some studies involve experimental manipulations embedded in surveys. Some studies involve time series analysis of actuarial data. And some studies involve systematic quantitative content analysis of text materials, such as news stories.

The quarterly Political Psychology Colloquium exposes participants to research intended to test and refine theories of political cognition, emotion, and action and to enhance understanding of the methods used by political psychologists. Each week, a presentation is made by a participant (regarding a project he or she is conducting) or outside researchers from both academia and the private sector.

Below is an overview of each year’s colloquia.


Zac Peskowitz

David Broockman

David Broockman


Stephen Kosslyn


Stefaan Walgrave


Samara Klar


Rose McDermott


Robb Willer


Rachel Stein


Philip Garland


Michael Tomz

CISAC People

Martha Crenshaw


Mario Callegaro


Lindsay Owens


Linchiat Chang


Laurel Harbridge


Josh Pasek


David Yeager


Curtiss Cobb


Cecilia Mo


Benoit Monin


Andrew Whealy


Ali Velenzuela

Aila Matanock

Aila Matanock


Yphtach Lelkes


Taylor Orth

henning silber

Henning Silber

michaeleen gallagher

Michaeleen Gallagher


Aleksandar Matovski


David Vannette

sam savage

Sam Savage


Anna Boch


Bo MacInnis


Melinda Jackson


Sebastian Lundmark

tobias konitzer

Tobias Konitzer

Jeff Hancock

Jeff Hancock

Michael Dennis

Michael Dennis


Judson Boomhower

Kody Manke

Kody Manke


Adina Abele


Lauren Howe


Jason Disano


Alana Kolendreski

Jens Hainmueller

Jens Hainmueller

Ariela Schachter

Ariela Schachter

Jon Cohen

Jon Cohen

Lee Jussim

Lee Jussim

Robert MacCoun

Robert MacCoun

Ellen Konar

Ellen Konar

Valentina Bosetti

Valentina Bosetti

Neil Malhotra

Neil Malhotra

Jeff Bonheim

Jeff Bonheim

Morris Fiorina

Morris Fiorina

Camille Johnson

Camille Johnson

Zakary Tormala

Zakary Tormala

Paul Sniderman

Paul Sniderman

Michelle Mello

Michelle Mello

Richard Leo

Richard Leo

Colloquia Speakers:



Michal Kosinski, Assistant Professor, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business

September 26, 2016

Predicting psychological traits from digital footprints

ABSTRACT: A growing proportion of human activities such as social interactions, entertainment, shopping, and gathering information, are now mediated by digital devices and services. Such digitally mediated activities can be easily recorded, offering an unprecedented opportunity to study and assess psychological traits using actual―rather than self-reported―behavior. Our research shows that digital records of behavior, such as samples of text, Tweets, Facebook Likes, or web-browsing logs, can be used to accurately measure a wide range of psychological traits. Such Big Data assessment has a number of advantages: it does not require participants’ active involvement; it can be easily and inexpensively applied to large populations; and it is relatively immune to cheating or misrepresentation. Essentially, if the ethical and methodological challenges could be overcome, Big Data has the potential to revolutionize psychological assessment, marketing, recruitment, insurance and many other industries.


Lauren Howe, PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, Stanford University

October 3, 2016

Creating a demonstration of random sampling to improve trust in surveys

ABSTRACT: Lauren will present initial studies showing that people distrust polls suggesting that the American public’s views conflict with theirs. Then, she will ask for feedback on a video demonstration of random sampling that she has created as an intervention to improve trust in well-conducted polls.


Adina Abeles, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

October 11, 2016

Does using labels as a shorthand to describe groups of people signal bias on behalf of the communicator employing those labels?

ABSTRACT: Adina will describe a current research project focused on what signals a communicator sends simply by choosing a label to describe a group of people. She uses various labels from climate change discourse in her research and will seek advice and feedback on interpreting some interesting results.


MJ Cho, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

October 18, 2016

Assessing Accuracy of Pre-Election Polls: 2008 – 2012

ABSTRACT: This study tests various hypotheses regarding the relationships among the features and accuracy of pre-election polls. Based on the literature, this study systematically collects data of polls and derives multiple measures of accuracy to test the hypotheses. The analyses in this study provide evidence in supporting the hypotheses regarding the influence of poll features on poll accuracy. In particular, this study suggests that types of elections, modes of polls, and partisanship of the polling firms are significant determinants of poll accuracy as represented by the average absolute and partisan biases.


Soohee Kim, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

October 25, 2016

An Exploration of the Mechanism of the Effect of Advertising

ABSTRACT: Much research on advertising has explored the impact of advertising on people’s attitudes and behavioral intentions. However, advertising’s potential impact on another key construct – perception of social proof, which is known to play a crucial role in shaping people’s attitudes and behaviors – has been largely overlooked in the literature. In this study, we examine the potential mediating role of perceptions of social proof in the effects of advertising on consumers. In addition, to fully understand the impact of advertising on various aspects of attitudes and purchase intentions, we propose to conceptualize the two pivotal constructs – brand attitude and purchase intention – as consisting of some potentially related sub-constructs. Using data from a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults, we find that exposure to advertisements does not directly influence purchase intention but does so indirectly through individuals’ own brand attitude and perceptions of social proof, even though the role of the latter appears to vary depending on the characteristics of the advertisement. The structural equation model analyses indicate that the indicators for brand attitude and purchase intention proposed in this study are effective measurements of the two constructs, suggesting that effects of advertising on attitudes and purchase intentions can be more comprehensively examined by conceptualizing the diverse aspects of advertising effectiveness. Implications of the findings are discussed in terms of the role of social influence in the effects of advertising as well as the importance of measurement for a more comprehensive understanding of the effects of advertising.


Jan Karen Höhne, PhD Candidate, University of Göttingen, Germany

November 1, 2016

Survey Participation, Cognitive Effort, and Data Quality: A Comparison of Agree/Dis-agree and Item-Specific Question Formats

ABSTRACT: In social research, the use of agree/disagree (A/D) questions (i.e. response categories are based on an agreement continuum) is a popular methodological technique to measure attitudes and opinions. Theoretical considerations, however, suggest that A/D questions require effortful cognitive processing. Therefore, many researchers recommend the use of item-specific (IS) questions (i.e. response categories match the content dimension directly) since they seem to be less burdensome. In this talk, I present the results of several survey experiments, conducted to investigate the performance of AD and IS questions. The first study compares both question formats regarding cognitive effort (measured by response times and answer changes) and response quality (measured by speeding, non-differentiation, and dropouts). The second study investigates the (cognitive) processing of A/D and IS questions using eye-tracking methodology. On the basis of recordings of respondents’ eye movements, it is possible to draw conclusions on how respondents process survey questions and evaluate how they process information. The third study, investigates the susceptibility of A/D and IS questions regarding response order effects. Respondents were additionally asked to evaluate both question formats using different adjective pairs. The final study compares AD and IS questions over PC and smartphones (the data collection is still in progress). Considering the current results, it is to see that the IS question format performs much better than the AD question format. Although IS questions seem to be more demanding they encourage respondents to perform a more active and intensive cognitive processing than AD questions. Therefore, they also seem to be more robust against response bias such as response order effects. Given that these findings are compatible with earlier research attesting higher measurement quality to IS questions than to A/D questions (Saris, Revilla, Krosnick, & Shaeffer, 2010), survey researchers should give preference to IS over A/D questions when developing survey instruments.


Nick Allum, Professor of Research Methodology, Department of Sociology, University of Essex

November 8, 2016

Use of closed probes in a probability panel to validate cognitive pretesting: a first-cut analysis

ABSTRACT: In standard cognitive pretesting, interviewers ask respondents to ‘think aloud’ and to answer verbal probes. The purpose is to understand how respondents comprehend and respond to survey questions, with the aim of fixing problems and enhancing data quality. Typically, small samples of five to fifteen participants are used and questions revised (or not) in light of what is found. Although cognitive testing is well-established, quite serious questions remain as to its efficacy, which primarily have to do with the small Ns involved. Firstly, it is possible that not all important problems with a survey item will be uncovered by a small number of interviews. Recent research suggests that indeed many problems may routinely be missed when small samples are employed (Conrad and Blair 2011). Secondly, it is generally not known how significant or widespread such problems might be for the study population as a whole. Thirdly, and following on from the second, it is not known how changes made to questions affect data quality. Web surveys have begun to be used to carry out cognitive testing online, using open ended probes, in order to solve some of these issues (Behr et al), but in no case to our knowledge has a probability-based design been used. In this study, we run a randomised experiment on the NatCen online probability-based panel survey. We use closed-ended probes to evaluate revisions made to survey items after they have undergone standard cognitive pretesting. Analysis is at an early stage and we find that the results are mixed, but indicate modest success for standard cognitive testing methods, at least in the cases we examine.


David Broockman, Assistant Professor of Political Economy and Spence Faculty Scholar fro 2016-7, Stanford Graduate Business School

November 29, 2016

Taste-Based Voter Discrimination Against Nonwhite Politicians: Evidence from a Natural Experiment (co-authored with Evan Soltas)

ABSTRACT: Why are nonwhite candidates less likely to win US elections? It is widely speculated that voters engage in taste-based discrimination against nonwhite candidates, but credible evidence that voters discriminate against nonwhite candidates is limited, as is evidence that any such discrimination is tasted-based and not statistical. We exploit a unique natural experiment where voters have no incentive to engage in statistical discrimination and an incentive against engaging in tasted-based discrimination. We find that approximately 10% of voters avoid voting for nonwhite candidates in this setting, an effect large enough to change political outcomes.


Melissa R. Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College

December 6, 2016

Listen, We need to Talk: How to Change Attitudes about LGBT Rights

ABSTRACT: American public opinion tends to be sticky. Although the news cycle might temporarily affect the public zeitgeist about abortion, the death penalty, or gun control, public support or opposition on these issues has remained remarkably constant over decades. But there are notable exceptions, particularly with regard to polarizing issues that highlight identity politics. Over the past three decades, public support for same-sex marriage has risen from scarcely more than a tenth to a majority of the population. Why have people’s minds changed so dramatically on this issue, and why so quickly?

Listen, We Need to Talk tests a theory that when prominent people representing particular interest groups voice support for a culturally contentious issue, they sway the opinions of others who identify with the same group, even if the interest group and the issue at hand have no obvious connection. In fact this book shows that the more the message counters prevailing beliefs or attitudes of a particular identity group, the more persuasive it is. While previous studies of political attitude change have looked at the effects of message priming (who delivers a message) on issues directly related to particular identity groups, this study is unique in that it looks at how identity priming affects attitudes and behaviors toward an issue that is not central or directly related to the targeted group. The authors prove their theory through a series of random experiments testing the positive effects of identity-based messaging regarding same-sex marriage among fans of professional sports, religious groups, and ethnoracial (Black and Latino) groups.



Lauren Howe, PhD Candidate, Dept of Psychology

January 9, 2017

When ‘Practicing What You Preach’ Backfires, And Falling Short Has Surprising Benefits

ABSTRACT: Should experts always practice what they preach? When an expert displays exemplary behavior, individuals who fear negative devaluation sometimes anticipate that this expert will look down on them. As a result, displays of excellence can paradoxically turn off the very people they are trying to inspire. Seven studies document this in the medical domain, showing that individuals who are overweight or obese and concerned about their weight avoid physicians who advertise their fitness, for fear that these doctors will judge them negatively. Several studies test ways to prevent individuals who are overweight and obese from fearing devaluation from fit physicians, and explore how having some unhealthy habits exposed as a physician can reduce fear of devaluation. This work demonstrates that it is critical to take into account ego-defensive processes when attempting to lead by example.


Bo MacInnis, Lecturer, Department of Communication, Stanford University

January 23, 2017

Public Beliefs about Random Sampling, Replication, and Other Scientific Practices

ABSTRACT: : Scientific advancement is largely an incremental process in which new discoveries are built on the shoulders of giants, the validity of the former hinging in part on the validity of the latter. In a democratic society in which scientific discoveries are a public good funded by the public, public appreciation for and trust in how scientists conduct scientific work is a critical element of scientific advancement.

Social scientists have made great strides in improving how research is done to achieve greater validity. A major purpose of social science research is to transport the behavioral outcomes relations, findings obtained from specific studies to the population as a whole. Various scientific practices, such as using representative samples or replicating the findings by own or other scientists, permit or aid the transportability. Past research suggested that people do not appreciate the merits of these scientific practices in increasing generalizability. For example, people seemed oblivious to the potential problems of sample selection bias and sample size used in the studies, and this phenomenon may be driven by representative heuristic people employ in judgment and decision-making.

The present study aims to devise novel approaches for social scientists to communicate to the public random sampling, replication and other scientifically sound practices, and ascertain how the public may respond to these practices. Of particular interest is to explore how much people believe the finding of a single social science research study.

This workshop is to explore some of the following factors that may determine how much people believe a finding:
1) Random vs. not random sampling (random sampling has to be described effectively)
2) Size of sample
3) Heterogeneity of sample (college students vs. general public)
4) Whether other scientists want to replicate the study
5) Whether other scientists have begun to try to replicate the study
6) Whether replication attempts by the same scientist produced the same results
7) Whether replication attempts by other scientists produced the same results
8) Whether the finding is surprising/counter-intuitive
9) Whether the finding threatens the respondent
10) Whether there is a compelling story of what the mechanism of the effect might be
11) Whether there is evidence of what the mechanism of the effect is


Sebastian Lundmark, Post-doctoral researcher, Department of Communication, Stanford University

January 30, 2017

Deciphering the Decline Effect

ABSTRACT: The reproducibility of scientific findings has become an issue of growing concern in science. Disciplines including medicine, psychology, genetics, and biology researchers have been repeatedly challenged by findings that are not as robust as they initially appeared. Shrinking effects and outright failures of replication raise questions not only about the specific findings they challenge, but more generally about the confidence that we can have in published results that have yet to be verified independently.

Furthermore, meta-analyses, which aggregate the findings of numerous related studies into a single analysis, indicate that many effects in biology, medicine, and psychology have declined with repeated replication. Surveys of the scientific practices of scientists suggest that a sizable proportion of researchers engage in practices that elevate the risk of false positive results. Statistical techniques have identified patterns of results in scientific studies that suggest they may be “too good to be true.” Replication projects, some still currently underway, are investigating the degree to which existing paradigms can be independently replicated. This project aims to investigate some of the potential causes of the decline effect.

The proposed investigation in Deciphering the Decline Effect will not only robustly assess the merits of the individual hypotheses explored in each study, but also more broadly confront the nature of the scientific process itself. In particular, the collective outcome of the proposed studies will address a host of conventional accounts that have been hypothesized to affect the replicability of scientific findings, including: false positive effects, selective reporting, publication bias, and changes in procedure or sampling. Furthermore, if decline effects emerge despite researchers best efforts to control them, this might suggest the possibility of an unconventional mechanism that may have been masked by the lack of transparency of the scientific process.


Annika Fredén, Visiting Scholar, Department of Political Science, UC Riverside

February 6, 2017

Threat Amplifies Voting for the Status Quo as Revealed by Statistical Semantic Analysis of a Brexit Experiment

ABSTRACT: Latent semantic analysis of text data may provide additional information on voting behavior under threat. We analyzed text related to the British EU referendum campaign to study the relationship between threat, belongingness needs, and choosing the status quo. Experimental data was collected from a British Internet Campaign Panel (Prolific) conducted a couple of weeks before the EU referendum in June 2016. The respondents were treated with one of two threat scenarios by thinking about their own death or a dentist visit, and reported their vote intention in the EU referendum. Clustering of the latent semantic representation of respondents’ word descriptions of the potentially threatening event revealed a significant relationship between threat, anxiety and voting for the status quo. Threat amplified the relationship between rejection sensitive characteristics and voting behavior. The paper demonstrates that latent semantic word cluster analysis is a useful tool, which complements traditional statistic on numerical data. The findings add knowledge to the impact of threat and individual level characteristics on voting in a referendum, and the relationship between risk aversions and voting for or against the status quo.


Dave Vanette, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

February 13, 2017

Examining the Effects of Commitment on Behavior Performance

ABSTRACT: In many communication contexts, behavior modification is a desired outcome. At the individual-level, behavior change is often the goal of persuasive messages, such as when a doctor attempts to get a patient to stop smoking. Similarly, attempts at behavior modification are common in the domain of mass communication. Advertisements, such as those used by politicians to mobilize their supporters or demobilize their opponents’ supporters or those used by firms attempting to get consumers to purchase a product or service, are frequently aimed at altering recipient behavior. Prior research suggests that even minimal exposure or communication may result in attitude change (Zajonc 1968) and behavior change (Sherman 1980). The link between answering questions about a target behavior and subsequent performance of that behavior by survey respondents has been one important and reliable effect discovered in the psychology literature. While most work on this question-behavior link has focused on behaviors that will take place farther into the future such as voting, purchasing, or engaging in physical activity, earlier work in survey methodology by Charles Cannell and his colleagues indicated that asking respondents to commit to providing accurate responses at the beginning of an interview can indeed produce higher quality data in that survey. However, the method developed by Cannell and his colleagues has not been widely adopted nor has it been systematically tested in self-administered survey modes such as mail or web-based surveys. In these contexts, there is reason to believe that the results found by Cannell may not replicate. For example, commitments made verbally to an interviewer may prove to be much more effective than those made in a web or mail survey. Additional research is needed to address these gaps in the extant literature. Using a series of experiments, this project will evaluate the effects of respondent commitments to provide high-quality data on a variety of indicators of survey data quality and on the strength of experimental treatment effects for substantive research questions. This project will leverage data from surveys on a variety of commercial and political topics that utilize student samples or samples from opt-in web panels. While these data sources cannot be taken to be representative of the general population, they do provide a diverse set of individuals on which to assess the experimental treatment effects.


Joseph Wu, Undergraduate Researcher, Political Psychology Research Group

February 27, 2017

Raking and Weighting ANES Time Series Data

ABSTRACT: The ANES (American National Election Studies) Time Series surveys have been conducted every 2 years from 1948 to 2008, using a combination of fresh cross sections and panels, including a pre-election and a post-election component each survey. Many of these survey datasets are unweighted. In this project, we are building one of the most comprehensive and high-quality sets of weights for every ANES Times Series dataset dating from 1948 to 2008. For each ANES year, we build base weights from the ANES dataset to account for probability of selection, defaulting to the NEHM (number of eligible household members), adding adjustments for (if needed) panel attrition and sampling bias. Then, demographic and election variables are processed and raked with our base weights, through a post-stratification weighting methodology described in “Computing Weights for American National Election Study Survey Data” by Debell and Krosnick (2009), implemented through the ‘anesrake’ R package, maintained by Josh Pasek. The final raked weights, for pre-election and post-election, are tested against CPS (Current Population Survey) benchmarks as well as election results. The R code, final weights, and result comparison tables are maintained for each ANES year. Raked variables achieve much higher accuracy to the benchmarks while unraked variables have also shown improved accuracy over the unraked data.


Mick Smyer, former Provost and current Professor of Psychology at Bucknell University, and a Civic Innovation Fellow at Stanford’s d.School

March 6, 2017

Graying Green: Climate Action for an Aging World

ABSTRACT: Dr. Mick Smyer will report on the process of the development and implementation of Graying Green: Climate Action for an Aging World. In the presentation, Dr. Smyer will include commentary on the role of social science survey data in the design process, and the value of combining social science methods with design methods.


Neil Malhotra, Professor of Political Economy in the Stanford Graduate School of Business

March 13, 2017

Political Legacies: Understanding their Significance in Contemporary Politics

ABSTRACT: Politicians are widely perceived to lose significance upon leaving office. Yet media accounts often highlight politicians’ legacies as a source of influence that endures even after they retire. The article assesses these contrasting views by investigating the substance, endurance, and significance of legacies. We develop a theoretical account of legacies and their relevance to contemporary politics, distinguishing between “hard legacies”- concrete and enduring policy achievements – and “soft” legacies”- memories enshrined in the public’s consciousness. We ground our theoretical account empirically by testing a series of observable implications using data from online discussion forums, thousands of former politicians’ Wikipedia pages, original surveys of both citizens and political elites, and a randomized experiment. We find that establishing a lasting legacy is a key motivation of public officials. More generally, our findings provide substantial evidence that legacies influence contemporary policy debates long after a leader steps down.






David Broockman

September 21, 2015

Reducing transphobia: Experimental evidence on a conversation campaign

ABSTRACT: Despite dramatic reductions in prejudice towards lesbian, gay, andbisexual individuals, prejudice towards transgender individuals (the T in LGBT) remains widespread. Reducing this prejudice is a public health priority, as transgender people experience a variety of poor life outcomes as a result of it: transgender people are more likely to commit suicide, have difficulty finding a job, and more. Here we report results from a randomized controlled trial of an intervention designed to reduce transphobia that draws on principles from cognitive behavioral therapy. The intervention consisted of a door-to-door conversation campaign with several goals: it sought 1) to draw out the content of the stereotypes and negative reactions that automatically come to individuals’ mind, 2) allow individuals to become aware of the dissonance between these negative judgments and their personally important experiences and values, and 3) anchor judgments of transgender people more firmly in the experiences and values that militate towards acceptance. The results are [redacted here, but extremely interesting].


Jason Disano and Alana Kolendreski

October 5, 2015

Enhancing Institutional Capacity through Research Infrastructure and Supports: Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan

ABSTRACT: The University of Saskatchewan’s Social Sciences Research Laboratories(SSRL) unique cluster of seven research laboratories has enabled and facilitated a multitude of large-scale, high-impact research studies. Through its complementary research infrastructure and research supports, the SSRL has driven university-wide improvements in experiential learning and student engagement; community-engaged scholarship; and multidisciplinary research. Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan (2012), a telephone survey of 1,750 Saskatchewan residents, exemplifies these traits through its involvement of 32 researchers across the social sciences, purposeful engagement of the media from the outset of the study, and numerous opportunities for student engagement and growth. Three years later, Taking the Pulse of Saskatchewan continues to have an impact; and serves as a model for collaborative, multidisciplinary research at the University of Saskatchewan and beyond.


Mario Callegaro

October 12, 2015

Mario Callegaro Book talk: Callegaro, Lozar Manfreda & Vehovar. “Web Survey Methodology” London:Sage, June 2015

ABSTRACT: Mario Callegaro will present his latest book: “Web Survey Methodology”
This handbook guides the reader through the past fifteen years of research in web surveymethodology. It both provides practical guidance on the latest techniques for collecting valid and reliable data and offers a comprehensive overview of research issues. Core topics from preparation to questionnaire design, recruitment testing to analysis and survey software are all covered in a systematic and insightful way. The reader is exposed to key concepts and key findings in the literature, covering measurement, non-response,adjustments, paradata, and cost issues. The book also discusses new research topics in survey research today, such as internet panels, mobile surveys and the integration with passive measurements, e-social sciences, mixed modes and business intelligence. The book is intended for students, practitioners, and researchers in fields such as survey and market research, psychological research, official statistics and customer satisfaction research. A companion website is available at


Adina Abeles and Lauren Howe

October 19, 2015

Public misperception of American public opinion on global warming: its causes, impacts,and thoughts on solutions

ABSTRACT: The disconnect between public opinion on global warming and Congressional action in the United States has long been a puzzle. According to research over the past two decades, it is evident that Americans think global warming has been happening, think humans are the cause, think it is detrimental to the country and think government should do something about it. Americans have been willing to pay to address global warming and have shown support for several policies, such as the ones President Obama put forth in his Clean Power Plan (e.g., reduce emissions from powerplants). Yet rhetoric on global warming continues to frame global warming as a partisan issue despite the fact that a majority of Democrats and Republicans accept the scientific theory. The purpose of this research is to explore misperception of the American public’s opinion on global warming as an explanation for this disconnect.

In June 2012, a representative sample of American adults were asked what they thought other Americans thought about global warming: do other Americans think it has been getting warmer over the last 100 years? What about Republicans? What about Democrats? Do other Americans think Congress should act? In actuality, 73% of all Americans stated that they think global warming has been happening, 86% of Democrats and 57% or Republicans. However, only 56% of Americans thought that a majority (51%and greater) of Americans believe in global warming. That percentage becomes 44%when asked about Republicans, and 64% when asked about Democrats. Thus, we find that Americans broadly underestimate the degree to which Americans believe in global warming. In initial analyses, we consider factors impacting the extent of these misperceptions, for instance investigating the role that one’s own belief in global warming, attitude certainty, attitude importance, and party affiliation play in shaping these misperceptions. In addition, we consider the numerous implications of this misperception. Misperception of public opinion can lead to support for policies aimed at the perceived public opinion, rather than actual public opinion, impacting the way a democracy functions (Todorov & Mandisodza, 2004). In this way, policies are perceived as legitimate since they seem to reflect the will of the people. Further, it can lead to silence among the public for people that are not willing to discuss climate change for fear of dissenting from group norms (Noelle-Neumann, 1974), thus reinforcing the misperception.


Kody Manke

October 26, 2015

Stereotype Threat Perseverance

ABSTRACT: Social psychology has typically viewed and studied stereotype threat as something that occurs in single instances — something that may happen repeatedly in the same context or situation, but as a series of individual experiences. In this line of research, I’ve looked at how instances of stereotype threat may have more lasting and chronic effects, affecting the individual’s thoughts or beliefs in a way that persists rather than recurs. In a series of lab studies, longer-term follow-ups, and online studies(and hopefully upcoming correlational data from transcript data), I’ll discuss ways that single instantiations of stereotype threat appear to have effects that persist over time.


Judson Boomhower

November 2, 2015

Peer Effects in Energy Efficiency Programs

ABSTRACT: Energy policy is increasingly focused on programs meant to increase investment in energy efficiency. In evaluating these policies, economists have typically assumed that the actions of one household do not influence the choices of others. This misses a potentially important set of peer effects. If takeup of energy-efficiency programs is constrained by information problems, social networks may be particularly important in determining participation. In addition, correctly assessing the cost effectiveness of these programs requires credible estimates of spillover benefits. Taking advantage of rich household-level data on one million appliance replacements in a large middle- income country, I use a regression discontinuity design to compare homes whose neighbors were barely eligible for an appliance replacement subsidy to homes whose neighbors were barely ineligible. I find evidence of substantial peer effects. The effect is concentrated within 1-2 months from the time of participation. The timing and size of the effect suggest that information problems may affect energy-efficiency program participation.


Michael Dennis

November 16, 2015

Technical Information on NORC’s AmeriSpeak Panel: Sampling, Recruitment Methodology, and Data Quality

ABSTRACT: AmeriSpeak is a new household, multi-client panel to support NORC’s mission to serve the public interest and improve lives through objective social science research that supports informed decision making. The goal of the presentation is to provide attendees a technical understanding of the AmeriSpeak panel methodology.NORC’s AmeriSpeak Panel is now available to support public opinion studies funded by Federal agencies, foundations, policy-driven non-profit organizations, and the private sector. Mike Dennis, the Executive Director of AmeriSpeak, will present methodological information on the new AmeriSpeak Panel with respect to:
Sample Frame– The AmeriSpeak sample frame is based on NORC’s National Frame,an area probability sample frame that includes additional coverage of hard-to-survey population segments such as rural and low-income households that are underrepresented in surveys relying on address-based sampling.
AmeriSpeak Recruitment Methodology– The recruitment methodology is conducted in two stages, with the initial stage using email, US mail, and telephone outbound campaigns to recruit the randomly selected households. In the second stage, we subsample non-responders for Non-Response Follow-up (NRFU) using NORC field interviewers (face-to-face recruitment), enhanced non-contingent and contingent incentives, and Federal Express mailings.
Response Rate – The response rate calculation is documented, taking into account the subsampling of non-responders for the Non-Response Follow-up (face-to-face recruitment)
NORC Card Sample Quality Report – NORC Card provides a quantitative measurement of sample quality using commercial databases and U.S. government statistics, documents other measures of sample representativeness and the components of the weighted response rate calculation.
Data Collection Methodology–Processes and procedures for conducting client studies on AmeriSpeak, including within-panel sampling, the use of previously collected profile data for sample targeting, and use of online and telephone modes of data collection to enhance sample representativeness.
Impact of Face-to-Face Recruitment and Mixed-Mode Data Collection on Sample Representativeness – We isolate the sample quality impact of AmeriSpeak’s use of field interviewers for the final stage of panel recruitment, showing the sample representativeness gains in recruiting young adults, low income households, and other hard-to-reach demographic groups. In addition, we present information on improvements in sample representativeness that result from mixed-mode interviewing as AmeriSpeak supports both online and phone modes of data collection for client studies.



Curtiss Cobb

January 4, 2016

Measuring Internet Penetration at Scale: Problems and Potential Solutions When Measuring Internet Connectivity in Developing Countries

ABSTRACT: A key goal of (a Facebook initiative) is to connect the worldby developing market and technological solutions to bring people online who otherwisewould not be able or interested in using the Internet. In order to be effective and measure effectiveness, it is imperative for Facebook to estimate and track the number of active Internet users in countries around the world, as well as understand who the unconnected population is and what connectivity barriers they face. This talk will discuss three survey research efforts by Facebook to understand the unconnected population and the issues wef ace with each:
1. Extensive in-person surveys in developing countries around the globe to get precise measures of attitudes and behaviors related to Internet use. These high-cost surveys provide rich sources of information about each country and allows for a comparative examination of barriers across countries.
2. Comparison of IVR and in-person interviewing in Colombia to see if we can adequately supplement our in-person survey when new issues and questions arise.
3. A pilot study to estimate the number of Internet users from a sample of Facebook-only users using network reporting methods. This is based on the idea that survey respondents have useful information about other people whom they are connected to in their personal networks. The goal of this study is to find a cheaper, faster way to measure changingtrends in Internet penetration between waves of the more costly in-person interviews.In addition, I will leave some time in the end to field questions about what it is like towork in industry and about specific opportunities at Facebook.


Jeff Hancock

January 11, 2016

The Facebook Study: A Personal Account of Data Science, Ethics and Change

ABSTRACT: Big social data, such as that produced by Facebook and Twitter, have the potential to transform the social sciences and lead to advances in understanding human behavior. At the same time, novel large-scale methods and forms of collaborationbetween academia and industry raise new and important ethical and methodologicalquestions.In this talk I will discuss the Facebook Emotion study and step through several aspects ofthe study that involve important ethical decision points, and provide some insights onwhy the study generated such massive attention and criticism. I will also touch on the experience of an Internet-scale controversy, from the personal costs to the gift of criticism, and the potential opportunities to move the discussion forward.


Mario Callegaro

January 25, 2016

The Inquiry into the failure of the 2015 U.K. Pre-election Polls: Findings and preliminary Conclusions

ABSTRACT: The pre-election polls significantly under-estimated the size of the Conservative lead over Labour at the 2015 U.K. General Election, with nearly all the final polls calling the ‘horse race’ as a dead heat. The failure to predict the Conservative lead in the vote share has led many commentators to question the value and robustness of polling methodology, with some prominent figures even calling for polls to be banned in the final weeks preceding an election. In response to these events, the British Polling Council (BCP) and the Market Research Society instigated an independent inquiry into the causes of the discrepancy between the final polls and the election result, chaired by Professor Patrick Sturgis of the University of Southampton. In this talk, Mario Callegaro, member of the BPC task force, will present their findings and preliminary conclusions about the factors which led to the polling miss.A full written report is expected to be available end of March.


Tobias Konitzer

February 1, 2016

The Home as a Fortress: Family Socialization in the Era of Polarized Politics

ABSTRACT:It has been almost twenty years since the last national study on the political homogeneity of US marital pairs. In this paper, we map the political similarity of spouses and their offspring in the era of mass polarization using a YouGov data set with a unique sampling design, and compare our results to baseline couples-offspring data from 1965. We find that spousal and inter-generational political agreement has increased dramatically, especially on policy preferences, but also with regard to partisan identification and ideology. Next, we leverage access to a complete voter file of 40,000,000 cases to validate our estimate of spousal homogeneity in party identification. We further exploit the voter file to show that political homogeneity among married couples is more a result of mate selection than a byproduct of exposure to a politically homogeneous context. Finally, we derive an observational estimate of the relative effects of mate selection and persuasion over the course of marriage on spousal political homogeneity. This analysis suggests that persuasion contributes only modestly to spousal agreement, with most of the persuasion effects occurring among female spouses. In closing, we consider the implications of mass polarization for processes of family socialization.


Sebastian Lundmark

February 8, 2016

Generalized Trust in Surveys: From Scales to Dragons

ABSTRACT: Generalized trust differs from other forms of specific trust in people,since it does not rely on evaluations of individuals you already have met (e.g., your family, friends, and co-workers). Instead, generalized trust refers to a general perception of unknown people (Rosenberg 1956; Uslaner 2002). This trust is, in turn,thought to help overcome collective action problems (i.e., fostering cooperation towards a mutual benefit despite the prospect of some individuals’ free riding) and has thus been proposed to be the social lubricant that makes our democracy work (Putnam 1993; 2000; Rothstein and Uslaner 2005).
In addition, generalized trust has been argued to affect or be affected by almost everything, from individual decisions of joining local charity organizations(Sønderskov 2011), to the degree of corruption in national and local governments (Rothstein and Stolle 2008; Rothstein 2011). The common ground for most of these studies is that they rely on a survey measurement of generalized trust. In fact, it is hard to find a study investigating this trust without using a survey question to measure it.
Despite this, only a few studies discuss the sources of measurement error stemming from the survey response process in the generalized trust question (some exceptions are Glaeser et al. 2000; Reeskens and Hooghe 2008; Dinesen 2011; Uslaner 2012a).This lack of research is surprising given the likelihood that survey research, at least for a foreseeable future, will not decline and that research continues to measure generalized trust mainly using survey questions.
Hence, the aim and focus of this dissertation is to evaluate sources of measurement error in the generalized trust survey question at the individual level, using survey methodology theory. Specifically, the dissertation tackles three research questions relating to survey measurement error: (1) Can the generalized trust survey question be improved by applying insights from survey methodology theories? (2) Does asking the same survey question over time, using a survey panel design, increase measurement error? (3) Building upon previous findings that ethnic diversity correlates with lower levels of generalized trust, the thesis asks whether effects of ethnic diversity on generalized trust are biased by measurement error in respondents’ answers to factual questions about the immigrant population. Lastly, using the validated generalized trust measure from the above queries, the final question asks more substantively (4) whether experiences at the individual level can affect generalized trust.


Melinda Jackson

February 22, 2016

Will the Real Americans Please Stand Up? Priming Immigrant Identity among First and Second-Generation Americans

ABSTRACT: As the number of first generation immigrants and their second-generation children rises in America to the highest levels since the early twentieth century, questions about the potential political influence of these groups are of increasing interest. This study examines the effects of priming generational status on first and second-generation Americans, on the strength of ethnic and American identities, and immigration policy attitudes. We find that while priming does not appear to have a direct effect on strength of ethnic or American national identity for first and second-generation Americans, it does shift expressed attitudes toward immigration policy in a conservative, less pro-immigrant direction, for both of these groups. The implications of these initial findings and suggestions for further study are discussed.


Bo MacInnis

March 7, 2016

How Do Americans Want Their Elected Representatives to Decide How to Vote?Public Visions of Democratic Decision-Making(with Sarah Anderson and Jon Krosnick)

ABSTRACT: The American public’s approval of the U.S. Congress in at an all-time low. This dissatisfaction might be a function of perceived gridlock in Congress(which might be called “volume disapproval”) and might be a function of unhappiness with the nature of the laws that have been passed (“outcome disapproval”). This paper explores a third possible explanation: public disapproval of the processes by which legislators decide how to vote on proposed legislation (“process disapproval”).A survey of a nationally representative sample of American adults revealed that Americans want representatives to make voting decisions to pay the most attention to the preferences of the general public and of the “issue public” (i.e., the people who feel strongly about the issue). In contrast, Americans perceive their representatives to pay the most attention to the preferences of their supporters, of their campaign donors,and of economic elites. Remarkably, Democratic and Republican citizens share the same view of how this aspect of government should and does function. The divergence between what the public wants and what people think the Congress does explains more of the public’s disapproval of Congress than does dissatisfaction with volume or outcomes. And the survey data suggest that disapproval of Congressional decision-making process may also shape attitudes toward the government as a whole and toward democracy as a system of government more broadly. Thus, the public’s perception of the legitimacy of a government may hinge importantly on how politicians explain their decisions.



Cecilia Mo

March 28, 2016

When do the Advantaged See the Disadvantages of Others? A Quasi-Experiment on the Effects of Prolonged Contact

ABSTRACT: As wealth and power continues to become even more unequally distributed, many socioeconomically privileged Americans have been found to justify their economic and social position by defending the fairness of the economic and political system and emphasizing the centrality of hard work in achieving their privileged position. However, disadvantaged Americans often become disillusioned and are convinced that America is an unfair society. This paper investigates whether deep and sustained contact between advantaged and disadvantaged groups of individuals alters perceptions of fairness. If advantaged Americans have prolonged interactions with disadvantaged populations, where issues of inequality are not just salient but actively considered, do the former see the world from the vantage point ofthe latter? This is crucial to know because advantaged Americans have disproportionate influence on public policy, and perceptions of fairness strongly influence policy positions on a variety of policy domains like social welfare,affirmative action, and criminal justice reform. We consider the case of Teach ForAmerica (TFA), a prominent national service program, which places recent college graduates in low-income schools to be teachers for an extended period—at least two years—and a charge to help solve the education achievement gap between high-income and low-income Americans, where a large share of the student populations they serve are racial minorities. Equally important, TFA began implementing a selection process in 2007 with a cut-off score for admission, which makes causal inference using a quasi-experimental regression discontinuity design possible. Using an original national survey of TFA applicants and TFA’s selection data for the 2007-2015 application cycles, we find strong evidence that prolonged contact with disadvantaged communities and issues of inequality cause advantaged Americans to adopt beliefs that are closer to disadvantaged Americans, and conclude that the economic, social, and political status quo is unfair. Moreover, this type of intergroup contact elicits less prejudice towards disadvantaged populations and perceptions that systemic injustices are more to blame than the economically and socially vulnerable groups for their disadvantaged positions within the American social fabric.


Anna Boch

April 4, 2016

ABSTRACT: Between 2006 and 2014, public support for same-sex marriage (SSM)surged from 35% to 52%, an increase of 17 percentage points in only 8 years. This change in public opinion cannot be explained solely by cohort replacement. So then,who were the people who changed their minds from opposing SSM to supporting it,and why did they change their minds? Evidence from the General Social Survey’s panel data from 2006 to 2014 suggests that changing support for same-sex marriage
reflected increased polarization, in other words, the people who changed their minds came from the same demographic groups that supported SSM to begin with: women,younger people, and those NOT from the South were more likely to change their minds to support SSM (however, it’s worth noting that Blacks were just as likely as whites to change their minds). Religious affiliation (Protestant, Catholic, or None) moderated the effect of age on predicting a change from opposing same-sex marriage to supporting it. Additionally, after controlling for the effects of constant individual traits like race and gender, decreasing religious service attendance and more years of education (controlling for concurrent increased age) over the observed time period predicted an increase in support for SSM.


Sam Savage

April 11, 2016

The Arithmetic of Uncertainty: A Cure for the Flaw of Averages

ABSTRACT: The Flaw of Averages is set of systematic errors that occur when uncertainties are replaced by single “average” numbers. A classic example involves the statistician who drowns in the river that is on average three feet deep, but it also explains why so many things are behind schedule, below projection, and beyond budget. has been cited by MIT’s SLOAN Management Review as“a non-profit organization that aims at improving communication of uncertainty,” andapplies “simulation-based communication to improve actual managerial decisions andpublic policies.” The organization’s open SIPmath™ standard helps cure the Flaw of Averages by allowing users of spreadsheets and other common software to perform arithmetic with uncertainties using the same keystrokes they would for numbers.


Yongwei Yang and Mario Callegaro (with Ana Villar, Tzu Yun Chin, and Jon A. Krosnick)

April 18, 2016

Assessing the accuracy of 51 non-probability online panels and river samples:A study of the Advertising Research Foundation 2013 online panel comparison experiment

ABSTRACT: More and more survey research is conducted using online panels and river samples. With a large number of vendors available, clients need to decide which panel or river sample can produce accurate and reliable results. Previous studies comparing online panels have shown that data accuracy varies greatly across providers. This paper evaluates the effect of samplings strategy such as the specific variables used in quota sampling or using river samples help explain differences inaccuracy. Data come from a large study run by the Advertiser Research Foundation(ARF) in 2013. We compare findings from 45 US online panels of nonprobability samples, 6 river samples and one RDD telephone sample to population estimates obtained from large-scale surveys of probability samples with high response rates like the ACS, NHIS and NHANES. The nonprobability samples were supplied by 17 major US providers that redirected respondents to a third party website where the survey was administered; samples were assigned to three quota methods: method A):age and gender nested within regions; method B): as A plus race/ethnicity; and method C): as B plus education. The questionnaire included questions identical to those from the benchmark surveys on a large range of topics like wellbeing, consumer purchase behavior, and brand attitudes. Mean survey length was 26 minutes and the average sample size is of 1,118 respondents. Comparisons are made using weighted data. Samples will be compared using the absolute average error method, where the percentage of respondents who chose the modal category in the benchmark survey is compared to this percentage in each sample (in absolute value). Mode effects and consistency within vendor will be discussed as well.


Taylor Orth(with Jon Krosnick, David Grusky, and Bo MacInnis)

April 25, 2016

An Investigation of Climate Change Belief and Concern among U.S. Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites

ABSTRACT: One of the largest demographic shifts in recent American history is the explosion of the American Hispanic population. Today, Latinos make up roughly 17percent of the electorate, and are expected to double to a striking 31 percent of theU.S. population by 2060. As Latinos gain a meaningful voice in government, they will be in a position to develop and influence public policies. As a result, many people are interested in the political behavior of Hispanics because it will have increasingly significant impacts. In this paper, we use data from multiple nationally representative surveys (n=4,808) to examine whether or not Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites significantly differ on six views regarding climate change (these include: belief,perceptions of vulnerability, personal importance, and global and national seriousness). Having demonstrated a statistically significant difference in opinion between Hispanics and whites, we then test whether these relationships remain intact after incorporating a number of theoretically motivated social and demographic controls into our models. Next, we examine the geographic distribution of Hispanics
in our sample and compare that to the overall population. We also test whether Hispanics in the U.S. have, in recent years, experienced more frequent local climate extremes than whites. Finally, we test the extent to which observed opinion disparity between Hispanics and whites can be explained by variation in geography and exposure to extreme weather.


Henning Silber (with Jan Karem Höhne, and Stephan Schlosser)

May 2, 2016

Under-Reporting Support for Europe: Question Order Experiments in the German-European Context

ABSTRACT: The empirical findings of large-scale cross-national surveys are of great importance and relevance to politicians as well as policy makers around the world. In this paper, we investigate the context stability of measurements of questions on political issues in cross-national surveys. For this purpose, we conducted three replication studies (N1 = 213; N2 = 677; N3 = 1,489) based on nine split-ballot experiments with graduate and undergraduate students in order to test for question order effects. The questions included the topics democracy, economy, identity, and politics and were replications of questions asked in the Eurobarometer 2013. The respondents were randomly assigned to one of the two experimental groups. The first experimental group first received the questions regarding their home country and then the questions regarding the European Union/Europe (original order). The second experimental group first received the questions regarding the European Union/Europe and then the questions regarding their home country (reversed order). The results show significant question order effects between the two experimental groups in all three replication studies, irrespective of the question content. In eight out of nine experiments, the European Union/Europe was evaluated significantly worse when respondents were first asked to evaluate their home country (Germany). We compare our results to those of past studies on context effects and discuss the implications for future cross-national survey research (e.g., Schwarz and Bless 1992; Schwarz, Strack,and Mai 1991; Tourangeau, Rips, and Rasinski 2000). For example, our empirical findings suggest that the likelihood of the occurrence of such context effects can easily be reduced by implementing informed questionnaire design strategies.


LinChiat Chang(with Mary Beth Ofstefal)

May 2, 2016

Unit Nonresponse in the 2014 Health & Retirement Study Experimental Modules

ABSTRACT:The Health and Retirement Study (HRS) is a longitudinal panel survey representing Americans over age 50. After completing the 2014 HRS core interview,around 18,000 respondents were randomly assigned to 1 of 11 modules of supplemental questions, yielding approximately 1,600 respondents per module.However, not all HRS respondents who were assigned to a module completed it.Nonresponse increases the risk of bias in survey estimates. The risk of systematic bias is cause for concern when core substantive measures are associated with nonresponse propensity. Conversely, nonresponse may be ignorable if it is random and not associated with core substantive measures. This analysis will address four main questions: 1. How representative are module subsamples? Module subsamples differ slightly from population demographic parameters, in part by design because modules are administered only to non-proxy respondents who can answer for themselves. In addition, respondents who were willing to complete the module questions consistently scored higher on physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning than those who refused to complete the modules. 2. Did unit nonresponse vary by module topic?Nonresponse rate did not vary significantly across the 11 modules; and the completed samples exhibited similar demographic profiles, contactability and cooperativeness. 3.Is nonresponse propensity systematically associated with substantive variables? Using paradata on respondents’ cooperativeness and contactability to simulate nonresponse propensity, we assess the extent to which nonresponse propensity is associated with substantive module variables. We demonstrate how the impact of nonresponse may be ignorable on certain module variables; whereas other module variables are more susceptible to nonresponse bias. Bonferroni correction is applied. 4. Does nonresponse propensity change relationships between substantive variables?Multivariate models across 3 module topics of arts participation, healthcare technology, and expectations of longevity will be fitted to determine whether nonresponse propensity moderates the strength and direction of established relationships between substantive variables.


LinChiat Chang(with Yongwei Yang)

May 2, 2016

Psychometric Scale Development for Arts Participation among Older Adults

ABSTRACT: The 2014 Health and Retirement Study (HRS) included a supplementary arts module that has created an opportunity to study a broad array of
relationships between arts participation and well-being of older adults. To facilitate such investigations, a valid and reliable scale is needed to assess values and perceptions relating to arts participation. To this end, this paper will provide a psychometric assessment of 8 potential items in the Arts and Culture module that were measured on the 5-point Likert (agree/disagree) response scale, to capture values and perceptions about the arts and participation in the arts. The sample of 1,600respondents will be split into training vs. validation data sets. The training set will be subjected to pairwise correlations and exploratory factor analysis to map items onto coherent latent constructs of interest; competing factor solutions will then be fitted on the validation data set via confirmatory factor analysis to evaluate and identify the final recommended factor structure. Interim scales will also be assessed by Cronbach’s coefficient alpha, item-total correlations, and tests of convergent and discriminant validity against other HRS indices where longstanding associations, or lack thereof, have been demonstrated in past research. Strength and limitations of agree-disagree scales will be discussed, with focus on the negatively-worded items to illustrate how the cognitive burden of having to process double negatives may be too much for less educated respondents. The final scale will be produced with proven psychometric properties to facilitate future investigations.


Michaeleen Gallagher, Director of Education and Environmental Programs

May 9, 2016

Sunnylands Center & Gardens The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands

BIOGRAPHY: Michaeleen Gallagher has worked in science and education for twenty years, in the U.S. and overseas. She joined the Annenberg Foundation Trust in 2011,one year before Sunnylands opened. She is director of the education and environmental programs department overseeing the development of public programming and environmental research projects, including the Sunnylands Monarch Project. She has been instrumental in developing the sustainability committee and sustainability messaging for Sunnylands. She has two published teacher guides for the IMAX films, Magic of Flight and Everest and in 2013 she was featured in Art & Nature: The Gardens at Sunnylands.
Prior to Sunnylands, she worked in wildlife rescue and education in North Carolina, at the Outer Banks Wildlife Shelter, and in Virginia with a bird of prey rescue. She was the education specialist at The Living Desert, at the Reuben H. Fleet Science and Technology Center, in San Diego; and spent three years teaching in Japan.
Michaeleen is a member of the International Society for Sustainability Professionals,and currently serves as Board President for the California Association and Museums,co-chair of the Green Museums Initiative Committee, Steering Committee member for The Museums Collaborative Network, and on the Programs Committee. She is currently pursuing her MS in Environmental Policy and Management from the University of Denver.


Aleksandar Matovski

May 9, 2016

Does Fear of Instability Sustain Popular Support for Electoral Autocracies? Comparative Evidence from Post-Communist Russia

ABSTRACT: Electoral authoritarian regimes have become the most numerous and persistent type of non-democracy after the Cold War, continuously ruling in as many as a third of all the countries in the world. A key, but often overlooked feature of these systems is that they tend to emerge in the wake of acute political, economic and security crises. In this paper, I argue that such contexts allow electoral autocracies to emerge and maintain their rule with minimal resort to coercion by exploiting popular anxieties and demands for stability. I show that risk-averse populations confer key electoral advantages to these regimes by: (1) magnifying the impact of valence advantages that they enjoy over their challengers; and (2) highlighting uncertainties about the quality of the opposition. I test these mechanisms empirically by examining the attitudinal currents that accompanied the rise of electoral authoritarianism in Russia, and with cross-national evidence from the US.


David Vannette

May 9, 2016

Assessing the Effects of Using Attention-Check Questions in Web Surveys: Evidence From a 14 Country Survey Experiment

ABSTRACT: The quality of survey responses in web surveys often leaves much to be desired. Respondents commonly engage in negative response behaviors and satisfice in their responses by taking shortcuts in the response process that researchers would like them to follow when answering questions. Many researchers have begun attempting to identify respondents, in real-time, that are not being thoughtful and then excluding them from either the rest of the survey or the final dataset. The use of attention-check questions is one extremely popular method that has been used to identify some of these inattentive or misbehaving respondents. This paper reports the results of three experimental interventions aimed at increasing respondent attention and thoughtfulness. Unlike the production survey context, the respondents that failed the attention-check questions were allowed to remain in the sample to evaluate how they influence the data and how they differ from respondents that pass these attention-checks on observable characteristics. An additional control condition that had no intervention was also used to assess the effects of asking these types of questions at all because simply using this type of attention-check may affect responses. The effects of these different treatment conditions on data quality are assessed using outcome measures that include the quantity of text generated in open-ended responses, survey completion times, socially desirable responding, and item non-response. Additionally, the demographic similarities and differences that result when using these methods are assessed. The data for this study were collected from convenience samples of web survey respondents in 14 independently sampled countries. The results from this study will inform knowledge about the effectiveness of interventions aimed at improving the quality of responses in web surveys and will be of value to all researchers using this method.


Mary Currin-Percival

May 16, 2016

Let’s Go To the Numbers: Understanding Journalists’ Decisions About Reporting the Details of Public Opinion Polls

ABSTRACT: The focus of this research is to better understand why little methodological information is included in news media reports about public opinion polls. This area of research is important because the news media serve as the major source of polling information for most Americans and how these details are reported affects the amount and quality of methodological information people receive. Using an original newspaper and broadcast journalist survey and a series of field interviews with journalists and news organization polling experts, I find that there are specific institutional and audience factors that affect journalists’ decisions about what details to include in their stories with poll results.





Bo MacInnis

September 29, 2014

The Impact of Experts Crossing the Line on Persuasion: The Case of Natural Scientists’ Policy Advocacy on Global Warming

ABSTRACT: A great deal of research suggests that the persuasiveness of messages depends on the credibility of the source. Yet little research has explored the persuasiveness of the messages delivered by highly-credited experts for their recognized expertise on certain domains but the messages concern issues that are outside the legitimate domains of their expertise; under such circumstances it is plausible for the impact of their statements to decline because people might ascribe them less credibility. The study reported in this paper explored this hypothesis with regard to two disjoint domains of expertise – scientific and policymaking expertise, through an experiment embedded in a survey of a national sample of American adults whereby respondents were randomly assigned to watch a video whereby natural scientists talking about science, or the same natural scientists talking about science plus giving policy prescriptions, yielding three main findings. First, natural scientists crossing the line by advocating policies (beyond their domain of expertise) in addition to discussing science (within their domain of expertise) reduced public endorsement of policies and reduced the desire for actions to deal with the threat of global warming, thus constituting reduced persuasion. Second, the reduction in persuasion was moderated by self-efficacy (using educational attainment as a proxy measure) and partisanship, specifically, the reduced persuasiveness of messages by natural scientists crossing the line were more pronounced among people low in self-efficacy (less educated people) than high efficacy people, and manifested among partisans—people who identified themselves Democrats or Republicans—than nonpartisans— people who identified themselves neither Democrats nor Republicans. Third, the negative effect of natural scientists crossing the line on message persuasiveness was mediated in party by trust in scientists’ statements about the environment, and watching one specific scientist crossing the line on one specific issue caused a general decline in trust in scientists about the environment, suggesting people’s tendency of over- generalization. Thus, when an expert communicates to the public as an expert from his/her recognized domain of expertise, his/her crossing the line by making assertions that go beyond the domain of his/her expertise ascribed by the public may reduce the persuasion of his/her own communication and may also cause a negative externality by damaging public trust in all experts’ communication. 


Tom Allen

October 6, 2014

The Benefits of Being at the Top: High Status, Self-Protection, and Status Legitimizing Ideologies

ABSTRACT: In the present research, the interactive influence of ingroup status and self-esteem on attitudes toward outgroups were investigated in three experiments. Four specific hypotheses were tested in the present research: 1) that when their self-esteem was threatened, members of a high status group would increase negative evaluations of domain-relevant low status outgroups; 2) that when their self-esteem was threatened, members of a high status group would increase their positive evaluations of domain-relevant high status outgroups; 3) that when their self-esteem was threatened, members of a high status group would increase their positive evaluations, or processing fluency, of a domain-relevant low status group if that group was associated with positive characteristics that complement the high status group’s identity and 4a) that when their self-esteem was threatened, members of a high status group would increase their positive evaluations of outgroups that are viewed as promoting the status quo, independent of outgroup status, and 4b) that they would increase their negative evaluations of outgroups that are seen as challenging the status quo, independent of outgroup status. 
Results from Experiments 1 and 2 supported the first three hypotheses. In both experiments, heterosexual men took an ostensible test of psychological strength. One group was threatened with false feedback informing them that they scored below most men. A control group was told they would receive feedback later in the study. In Experiment 1, threatened heterosexual men increased their positive evaluations of domain-relevant high status groups while also increasing their negative evaluations of domain-relevant low status groups. In Experiment 1, threatened heterosexual men also increased their positive evaluations of a low status group, heterosexual women; a group that complements heterosexual male identity. In Experiment 2, threatened heterosexual men were found to have increased process fluency for women dressed in swimsuits while process fluency decreased for men dressed in swimsuits. Both of these findings suggest that high status group members use low status group members for self-protection when those low status groups complement a high status identity.
Experiment 3 was designed to test the fourth hypothesis. However, self-esteem effects failed to emerge in this experiment. Differences in administration of the attitudes measures may have influenced the results. One suggestive effect to emerge was that low status group members were found to endorse system-challenging groups far more than high status group members. No differences were found in endorsements of system-promoting groups. Implications for intergroup relations research and status legitimizing ideology are discussed.


Mac Abruzzo, Mark Carrington, Chris Middleton, and Jelani Munroe

October 13, 2014

Accuracy of Pre-Election Polling

ABSTRACT: This project involves analyzing pre-election polls for the US Senate, House, Gubernatorial, and Presidential elections conducted over the 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections.  Specifically we analyzed how several methodological choices: time between the poll and election day, time in field, mode of data collection, sample size, voter type, inclusion of leaning voters in poll results, election type, election year, and firm partisanship influenced pre-election polling accuracy. Accuracy was measured in two ways: absolute difference between margin of victory in the poll and actual election and average error between poll and actual results. Through highlighting both effective and ineffective methods of conducting pre-election polling and evaluating the biases inherent with firm partisanship, we hope to increase the understanding of what produces accurate pre-election polling and the public’s ability to understand and use pre-election polling results.


Lauren Howe

October 20, 2014

Public Distrust in Opinion Polls

ABSTRACT: Recent surveys show that Americans are increasingly distrustful of public opinion polls.  But why and when do Americans reject a poll’s conclusions?  Building off of past research showing that people are critical of scientific research when its conclusions support a view with which they disagree (e.g., Lord, Lepper, & Ross, 1979), we explore whether people see polls as less trustworthy and researchers as more biased when they disagree with the views supported by polls.  We explore whether providing additional information about polls (e.g., information about a poll’s sample) can reduce biased evaluation of opinion polls.


Jens Hainmueller

November 3, 2014

Do Survey Experiments Capture Real World Decision Making? Validating Conjoint and Vignette Analysis of Swiss Naturalization Decisions

ABSTRACT: Survey experiments like vignette and conjoint analysis are nowadays widely used in the social sciences to elicit stated preferences and study how humans make multidimensional choices. Yet, there exists almost no research on the external validity of these methods that examines whether what respondents say they would do when making hypothetical choices accurately captures what they actually do when making similar choices in real world situations. This study compares the results from conjoint and vignette analysis on which immigrant attributes generate support for naturalization to closely corresponding behavioral data from Switzerland, where some municipalities used referendums to decide on the citizenship applications of foreign residents. Using a representative sample from the same population and the official descriptions of applicant characteristics that voters received before each referendum as a behavioral benchmark, we find that the effects of the applicant attributes estimated from the survey experiments perform remarkably well in recovering the effects of the same attributes in the behavioral benchmark. We also find some differences in the relative performance of the different designs. Overall, the paired conjoint design comes closest to the behavioral benchmark; on average its estimates are within 3 percentage points of the effects in the behavioral benchmark.


Ariela Schachter

November 1, 2014

One of Us? Race, Immigration, and the Construction of Social Boundaries

ABSTRACT: Immigration is dramatically changing the United States’ racial makeup. According to Census estimates, the U.S will be a majority-minority nation by 2043, and Latinos are already the largest non-White group, surpassing Blacks. Immigration is also increasing diversity within racial groups: about one-third of Latinos, two-thirds of Asians, and one-tenth of Blacks in the United States are foreign-born. Existing scholarship focuses on either the status of immigrants or the status of racial groups, but not the interaction between them, ignoring both the reality of today’s diversity and key debates on the relative assimilation trajectories of different groups. My dissertation uses a series of survey experiments to explore how Americans understand this shifting landscape and to assess the implications for immigrant assimilation. I will be presenting two components of the larger dissertation project.
The first survey experiment examines whether native-born White Americans hold different stereotypes about native-born Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians relative to their stereotypes about foreign-born Whites, Blacks, Latinos and Asians. I find that native-born White Americans hold distinct stereotypes about native and foreign-born members of racial groups. For example, respondents rate U.S.-born Latinos as equivalent to Whites on several stereotype items, while rating Latino immigrants significantly more negatively. I also find that both the magnitude and the direction of the immigrant-native differential varies by racial group, such that the effect of immigrant status is most negative for Latinos, while Black immigrants are rated more positively than U.S.-born Blacks.
In the second survey experiment I build off of these findings by examining whether differences in affect (i.e., overall stereotypes) can help us understand the assimilation trajectories of immigrant groups. In sociology, a commonly accepted definition of assimilation is the decline of social boundaries between groups (Alba and Nee 2003). I measure the extent to which native-born White Americans perceive stronger social boundaries between themselves and immigrant members of racial groups, compared to the social boundaries they perceive between themselves and native-born members of racial groups. I use a conjoint design to develop measures of perceived social boundaries and test several mechanisms that may be driving differences in the assimilation trajectories of racial groups.


Jon Cohen

November 17, 2014

What Makes a Good Survey?

ABSTRACT: A decades-long consensus about what makes a high-quality survey in the real world has sharply deteriorated. That much is clear. But what’s next? Is there a chance for agreement around new terminology and a “fit for purpose” approach to survey research? I’ve listed below a series of articles that spotlight some of the thorniest trade-offs we now confront in public polling. I look forward to discussing these big, important questions in seminar.


Dave Vannette

December 1, 2014

Strategies for Measuring the Effectiveness of Different Likely Voter Models in Pre-Election Surveys

ABSTRACT: Many pre-election polls identify the preferences of people labeled “likely voters”. One challenge in pre-election polling is the fact that often a substantially greater proportion of respondents report that they will vote than the proportion of the population who actually end up voting. Consequently, researchers wish to identify the subset of respondents who are truly likely voters, and different organizations and academic researchers use different approaches. Our study evaluates the effectiveness of a variety of different methods for identifying likely voters. We use data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) 2008 Time Series Study, which administered many measures that could be used to identify likely voters during pre-election interviews. Then, these same respondents were interviewed post-election and were asked whether they in fact voted. We attempt to identify the optimal combination of pre-election reports with which to effectively separate people who did vote from those who did not. We use the ANES vote intention question as a starting point and supplement it with a variety of non-demographic and demographic measures that are known to predict voter turnout. We explore several varieties of two basic, but methodologically distinct approaches: (1) dividing respondents into two categories: voters and non-voters via a discriminant function approach, and (2) assigning a probability of turnout to each respondent and then comparing the effectiveness of various cut points along the probability dimension for separating voters from non-voters. We assess model accuracy using post-election reports of turnout and estimates of candidate vote share along with external benchmarks of the demographic composition of the 2008 electorate. The result is evidence pointing to the methods that can be most effective in identifying which survey respondents will vote on Election Day. This evidence will be of value to all researchers who conduct pre-election polls or who interpret such data.



Lee Jussim

January 5, 2015

Desperately Seeking the “WOW! Effect”:
How Questionable Interpretive Practices Enable Social Psychologists to Present Weak and Non-Existent Phenomena as Powerful, Pervasive, and Important

ABSTRACT: Much of what passes for conventional social psychological wisdom regarding social perception is not just wrong, it is spectacularly wrong.  These are plausibly called “errors.”  Social psychologists have long established that “errors” reveal psychological processes, biases, and motivations of those committing the errors.  These conclusion errors unjustifiably bolster a theoretical emphasis on lay irrationality and the leftwing politics held by many social psychologists.  For example, in contrast to widespread interpretation: Hastorf & Cantril (1954) demonstrated that social perception is almost perfectly unbiased; Steele & Aronson (1995) demonstrated that removing stereotype threat has no effect at all on black underachievement; and correlations of IAT scores with “discrimination” sometimes reflect anti-White discrimination, not anti-Black discrmination (McConnell & Leibold, 2001).  It gets worse. Self-fulfilling prophecies and person perception biases are neither powerful nor pervasive.  Some of the most “classic” expectancy studies in social psychology may have shown nothing at all (Rosenthal & Jacobson, 1968); or have proven irreplicable (Darley & Gross, 1982; Snyder & Swann, 1977, 1978).  The role of stereotypes in person perception is weak; the role of individuating information extremely powerful.  Stereotype accuracy is one of the largest relationships in all of social psychology.  If I have enough time, I will review a slew of logical incoherencies and double standards that pervade social psychological claims (example: people are accused of irrationality and bias if they ignore base-rates or if they rely on base-rates).  Many social psychologists despise or fear these conclusions, some are aggressive and derogatory when expressing their displeasure, and will, when possible, attempt to get away with ignoring or dismissing the data.  Amazingly, I nonetheless conclude with a slew of reasons to be optimistic social psychology’s future.


Rob MacCoun

January 12, 2015

The Epistemic Contract: Fostering an Appropriate Level of Public Trust in Experts

ABSTRACT: I first provide a brief review of public opinion data on trust in scientists and other experts. These data, perhaps surprisingly, show that experts are largely viewed quite favorably. I then examine two research paradigms that highlight more nuanced aspects of our trust in experts, and argue that they offer converging evidence that, while citizens and experts bring both “inquisitorial” and “adversarial” motives to debates, the desire for truth carries real weight and is not simply given lip service. I close by articulating a normative epistemic contract for experts and their consumers, and I review recent developments that suggest ways of facilitating that contract’s successful performance.


Ellen Konar

January 26, 2015

Beyond Promoting the Net Promoter Score: Smart Data for Big Decisions

ABSTRACT: In his now classic 2003 Harvard Business Review article, Fred Reichheld proposed the Net Promoter Score (NPS) to replace the varied and often complex customer satisfaction measurement programs popular in industry at the time.  Reichheld proposed a single question tapping inclination toward advocacy: “how likely are you to recommend (company X) to your friends and colleagues?” as the “one number you need to grow” to grow your business.  NPS has since become a virtual standard, not just as a metric, but entire management system, across Fortune 500 companies (Inc Magazine, 2006) and “wildly popular” in companies large and small across a broad range of industries (Forrester Research, 2012). “NPS has the force of a revolution” (CNN Money, 2008).
Researchers, competitors and industry thought leaders have raised important questions and surfaced data to challenge (1) the superiority and unique value of “likelihood to recommend” to asses customer experience, satisfaction, and loyalty, and predict growth (2) the recommended methods for capturing, analyzing and describing the data. We propose to pick up where Reichheld and his critics have left off to investigate both the basic proposition and the specific techniques inherent in the modern day ‘NPS management system’.  Information on customer advocacy, satisfaction and liking elicited on several different scale types from thousands of consumers in four waves of survey data collected over the past 6 years, can now be linked to key metrics of subsequent company growth.
This ‘in-process project’ (looking for a super analyst/collaborator) is described in the context of the speaker’s work “beyond academia” bringing smart data for big decisions to the task of making and marketing disruptive products for the mainstream.


Valentina Bosetti

February 2, 2015

Selection of climate policies under the uncertainties outlined in IPCC AR5

ABSTRACT: Strategies for dealing with climate change must account for all the relevant uncertainties and manage the resulting risks. Here we draw on the fifth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC AR5) to infer probability distributions of mitigation costs, temperature changes and resulting climate change impacts, thus using the best available knowledge to quantify the deep uncertainties associated with climate policies. We have selected a range of climate policies according to the different decision-making criteria as regard uncertainty, risk aversion and intertemporal discounting. Our findings show that the choice of the decision-making criteria is as important as that of the thoroughly analysed time discount factor. Climate policies consistent with 2°C are compatible with some criteria and some specifications, but not with the standard expected utility framework.


David Yeager

February 9, 2015

Coping with social stressors during adolescence: A process model and intervention strategy

ABSTRACT: The transition to high school coincides with normative increases in stress and, for many students, the onset of depression and increased academic disengagement. Why is this? The transition to high school can be fraught with social difficulty, as teens gain or lose new friendships, social exclusion rises in frequency, and social hierarchies are shaken up. Combined with biological changes that focus attention on social hierarchy and a developing social-cognitive ability to project one’s identity and social status far into the future, these can create a “perfect storm” for stress–or the sense that the demands of the environment exceed one’s ability to cope with them. This stress can spill over into a number of domains of cognitive, physiological, and emotional functioning. My research seeks to understand why some adolescents cope differently during the transition to high school–why some interpret social difficulty as diagnostic of a bleak social future, leading to stress, academic underperformance, internalizing symptoms, and even a desire for violent revenge.  It also shows the causal role of beliefs by changing them through intervention, improving adolescents’ coping over time.  In a number of studies, even time-limited messages have led to reductions in global stress, depressive symptoms, course failure, and aggressive retaliation many months later. Discussion will center on how social-cognitions can act as a “lens” for filtering adverse experience during difficult life transitions.  Results have implications for biopsychosocial models of coping, lifespan theories of development, and social psychological theories of behavior change.


Curtiss Cobb

February 26, 2015

Cross-Cultural Variation in Mode Effects Between Smartphone and Computer-based Web Surveys

ABSTRACT: Mobile devices are quickly become the dominant mode for accessing the Internet around the world.  Experts predict that mobile Internet usage will overtake desktop Internet use worldwide this year (mobi-Thinking 2014).  With the rapid increase in use of mobile devices for Internet, web surveys completed using smartphones and tablets have followed suit, with current estimates ranging from 7% -30% of web surveys taken on a mobile device (Maritz 2013).  Survey methodologists are busy exploring the mode effects between smartphone and computer-based web surveys and developing “best practices” for the design of multi-mode web surveys, but they do so based on research done almost exclusively on Americans or Western Europeans.  It is unclear whether the same mode effects are present to the same extent among other cultures, especially those where mobile is often the first and primary mode of Internet access.

This talk will present a series of findings on cross-cultural variation in mode effects (both selection and measurement effects) between smartphone and computer-based web surveys using data from Facebook’s internal survey capabilities.  I will also talk about how Facebook takes into account changing the changing impacts of mode when trying to understand trends in user sentiment.  Facebook currently collects more than 40,000 survey responses a day from around the globe from respondents using both computer-based and mobile devices. 


Neil Malhotra

March 2, 2015

Expectation Setting and Retrospective Voting

ABSTRACT: That citizens engage in retrospective voting is widely established in the literature. But to what extent is retrospection affected by the expectations that leaders set in advance? We develop a theoretical framework of how expectation setting affects voters’ retrospective evaluations of incumbent performance. To test the theory, we conduct a series of between-subjects experiments in which we independently manipulate both expectation setting and the eventual outcome. In domains where politicians have practical authority, or direct influence over outcomes, setting high expectations incurs a cost in public support if the projected outcome is not attained. The same is true in domains where politicians have theoretical authority, or limited influence but where expectation setting sends a signal about the leader’s judgment. However, in domains where politicians have neither practical nor theoretical authority, setting high expectations is unambiguously beneficial, implying that optimism is valued by voters as a personality disposition.


Jeff Bonheim

March 9, 2015

Types of military operations and their effects on public support for war

ABSTRACT: Public opinion about war is important to the study of both American politics and international relations because it is generally thought to affect U.S. electoral outcomes and to influence a state’s propensity for the use of force.  Existing research has shown that the public’s understanding of the costs (informed primarily by battlefield casualties) and its expectations of success both play significant roles in shaping support for an ongoing conflict.  This paper examines how the types of military operations that are used to achieve a policy goal affect the public’s expectations of success, its tolerance for casualties, and its overall support.  Recent work emphasizes that “good news” from the battlefield can increase expectations of success, which increases casualty tolerance and can bolster support for the war.  “Good news,” however, cannot simply be conjured up, but is instead the result of actions that are part of a larger strategy to achieve the policy goal.  In most situations, political and military leaders have several possible strategies to choose from.  These strategy options are likely to vary both in the ability to achieve the policy goal and in the ability of interim outcomes to influence public support.  Differential effects on public support could generate cross-cutting incentives for leaders who want to balance effectiveness with political support.  Focusing on two classes of operations that are prevalent in counterinsurgency campaigns — offensive and stability-focused operations — I conducted four survey experiments to examine their effects on public support.  When treating respondents as members of a “monolithic” public, I find general support for the predictions of “cost-benefit” theories — support for the mission and the president are reduced by casualties and interim failures in general, but the type of operation has limited influence.  The type of operation does have a significant effect, however, on expectations of success in achieving policy goals.  However, the concept of one “public” masks important differences between partisans in the effects of operation type on support.  Most interestingly, among Democrats, the expectation of overall success is responsive to good or bad interim outcomes and the number of casualties with little regard for operation type.  Conversely, among Republicans, the expectation of overall success is responsive to operation type with little regard for outcomes and casualties.  This suggests that policy outcomes are salient for presidential co-partisans, while policy preferences are salient for opposition party members.  I also conduct causal mediation analysis to examine potential mechanisms for these treatment effects, including perceived likelihood of success, predictions of future costs, moral judgments, and emotional reactions.



Morris Fiorina

March 30, 2015

Are Leaning Independents Just Weak Partisans Under Another Name?

ABSTRACT: The classic party identification question battery places respondents into seven categories: strong Republicans and Democrats, not-so-strong (“weak”) Republicans and Democrats, independents who lean toward the Democratic or Republican parties, and “pure” independents. It has become common practice, however, for researchers to combine leaning independents with their respective partisan categories using the justification that leaning independents are “essentially identical” to weak partisans. Such a practice is not justified because (1) it ignores the possibility of endogeneous responses to the directional probe, and (2) it ignores considerable evidence that leaners are different from weak partisans. This is not an arcane methodological quibble. If leaners—about 30 percent of the potential electorate–are partisans, the potential electorate is much more stable and the prospects for political change much less likely than if leaners are independents. This paper presents evidences showing that leaning independents are different from weak partisans in numerous ways, but we are unable to provide any simple characterization of leaners.


Camille Johnson

April 6, 2015

When we talk about matters: Content moderates cognitive depletion in interracial interactions

ABSTRACT: The antecedents and consequences of intergroup interactions have been well-studied, but interaction content—what partners actually talk about—has not. In the experiment we report here, interaction content moderated well-documented self-regulation effects (i.e., cognitive depletion) among White participants interacting with a Black partner. Specifically, White individuals participated in a video email interaction with an ostensible Black or White partner who broached topics systematically varying in intimacy. Greater cognitive depletion was evident after interacting with a Black partner relative to a White partner, but only after discussing more intimate topics. When conversation topics aligned with Whites’ preferences to avoid intimacy in interracial interactions, depletion effects were reduced. Thus, interaction content, which has been largely ignored in intergroup interaction research, has important implications for intergroup interaction.


Zakary Tormala

April 6, 2015

Attitude Certainty and Attitudinal Advocacy

ABSTRACT: When and why do people advocate on behalf of their attitudes?  Despite the theoretical and practical significance of this question, the attitudes and persuasion literature has little to say about the factors that drive advocacy intentions and behaviors. One thing we do know is that attitude certainty appears to be an important determinant. In this talk, I will present very recent research that seeks to provide more nuanced insight into the certainty-advocacy relationship. First, I will discuss a series of studies exploring the unique roles of attitude clarity and attitude correctness in fostering different forms of advocacy — in particular, sharing intentions and persuasion intentions. Second, I will describe new data from our lab exploring the shape of the certainty-advocacy relationship. Across studies, I hope to offer new insight into (or at least food for thought about) the underlying motives that promote advocacy-type behavior.


Paul Sniderman

April 27, 2015

The Elasticity of Political Preferences

ABSTRACT: It now is a standard presumption that most citizens are highly susceptible to preference reversals.  Whether they support or oppose a policy depends on the circumstances of the moment — for example, how the issue is framed or what happens, for whatever reason, to come to the mind at the moment of choice. If true, most citizens are airheads.  Is it true?


Michelle Mello

May 4, 2015

The Nanny State? Public Views on Legal Interventions to Fight Noncommunicable Disease

ABSTRACT: Rising levels of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases associated with so-called “lifestyle choices” have sparked interest in how the law could be used to influence health behaviors.  Some legal interventions have garnered wide praise, but others have provoked vocal criticisms that they are excessive interferences by the “nanny state.”  What drives the public’s willingness to view these legal interventions as legitimate uses of government authority?  What patterns are observable in public views over time? This talk will discuss from public opinion survey work that aims to provide insights into these questions.


Richard Leo

May 18, 2015

False Confession, Erroneous Convictions, and Safeguarding the Innocent

ABSTRACT: In this talk, I will discuss the history of police interrogation in America, focusing on the modern shift from physically coercive to psychologically-oriented methods of interrogation and confession-taking in criminal cases.  I will then discuss the social psychology of police interrogation: the fundamental assumptions, goals and methods of influence that are designed to move (presumed guilty) suspects from (expected) denials to (desired) admissions and full narrative confessions.  I will then discuss the counter-intuitive phenomenon of police-induced false confessions: their types, sources, and consequences. I will discuss what we know about false confessions from field research as well as laboratory studies. As part of this analysis, I will also discuss the phenomenon of wrongful conviction more broadly in the American criminal justice system.  Finally, I will briefly discuss reforms in the criminal justice system that are designed to reduce the frequency of false confessions as well as the wrongful convictions that they sometimes spawn.





Melissa Lane, Professor of Politics, Princeton University

September 24, 2012

The Ethics of Scientists Communicating with Policy-Makers about Uncertainty: building on a case study of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

ABSTRACT: With uncertainty (unknown probabilities) as opposed to risk (known probabilities), it is impossible in a straightforward way to assign costs and benefits to a set of alternative strategies. Indeed, it is questionable whether objective knowledge, in the sense of knowledge derivable from an algorithm independent of the participants involved, is possible in such a situation. The absence of potentially crucial information means that judgments about likely outcomes are inevitably subjective to some extent.

This uncertainty and subjectivity raise ethical issues for scientists and for policy-makers. Scientists need to decide how to communicate knowledge effectively in a way that non-scientists can understand and use, while not pretending to know what they are incapable of knowing. And they need to decide what role their own subjectivity should play in their communications on scientific issues with policy implications. Policy-makers need to understand their own ethical choices in using scientific information to make decisions and to present themselves to their own audiences.

We propose to focus this issue by examining a case study from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) with respect to possible sea-level rise from melting of the Arctic ice sheet (see O’Reilly, Oreskes and Oppenheimer 2012). Scientists studying this issue in the IPCC decided that uncertainties prevented them from making an objective estimate of ice sheet melting, so omitted any estimate of ice sheet melting from their report on sea level rise [details to follow]. This decision raises ethical issues for scientists and for the policy-makers who need to use such estimates in making and justifying policy decisions.

We are using this actual situation to focus our discussion of the ethics of communicating about climate change for scientists and policy-makers. We seek to integrate philosophical approaches to questions of the ethics of communication under uncertainty with an understanding of scientists’ perspectives and an analysis of the ethical issues that such questions raise for policy-makers.


Mario Callegaro, PhD Candidate, Survey Research and Methodology, University of Nebraska

October 1, 2012

Furthering the debate on check-all-that-apply versus forced-choice response formats

ABSTRACT: When writing questions for web or pen-and-paper surveys, surveyors can choose from a variety of formats, including check all that apply or a forced-choice format (e.g., yes-no). Previous research shows that asking questions in a forced-choice format consistently yields higher endorsement rates than a check-all format, and provides some evidence that respondents process forced-choice answers at a deeper cognitive level. We conduct a meta-analysis of the available (published and unpublished) studies and found reported support levels increase an average of 48% when items are asked in a forced-choice rather than check-all format. We also conduct two business-to-business (B2B) web survey experiments. The results from the first survey confirm the previous findings and extend them to a B2B population, in a variety of countries and languages. In the second survey, we assess the validity of these two formats by linking each response to internal behavior information. The results from this validation proved however inconclusive. We discuss possible reasons and highlight a research agenda for the future.


John Rickford, Professor of Linguistics, Stanford University

October 8, 2012

Variation in language use and attitudes, two topics of interest to Sociolinguistics

ABSTRACT: In this presentation, I’ll try to present some of the major principles and findings of sociolinguistics, or the study of language and society, the 60-year old branch of linguistics (the “scientific study of language”) in which I specialize. Rather than sending a single, long, relatively technical paper (like my 60-page paper on “Language Change and Stylistic Variation” that’s forthcoming in the J. of Sociolinguistics, I’ll attach three short, relatively non-technical papers (and a brief letter) that are be more accessible to non-linguists and might relate to one of your group’s interests, attitudes.

One key theoretical assumption and empirical finding of sociolinguistics is that the FORMS or FEATURES of spoken language vary and change constantly, much more so than non-linguists realize, according to a variety of factors, including the region, social class, ethnicity, gender, age and network of speakers and their interlocutors, the topics they’re speaking about, the relative formality of the recording context, and other aspects of “style.” Paradoxically, the style that is most regular and most reflective of ongoing change in language is the most vernacular or least monitored style, and to elicit more of the vernacular, sociolinguists employ methodologies like recording speakers in peer groups or asking about topics like danger of death or childhood games in which speakers tend to get more involved and pay less attention to “correct” speech. My introductory article in the 2011 American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language (itself the subject of some controversy in the May and June 2012 issues of The New Yorker) addresses to some extent the nature of variation and change in our living language, but I’ll also bring in additional data from my research on African American English in East Palo Alto, and from Guyanese Creole English in Guyana, South America.

People’s expressed or implied attitudes to speech can also vary quite significantly, depending on who is doing the asking, and the contexts or genres in which questions about language are being asked. This I’ve tried to illustrate through a (1985) 9-page paper I did on “standard” and “non-standard” language attitudes in creole English speaking communities, and a more recent (2004) 6-page paper on “Ebonics: The beloved, belittled language of Black America.” In both cases, apparently paradoxical language attitudes co-exist, and unraveling the paradox requires attending to the context in which these attitudes are expressed, and recognizing their complex, multi-faceted nature.


Gabriel Lenz, Associate Professor, University of California Berkeley

October 15, 2012

Substituting the End for the Whole: Why Voters Respond Primarily to the Election-Year Economy

ABSTRACT: According to numerous studies, the election-year economy influences presidential election results far more than cumulative growth throughout the term. Here we describe a series of surveys and experiments that point to an intriguing explanation for voter behavior that runs contrary to the standard explanations political science has offered, but one that accords with a large psychological literature. Voters, we find, actually intend to judge presidents on cumulative growth. However, since that characteristic is not readily available to them, voters inadvertently substitute election-year performance because it is more easily accessible. This “end-heuristic” explanation for voters’ election-year emphasis reflects a general tendency for people to simplify retrospective assessments by substituting conditions at the end for the whole. The end heuristic explanation also suggests a remedy, a way to align voters’ actions with their intentions. Providing people with the attribute they are seeking—cumulative growth—eliminates the election-year emphasis.


Robb Willer, Associate Professor, Stanford University

October 22, 2012

What is the Role of Racial Prejudice in Tea Party Support?

ABSTRACT: Many commentators view the Tea Party as an organization whose rise has been fueled in part by the racial antipathy. This view is based primarily on indirect evidence – e.g., the Tea Party’s racially homogeneous membership, positions on issues related to race, and vitriol towards President Obama – or anecdotes – various racist incidents associated with the organization. However, there has been little systematic study of the link, and what research does exist offers limited insight on the causal role racial prejudice might play in fostering Tea Party support. In a survey study (N = 501) we found that the extent of respondents’ agreement with a series of blatantly racist statements was highly correlated with Tea Party support, moreso than a variety of political positions linked with the Tea Party in prior research (economic concerns, opposition to the Affordable Care Act, opposition to Obama). A second study sought to demonstrate a causal link by manipulating the salience of the president’s African-American racial heritage. Participants were presented with a picture of Obam in which his skin color was either artificially darkened or lightened. White participants presented with a darkened picture of Obama were more likely to report supporting the Tea Party. Together these data suggest a significant causal link between racial prejudice and Tea Party support.


Matthew Feinberg, PhD Candidate, Psychology, Stanford University

November 12, 2012

Persuading Partisans: Reframing Political Issues in Terms of Endorsed Moral Values Facilitates Influence

ABSTRACT: Political psychologists have found that political attitudes are often grounded in moral convictions and that differences in moral convictions help explain the diverging attitudes of liberals and conservatives. An implication of this research is that persuasive appeals based on moral considerations that are not strongly endorsed by the target audience will fail, but moral and political arguments can be successful if presented as consistent with the moral convictions of the target. Applying a Moral Foundations Theory (Haidt & Graham, 2007) framework, here we test whether framing policy stances in terms of moral foundations endorsed by the target of the message will lead that target to be more supportive of these stances, offering a mechanism of morally based political persuasion. Results of Studies 1 and 2 showed that conservatives were more accepting of same-sex marriage and the Affordable Care Act when these more liberal policies were presented in terms of moral convictions endorsed at higher levels among conservatives (ingroup-loyalty and purity-sanctity, respectively). In Study 3, liberals were more supportive of high levels of military spending when exposed to arguments framed in terms of fairness and equality, values endorsed more among liberals. Finally, in Study 4, we presented participants with messages supporting President Barack Obama’s reelection that were framed in terms of one of the moral foundations endorsed more by conservatives (ingroup-loyalty, respect for authority, purity and sanctity). Relative to a control condition with no persuasive appeal, conservative participants exposed to one of these messages reported greater support and willingness to vote for Obama. Mediation analyses suggested the reframed persuasive appeals were effective because they led individuals to consider the stance (Study 3) and the political candidate (Study 4) as more consistent with their moral principles.


Su Li, PhD Candidate, Psychology, Stanford University

November 26, 2012

Crazy Teenagers? Adolescent Mental Health Well-being, Aggressive Behaviors in Adulthood, and the American Criminal Justice System

ABSTRACT: Despite the fact that youths in contact with the juvenile justice system are significantly more likely than other youths to have mental disabilities, the justice system has not put enough emphasis on the overall need for mental health treatment to prevent recidivism. The juvenile justice system has in some ways become a “‘dumping ground’ for mentally ill, learning disabled, [and] behaviorally disordered juveniles. Many juvenile offenders have a history of involvement with the mental health system, but migrate to the juvenile justice system because the mental health system has failed to serve their needs.” (Geary 2005) Using the National longitudinal study of adolescent health, this research aims to answer the following questions: What is the relationship between the trajectory of mental health problems during adolescence and aggressive behavior in early adulthood? How do age, gender, race, socioeconomic status mediate the association between earlier mental health wellbeing and later criminal behavior? In this study, we have confirmed that adolescents’ depressive symptoms can significantly predict their aggressive behavior later on in adulthood. Trajectory analysis shows that chronicle depression is dangerous. It also shows that the deterioration of mental health well being is alarming in terms of predicting aggressive behavior. A policy implication of this finding is that instead of only relying on the immediate diagnoses / evaluation of adolescents’ mental health, it is worthwhile for the criminal justice system to look at the record of adolescents’ mental health wellbeing and pay special attention to those whose situation have been deteriorating.


Marco Steenbergen, Professor of Political science, University of Zurich, Switzerland

December 3, 2012

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.



Tobias Stark, Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellow, Stanford University

January 7, 2013

Explaining a paradox: Why do interventions promote intergroup friendships although prejudiced people avoid the outgroup?

ABSTRACT: Research found that prejudiced people avoid contact with outgroup members whereas those with pre-existing positive attitudes toward the outgroup willingly engage with members of this group. It thus seems paradoxically that intergroup contact interventions successfully promote intergroup friendships even among those high in prejudice. This paper challenges the assertion responsible for this apparent paradox; that outgroup attitudes directly cause or prevent intergroup friendships. Instead, network processes such as transitivity mediate and intensify the effect of outgroup attitudes. Majority group member with more positive attitudes towards a minority group are more likely to have friends who have minority friends and because of a tendency to form transitive relationships, these majority group members then become friends of their friends’ outgroup friends. This assertion is supported by longitudinal network analysis of data from a three-wave study of 12-13 year-olds (N = 1,113). No evidence was found for reciprocity as an alternative explanation; students with more positive outgroup attitudes did not simply receive more friendship invitations from outgroup members. Neglecting the role of network processes as determinants of outgroup contact has most likely led to an overestimation in past research of the apparent direct impact of outgroup attitudes on the number of intergroup friendships. Transitivity did not mediate the effect of outgroup attitudes on friendship selection among minority group students. Given the larger size of the majority group, positive attitudes can directly guide friendship choices of minority members whereas majority members have to be introduced to the fewer minority members by their friends.


Kenneth Scheve, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

January 14, 2013

Public Support for Global Climate Cooperation


ABSTRACT: Climate change mitigation requires international cooperation and for this cooperation to be sustainable over the long term, formal global agreements to reduce CO2 emissions need broad public support. Using data from an experimental conjoint survey, we provide estimates of the political demand for dierent types of climate agreements in France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Specically, we explore how three key dimensions of climate cooperation | costs and distribution, participation, and enforcement | aect demand for global climate agreements. We contend that citizens’ sentiment toward climate agreements most strongly depends on costs. Our estimates imply that an increase of household costs equivalent to 0.5% of gross domestic product decreases the probability that an individual supports an agreement by 20% percent. Our results, however, also suggest that citizens are sensitive to the principles that govern the international distribution of costs, prefer more encompassing forms of climate cooperation, and support agreements that include a low sanction for failing emission reduction targets. Overall, our ndings suggest that an important mechanism through which interests, norms, and institutions can support international cooperation is their influence on public opinion.


Andrew Fahlund, Executive Director of Water in the West, Stanford Woods Institute

January 28, 2013


The State of Policy and Practice of Western Water Management: Seeking a Path Toward Reform


ABSTRACT: While water is the most important commodity for life, our economy, and our environment, it is something that few people understand, appreciate, or even think about. It is out of sight, out of mind. There has been very little research into citizen understanding of water – where it comes from, where our waste goes, how it is used and how vulnerable it makes us. It is hard to get anyone to support changes and reforms to something they don’t understand and don’t recognize as important or in need of fixing. How do we ask consumers to pay more for something that they have become accustomed to paying so little? I would like to engage the group in a conversation about the need to acquire better and more frequent data about public attitudes and understanding of freshwater in the Western US.


Jon Cohen, Vice President of Research, PEW Research Center

February 4, 2013


The Ghost of Polling Yet to Come: Navigating the treacherous path to meaningful surveys


Aliya Saperstein, Professor of Sociology, Stanford University

February 11, 2013


The Criminal Justice System and the Racialization of Perceptions


ABSTRACT: In previous research, and consistent with stereotypes linking blackness and criminality, we demonstrated that racial perceptions are affected by contact with the criminal justice system; people are more likely to be classified as black and less likely to be classified as white after being incarcerated. We extend this research using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which includes information on whether respondents have been arrested, convicted or incarcerated, and the details of their most recent arrest. This allows us to ask whether any contact with the criminal justice system results in racialization or only certain types of contact. Additional racial categories also allow us to explore the potential racialization of crime beyond the black-white divide. We conclude by discussing the implications of the criminal justice system as an institution that “makes race” in the context of mass incarceration.


Madeleine Udell, PhD Candidate, Computational & Mathematical Engineering, Stanford University

March 4, 2013


Sigmoidal programming for vote share optimization


ABSTRACT: Optimization is a key ingredient in both model fitting and policy decisions. While social science research has embraced the use of optimization techniques for specific problems in model fitting, such as regression and logistic regression analyses, the use of mathematical optimization based on these models for the purposes of policy decisions has not proceeded apace. In this talk, we present an application of mathematical optimization to vote share optimization, using data from the American National Election Studies. The solution uses a novel mathematical optimization technique called sigmoidal programming, which maximizes a sum of sigmoidal functions over a convex constraint set. In this talk, we discuss the idea behind this algorithm, present some numerical results, and consider other lessons from mathematical optimization that may be of interest to the social science community.


Thomas Pettigrew, Professor Emeritus of Psychology, University of California Santa Cruz

March 11, 2013


Relative deprivation: A valuable individual and collective predictor


ABSTRACT: Relative deprivation (RD) is the judgment that one is worse off compared to some standard accompanied by feelings of anger and resentment. Social scientists use RD to predict a wide range of significant outcome variables: willingness to join protests, individual achievement and deviance, intergroup attitudes, and physical and mental health. But the results are often weak and inconsistent. To determine whether these results reflect measurement or theoretical deficiencies, the authors conducted a meta-analytic review of 210 studies (representing 293 independent samples and 186,073 respondents). RD measures that (1) include justice-related affect, (2) match the outcome level of analysis and (3) used higher quality measures yielded significantly stronger relationships. Future research should focus on appropriate RD measurement, affect and the inclusion of theoretically relevant appraisals of the situation. Such methodological improvements would revitalize RD as a useful social psychological predictor of a wide range of important individual and social processes.



Henning Silber, Professor, Gottingen University, Germany

April 1, 2013


Accuracy of relations between variables across probability and non-probability samples


ABSTRACT: In recent years internet surveys have become increasingly popular. While face-to-face and telephone surveys are commonly based on probability sampling methods, internet samples, on the other hand, often use non-probability sampling methods. Some researchers have pointed out that surveys based on non-probability sampling methods produce data of less quality (e. g., Faas and Schoen 2006; Yeager et al. 2011) . Particularly, it has been shown that distributions of key variables vary across non-probability internet samples. However, relations between variables were expected to be more stable (e. g., Schnell 1997). Our research compares three different kinds of relations between variables across surveys based on probability and non-probability sampling methods. First, we examine bivariate relationships, second we examine experiments with different question forms, and third we examine more complex relationships with more than two variables. All three kinds of relationships were found to be more stable using probability sampling methods.


Justin Grimmer, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

April 8, 2013


The Impression of Influence: How Legislator Communication and Government Spending Cultivate a Personal Vote


Steven Kull, Faculty, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

April 15, 2013


Giving the Public a Greater Voice in Washington


ABSTRACT: Is there anything that can help move past the polarization and gridlock of Washington today? Harking back to the ideas of Alexander Hamilton, Steven Kull will make the case that new methods of online public consultation‹by which respondents are presented information and arguments,as well as given tools for making nuanced policy prescriptions‹have the potential for creating a new political force. He will present examples of such public consultation in regard to the Federal budget, and then share an ambitious new project for taking these methods to scale in Washington DC.


Christos Markridis, PhD Candidate, Management Science and Engineering, Stanford University

April 22, 2013


A Unified Theory for Dynamical Environmental Systems: Economic Conditions, Institutions, Social Attitudes in the Interactive Agency Model


ABSTRACT: This paper introduces the Interactive Agency Model (IAM) as a tool for linking micro and macro levels of economic and sociological thinking in climate, environmental, and energy (C2E) systems. Individuals are treated as dynamic programmers whose preferences are a function of three lenses: economic conditions, social attitudes, and institutional structure. Whereas current approaches in this literature focus either on stylized, aggregate macroeconomic drivers or highly individual-specific psychological behaviors, IAM lends itself to modeling the unique interactions among the three criteria in a systems-level framework. This article introduces the conceptual theory and tests it in a simplified econometric setting in order to communicate the key insights. Results suggest that these interactive elements are both statistically and economically relevant for not only theoretical work, but also policy consideration.


Jasjeet Sekhon, Professor of Political Science and Statistics, University of California Berkeley

April 29, 2013


From SATE to PATT: Combining Experimental with Observational Studies to Estimate Population Treatment Effects


ABSTRACT: Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) can provide unbiased estimates of sample average treatment effects. However, a common concern is that RCTs often fail to provide unbiased estimates of population average treatment effects. We derive the assumptions for identifying population average treatment effects from RCTs. We provide a set of placebo tests, which formally follow from the identifying assumptions, that can assess whether the assumptions hold. We offer new research designs for estimating population effects that uses observational studies to adjust the RCT data. One design does not require a selection on observables assumption. We apply our approach to a cost-effectiveness analysis, and applications to other settings such comparing the estimates of survey experiments from different samples are discussed.


Gabor Simonovits, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Stanford University

June 3, 2013


One for the proponents, another for opponents: The consequences of modes of explanations for policy


ABSTRACT: Qualitative researchers highlight the importance of the explanations that politicians offer for the actions they take. The right justification may increase the support of voters, even if they oppose the action itself. In this paper we analyze the political consequences of different “styles” of rhetorics politicians use and seek to explain why different types of justifications are employed by different speakers to different audiences. We delineate two common kinds of justifications: those that are based on evidence (thus are falsifiable) and those that rely on value. Using this typology, we conducted a survey experiment in which voters evaluated fictional candidates who took and explained their positions on a proposed increase in the income tax rates for wealthy Americans. We find evidence suggesting that while arguments based on evidence (as opposed to values) help politicians when communicating to an audience with opposing opinions, but hurts them when they talk to people who agree with their positions. Moreover, our results suggest that the effect of justifications are mediated by perceived distance of the candidate’s positions from the respondent’s and the respondent’ certainty in the candidate’s position.





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.”


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



Stefaan Walgrave, Professor of Political Science, University of Antwerp in Belgium

January 23, 2012


Information-processing by Individual Political Actors in a Comparative Perspective. A Research Proposal.


ABSTRACT: How do individual political actors get informed about society, about the problems they are supposed to solve and to attend to? The research project (proposal) tackles this question by assessing how individual politicians are exposed to, attend to, and act upon incoming information from various sources. The basic idea is that politicians are as boundedly rational as ordinary citizens are. Yet, the context in which they deal with information is very different (e.g. their re-election depends on it) and their information-processing behavior is heavily affected by the institutional context in which they operate. The project consists of empirically observing (or at least trying to) a selection of 50 individual politicians’ (both MPs, ministers, party leaders and staffers) information-processing behavior (exposure, attention and action) in three different countries (Belgium, Canada, Israel).


Samara Klar, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Northwestern University

January 30, 2012


Political Identity and Engagement Among Political Independents


ABSTRACT: Political behavior among independents has been documented for decades, yet we are left with limited insight into their political engagement.  The extent to which they engage with politics and, moreover, why they are motivated to do so at all are questions for which few answers can be provided. I use two recent national datasets to, first, compare political engagement among independents and party identifiers. I then pursue my principal research question: what determines variance in engagement among these different political identity groups? I find that, although levels of political engagement are similarly distributed across independent and partisan voters, predictors of engagement differ substantially between them. Ideological strength strongly predicts engagement among partisans, yet it has no significant association with engagement among independents. To explain the variation we see in engagement among independents, I introduce a new construct: political identity importance. My data show that, for both pure and leaning independents, engagement is best predicted by the importance they place on their political identity. This study suggests that independence is, in and of itself, a meaningful political identity and that identity importance is a key to engaging the growing segment of the electorate who identify as independent.


Mike Tomz, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

February 6, 2012


An Experimental Investigation of the Democratic Peace


ABSTRACT:  One of the most prominent debates in the international relations literature concerns the relationship between democracy and peace. Some researchers argue that shared democracy causes peace, whereas others maintain that the apparent correlation between democracy and peace is spurious. Three problems — endogeneity, multicollinearity, and aggregation — have prevented previous researchers from resolving the controversy satisfactorily. In this paper, we use experiments to overcome all three obstacles and thereby shed new light on the democratic peace hypothesis. Our experiments, administered to nationally representative samples of adults in the U.K. and the U.S., reveal that voters are substantially less supportive of military strikes against democracies than against otherwise identical autocracies. The effect exists across a wide range of situations and is most pronounced among the politically active segments of the electorate. In addition to estimating the overall effect of democracy, we found support for three broad categories of causal mechanisms: threat perception, deterrence, and morality. Individuals who faced democratic rather than autocratic countries were less fearful of the consequences of the country’s nuclear program, were less optimistic that a preventive strike would succeed, and harbored greater moral reservations about attacking. These perceptions, in turn, were strongly correlated with preferences about the use of force. Surprisingly, though, participants did not think that attacking a democracy would entail higher costs than attacking an autocracy. Thus, our data support some theories of the democratic peace while casting doubt on others. These findings help advance a debate of central importance for both theory and policy.


Lindsay Owens, PhD Candidate, Sociology, Stanford University

Febuary 13, 2012


Confidence in banks, financial institutions, and Wall Street, 1971–2011


ABSTRACT: Animosity toward banks, financial institutions, and Wall Street has been an important part of the public discourse since the bank bailouts of 2008. Indeed, Americans confidence in all three institutions has plummeted accordingly in the years since. This article places these declines in confidence in historical perspective. I examine trends in confidence in commercial banks, local banks, savings and loan associations, Wall Street, and Wall Street executives over the past 40 years, as well as perceptions of the moral and ethical practices of bankers and stock-brokers. I pay particular attention to how confidence shifts in response to both economic contractions and major scandals. My findings suggest that while changes in the business cycle have an effect on public opinion in this domain, it is the economic contractions that correspond to major scandals in the financial sector that motivate the largest shifts in confidence and provoke the most public outrage.


Philip Garland, Vice President of Methodology, Survey Monkey

February 27, 2012


“A New Way to Detect Unwanted Respondents”


ABSTRACT: Survey research has been plagued by satisficing since its inception. While it is agreed that the phenomenon occurs, the ability to detect precisely when it occurs has been elusive. This presentation focuses on a new way to identify a group of people that may be satisficing. The method relies on the application of Bayesian inference and “machine learning.” Several tests of the process using actual panel respondents from commercial sources have yielded substantial shifts in means to attitudinal and behavioral questions.


Bo MacInnis, Visiting Scholar, Communication, Stanford University

March 5, 2012


The Impacts of Fox News and Not-Fox Television News on Americans’ Judgments about Global Warming


ABSTRACT: Decades of research claimed “minimal effects” of news media on individual attitudes. We found the appearance of “minimal effects” due to news exposure on global warming attitudes and beliefs when using a traditional analytic approach that treats news content as homogenous. But when distinguishing Fox News on television from not-Fox television news using an instrumental variable approach to account for the endogeneity of media consumption by a nationally representative sample, we found that more exposure to Fox News raised skepticism about, while more exposure to not-Fox television news increased acceptance of, global warming. Impacts were large and increased with amount of exposure. Meditational analyses showed that, in line with the Attitude-Certainty-Evaluation model, more exposure to Fox News and not-Fox television news influenced perceived scientific consensus and trust in scientists, which in turn affected causes and consequences of judgments of the seriousness of national problems.


Stefaan Walgrave, Professor of Political Science, University of Antwerp in Belgium

March 12, 2012


Parties, Issues and Voters. Disentangling and Measuring Issue Ownership.


ABSTRACT: Issue ownership is increasingly used in electoral research to explain voting behavior. When voters think a party is the best to deal with an issue they care about, chances increase that they will vote for that party. Our claim is that the relationship between issue, parties and voters is more complex and that the ‘best at’ measurement of issue ownership (measuring ‘competence’ issue ownership) is not the best way to conceptualize and measure issue ownership (it is endogenous with the vote). We propose an alternative measure–called ‘associative’ issue ownership—and show that it performs better empirically while being analytically clearer. Other potential dimensions of issue ownership can be explored drawing on a variety of possible measures.



Mario Callegaro, Survey Research Scientist at Google, Inc.

April 2, 2012


Paradata in web surveys

ABSTRACT: Paradata are becoming more and more of interest in web surveys. At the same time, there are numerous kind of paradata that can be captured in an online survey. Researchers can be confused on what can be collected and how to use it. In this book chapter I provide a taxonomy of paradata types specific of web surveys. Foreach type of paradata one of more example of actual studies is presented and discussed. The goal is to give thereader a broad spectrum overview of paradata for online surveys, introduce actual usages, and inspire thereaders to collect, analyze and use paradata as another tool to improve survey quality.


Amber Boydstun, Professor of Political Science, and Alison Ledgerwood, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Davis

April 9, 2012


The Asymmetric Sequential Effects of Gain and Loss Media Frames on Economic Attitudes


ABSTRACT: Research has demonstrated the substantial impact that framing information in terms of loss or gain can have on attitudes and behavior across economic, political, psychological, and health domains.  However, little work has examined the important possibility that these framing effects might carry over beyond the specific context in which they are first encountered. This project explores the idea that such carry-over effects exist and that they may be asymmetrical: loss frames may be fundamentally “stickier” than gain frames in their ability to shape people’s thinking. While citizens can shift with relative ease from thinking of a policy issue in terms of gain to thinking of it in terms of loss, it may be much more difficult to shift from loss to gain. This idea holds theoretical implications across the social sciences, expanding our understanding of framing effects beyond a single-shot, context-dependent phenomenon to elucidate the asymmetric effects of sequentially encountered frames and the basic mechanisms that produce this pattern. Our findings will also shed light on consequential policy issues, including how the order in which citizens are exposed to gain and loss economic signals may affect public confidence and, thus, the economy itself.  Building on past work at the intersection of psychology and political science, this project investigates the relative “stickiness” of loss and gain frames. The project is designed to (a) illuminate basic principles regarding sequential framing effects and (b) shed light on the implications of this perspective for understanding the effects of sequential media framing on economic attitudes. We test our hypotheses using both controlled laboratory experiments (Study Set 1) and a large-scale empirical analysis of the effect of media framing of the economy on the public’s confidence in the economy (Study Set 2) in an interdisciplinary approach that marks theoretical and methodological contributions to multiple fields.


Stefaan Walgrave, Professor of Political Science, University of Antwerp in Belgium

April 16, 2012


The concept, measurement, origin and effects of issue ownership.


ABSTRACT: Issue ownership is the link in citizens’ mind between a party and an issue. In this talk I claim that extant work on issue ownership has not come up with a clear definition, that the classic measurement of issue ownership does not reflect its multidimensionality, that the origins of issue ownership are elusive, and that studies on the effect of issue ownership on voting are plagued by endogeneity problems. I suggest tentative solutions to these problems by offering a definition distinguishing between competence and associative issue ownership, by showing that associative issue ownership can be measured, that issue ownership is dynamic and changes after exposure to party messages, and that associative issue ownership affects voting.


Ana Villar, Research Fellow, Centre for Comparative Social Surveys, City University, London

April 23, 2012

The Face-to-Face Recruited Internet Survey Platform (FFRISP) is an internet survey panel that attempted to collect information that is representative of the general American population, while drawing on the advantages of working with such a panel, namely, obtaining data more quickly, more accurately, and less costly than using interviewer administered survey modes. The goal of the research described in this presentation is to examine the accuracy of the FFRISP by comparing survey estimates generated from it to those of the National Health and Nutrition examination supplement (NHANES) and from supplement surveys of the Current Population Survey (CPS). Survey data from the CPS and the NHANES have been used as benchmarks for behavioral data. Both surveys are conducted through interviewer-administered surveys on very large samples of individuals, with high response rate outcomes. The paper starts by comparing distributions of questions about health, physical activities, and mood disorders—-such as general self-perceived health, biking to work, or depression feelings—-across the NHANES and FFRISP surveys. It then compares distributions of identically worded items about shopping behavior across the CPS Food Security supplement and FFRISP surveys. The paper will then compare whether associations between variables are similar across these surveys. Similarities and differences between the findings generated with FFRISP data and those generated with CPS and NHANES data will be discussed.


Peter Van Aelst, Professor of Political Science, University of Antwerp, Belgium

April 30, 2012
Why election debates matter for campaign learning: Party positions and issue learning in the Dutch election campaign of 2010

ABSTRACT: Do campaigns matter? A growing body of literature is moving away from the minimal effects viewpoint and answers this question positively (Iyengar and Simon, 2000; Schmitt-Beck and Farrell, 2002; Claassen, 2011). This paper contributes to this tradition by focusing on what voters have learned about the positions of parties on concrete political issues. This is not only important because (issue) learning might indirect influence election outcomes (Lenz, 2009), but also from a broader democratic perspective (Delli Carpini and Keeter, 1996;Graber, 2004).





Rachel Stein, Graduate Student, Political Science

September 20, 2010


War and the Culture of Honor: Southern Support for the Use of Military Force*


ABSTRACT: Anecdotal evidence has long been used to suggest that Southerners have a greater enthusiasm for war than people from other parts of the country. Numerous studies have documented a Southern proclivity for violence as evidenced by higher homicide rates, higher rates of execution of death row prisoners, less strict laws regarding domestic violence and killing in self-defense, and greater public support for the death penalty, gun ownership, corporal punishment, and the use of violence by police to quell social unrest. However, the question of whether this Southern “culture of violence” extends into the realm of foreign policy has remained largely unexplored. In this paper, I develop the argument that individuals born and raised in the South tend to hold a particular set of core values regarding the use of force that dispose them to approve of violence in both the domestic and international contexts, and test it using available public opinion data, such as the General Social Survey. This study will not only bring empirical evidence to bear on an old conventional wisdom about Southern enthusiasm for war, but it will also demonstrate the value of an approach to the study of mass public support for war that breaks down the barrier between the study of domestic policy opinion and the study of foreign policy opinion. The core values that inform citizens’ approval of the use of force in domestic life do not cease to matter at the water’s edge.


Josh Pasek, Professor of Communication Studies, University of Michigan

September 27, 2010


Determinants of turnout and candidate choice in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election
ABSTRACT: The presence of an African-American candidate on the ballot running for President in 2008 raises the possibility that the election outcome might have been influenced by anti-African-American racism among voters. This paper uses data from the Associated Press-Yahoo! News-Stanford University survey to explore this possibility, using measures of both explicit racism (symbolic racism) and implicit racism (the Affect Misattribution Procedure). The parameters of multinomial logistic regression equations were estimated to test the hypotheses that racism might have behaved differently on election day than they would have had racism been eliminated. The findings suggest that racism’s impact on the election outcome could have been substantial, by causing (1) people who would otherwise have voted for Obama to vote for McCain, for a nonmajor party candidate, or not to vote at all, (2) people who would not have voted to vote for McCain instead, and (3) people who would have voted for a nonmajor party candidate to vote for McCain instead.


Rebecca Weiss, PhD Candidate, Communication

October 4, 2010


Optimally Aggregating Elicited Expertise: Applications of the Bayesian Truth Serum


ABSTRACT: Subjective decision-making is essential to creating good policies; when a quantitative analysis cannot be performed in a timely fashion, we rely upon the judgments of experts. These judgments tend to lack external criteria for objective truth. Thus, it is not easy to evaluate these judgments in a way that accurately reflects both true and truthful opinion. Simple measures like the averaged judgment, or majority rule, can be inadequate since such information does not account for variations in the quality of opinions. This may occur when some judgments are unpopular or unusual. The “Bayesian Truth Serum” or BTS (Prelec, 2004; Prelec and Weaver, 2007; Prelec and Seung, 2007) is a scoring method that identifies judgments that possess the highest probability of being objectively true, provided that the participants are rational Bayesian decision-makers and that a single right answer exists. Essentially, BTS is a method that optimally aggregates opinion, even when the correct answers are anonymously dispersed in a crowd. Additionally, BTS may also overcome cognitive biases, where respondents ignore personal opinions in favor of a socially desirable answer (Prelec and Weaver, 2007). In this talk, I will introduce BTS as a scoring algorithm for survey instruments. I will review a series of studies that were performed to test the ability of BTS in highlighting true and truthful answers, using chess as the domain of expertise. Additionally, I will briefly introduce an interactive survey employing BTS scoring, since BTS has not been thoroughly tested in iterative domains where respondents can view previous scores of the same respondents.”


Ali Valenzuela, Professor of American Politics, Princeton University

October 11, 2010


Integrating Institutions: Political Determinants of American Latino Identity


ABSTRACT: Over successive generations, most white ethnics shed their group identity and became politically indistinguishable from other whites. In contrast, among African Americans, increasing diversity has not led to a decline in racial group behavior. These divergent processes of social identification suggest distinct determinants of identity among American subgroups, yet research rarely inquires about the institutional and political sources of group identification. This paper explores the determinants of linked fate, pan-ethnic, American and partisan identification among U.S. Latinos and tests the influence of institutions—electoral context, religious observance, media exposure and demographic patterns—on such identification. The point of departure, that social identities are malleable, is consistent with findings in social psychology and comparative politics that show identities can be manipulated to vary in their salience under different conditions. Whether and how this process occurs for Latinos in American politics has not been studied empirically. I review the literatures in American and comparative politics on ethnic identity formation and social context, and generate a social transmission theory of Latino identity choice. I test these ideas using data from the 2006 Latino National Survey (LNS), a representative study of more than 8,600 Latinos, and exploit respondent county information to create a new dataset with survey responses, Census population estimates, county electoral data and measures of news media coverage of the 2006 immigrant protest marches. Using these comprehensive data, I estimate models of social identification among Latinos in the U.S. I find that electoral competition is a key variable in processes of Latino identification, dramatically mediating the influence of demographic context, religious observance and media exposure on Latino identification. This supports a view of identity choice processes contingent on elite mobilization and political information flow to individual Latinos. A focus on electoral context helps clarify the role of elite actors and social influence on processes of politicized Latino identification with pan-ethnic, American or partisan categories. These and other findings situate Latinos within the larger panoply of racial and ethnic groups in American politics.


Tess Heintz, Researcher, GfK

October 18, 2010


The Time Taken to Earn a Bachelor’s Degree: Are Students Taking Longer Now Than They Have in the Past?


ABSTRACT: We use data from the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) to explore whether the time it took students to earn their bachelor’s degrees increased over the time period 1925 to 2004. We found that the time to degree did increase over this time period with students taking about one and a half weeks to two and a half weeks longer per year, depending on the model used. African American students had a time to degree that was loger than that of White students and which increased over time at a higher rate. We included various robustness tests to account for definitions of time to degree, the overlapping data structure of the SIPP and for measurement error that may occur because of our reliance on respondents having to recall their past event of graduation.


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

November 1, 2010


Psychological interventions in education: Inquiry at the intersection of psychological theory and educational policy.


ABSTRACT: In the past decade, the lion’s share of attention and resources in education research have been shifted toward large-scale evaluations of structural changes to the educational environment using randomized controlled trials. Yet increasingly these studies have yielded disappointing or null effects, even when programs were well-implemented. When social scientists interpret such findings, it is tempting to conclude either that interventions are too small in scope (even when they are large in sample size) to have an effect beyond the term of the intervention, or that the behavior under investigation is not changeable. In this talk I discuss psychological interventions as a supplementary approach to traditional educational reform. I propose that sustained changes in educationally-relevant behavior can be made, and that relatively brief and time-limited psychological messages can be used to do so. I examine this in the context of interventions to reduce aggression and depression in high schools. In various laboratory studies I develop a new theory of the causes of reactions to victimization in school, and using field experiments I test the effectiveness of this theory. Implications for basic theories of aggression and of educational research will be discussed.


Josh Pasek, Professor of Communication Studies, University of Michigan

November 29, 2010


Bias in the Voting Booth: The Case of Ballot Order


ABSTRACT: It’s not enough to get voters to the polls. Democracy also requires that citizens make “informed” decisions in the voting booth. Despite millions of dollars spent on campaigns, a sizable number of people remain truly undecided when they must choose among candidates. And their decisions influence elections. The heuristics undecided voters use range from picking candidates based on gender, to choosing whichever candidate has the coolest last name. One particularly pernicious cue that voters use is the order of candidates’ names on the ballot. Not all heuristics are created equal. Ballot order effects introduce a systematic and arbitrary bias into election results. This talk presents the most comprehensive analysis of ballot order effects to date – showing that the order of candidate names on the ballot induces a persistent bias that holds for all types of candidates, across varying contests in different states, and using different statistical methods. After exploring variation in ballot order effects across electoral contexts, I nest this research into a broader framework for examining how sources of information feed into the political decision-making process.



Mario Callegaro, Survey Research Scientist at Google, Inc.

January 10, 2011


A meta-analysis of experiments manipulating progress indicators in online surveys


ABSTRACT: The use of progress bars seems to be standard in many online surveys; researchers hope that using a progress bar helps increasing response rates by reducing drop-off rates. However, there is no clear consensus in the literature regarding its effect on survey drop-off rates. In this meta-analysis we analyzed so far 20+ randomized experiments comparing drop-off rates of an experimental group who completed an online survey where a progress bar was shown, to drop-off rates of a control group to whom the progress bar was not shown. In all the studies drop-offs were defined as any respondent who did not fully complete the survey. This is different than the AAPOR definition of partial interview and break-off. For this reason we use the term drop-off to avoid confusions. Three types of bars were analyzed: a) constant, b) fast-first-then-slow, and c) slow-first-then-fast. Random effects analysis was used to compute odds ratios (OR) for each study. The three authors coded the majority of studies independently and then compared the codes to come to a final agreement. Major references databases and grey literature depository were scouted using as keywords “progress bar”, “progress indicators”, “progress feedback” and other variations. We also searched conference programs and proceedings of market and survey research conferences. We excluded studies where no progress bar was shown and a couple of older studies where the progress bar took considerably longer time to load on dial-up connection and no mechanics was in place to compensate. We developed a coding scheme that captured all the possible aspects of progress indicators including style (e.g. bar or percent), position, color and other characteristics. In the presentation we will show the preliminary results of our analysis. We are still awaiting to get some data from two different authors. As a background reading we attach the latest paper published on the effect of the progress bar in online surveys.


Martha Crenshaw, Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

January 24, 2011


The Debate over ‘New’ vs. ‘Old’ Terrorism


ABSTRACT: After the attacks of September 11, 2001, many policy makers, journalists, consultants, and scholars were convinced that the world was confronting a “new” terrorism unlike the terrorism of the past. Thus the US government and policy elites were blamed for not recognizing the danger of the “new” terrorism in the 1990s and therefore failing to prevent the disaster of September 11. From this perspective, knowledge of the “old” or traditional terrorism is irrelevant at best, and obsolete and anachronistic, even harmful, at worst. Those who believe in a “new” terrorism think that the old paradigms should be discarded and replaced with a new understanding.


Kyle Dropp, PhD Candidate, Political Science and Zac Peskowitz, Graduate Student, Economics

January 31, 2011


Electoral Security and the Provision of Constituency Service


ABSTRACT: We examine the relationship between legislators’ electoral environment and the provision of constituency service in the Texas state legislature. Using fictitious constituent requests soliciting information on voter registration and a government program, we analyze the relationship between legislators’ previous vote share and the probability of legislator response. To account for the possible simultaneity of constituency service and election results, we employ an instrumental variables approach. In contrast with previous empirical studies, we find that legislators’ response rates to constituent requests decreases in their electoral security across a wide range of model specifications that control for legislator-specific characteristics. We also investigate how electoral security affects legislators’ provision of legislative public goods and find some suggestive evidence that electoral security increases the number of bills legislators author, but has little effect on other measures of legislative production.


Benoit Monin, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior, Stanford University Graduate School of Business

February 7, 2011


Self-Image in Everyday Morality


Moral psychology provides a compelling analysis of how individuals determine right from wrong, either when deciding what ought to be done in hypothetical dilemmas, or when reacting to shocking moral violations (see Monin, Pizarro, & Beer, 2007). I argue that these findings can be complemented by considering the role of self-image in everyday morality. An individual who feels that she has already proven that she is a good person, for example, feels less pressure to do the right thing (moral credentials, Monin & Miller, 2001). The motivation to protect a positive self-image and avoid moral suspicion can have dramatic consequences, as when individuals deny exposure to a disease for fear that it would imply that they engaged in unsafe sex (Young, Nussbaum, & Monin, 2007).

I demonstrate the role of protecting the self by showing how other people’s choices can be threatening. For example, the morally admirable behavior of others can paradoxically be resented if it threatens observers’ own sense of moral adequacy (Monin, 2007): We may not appreciate moral behavior when it implies that we should have done a little more, and this may lead to resentment against moral rebels (Monin, Sawyer, & Marquez, 2008) and to do-gooder derogation (e.g., of vegetarians). On the other hand, moralization can serve to protect against non-moral threats to the self: When someone else’s choice make us feel stupid about our own, we can justify it by deciding that we were just being more moral (Jordan & Monin, 2008 — and see the story in Newsweek).


Robb Willer, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Psychology, University of California, Berkeley

February 14, 2011


Apocalypse Soon? Dire Messages Reduce Belief in Global Warming by Contradicting Just-World Beliefs


ABSTRACT: Though scientific evidence for the existence of global warming continues to mount, in the United States and other countries belief in global warming has stagnated or even decreased in recent years. One possible explanation for this pattern is that information about the potentially dire consequences of global warming threatens deeply held beliefs that the world is just, orderly, and stable. Individuals overcome this threat by denying or discounting the existence of global warming, and this process ultimately results in decreased willingness to counteract climate change. Two experiments provide support for this explanation of the dynamics of belief in global warming, suggesting that less dire messaging could be more effective for promoting public
understanding of climate-change research.


LinChiat Chang, Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, Data Analytics and Survey Research Methodology

February 28, 2011


The Impact of Healthcare Utilization on Satisfaction with Health Insurance Plans


ABSTRACT: This paper explores the impact of healthcare utilization on perceived quality of health insurance plans, using data from a landline- cellphone bilingual (English/Spanish) telephone survey conducted in November 2009 with a nationally representative probability sample of 1,502 adults. Although over 70% of adults rated the quality of their private plans as “good” or “excellent”, those who had received more inpatient care over the past 5 years gave significantly lower quality ratings, as did people who reported poorer state of health. In contrast, the negative relationship between healthcare utilization and satisfaction with insurance plans did not emerge among Medicare or Medicaid recipients, and was reversed among beneficiaries of military health plans. Further analyses revealed that the negative impact of inpatient care utilization on satisfaction with private insurance was more pronounced among the less empowered segments of the population – namely, ethnic minorities, women, and people in lower income groups. In contrast, the amount of outpatient care over the past 5 years was associated with higher quality ratings for private health plans only among White Americans and people in higher income groups. The impact of healthcare utilization on perceived quality of private health plans was mediated by whether the plans had refused to pay for healthcare services in the past. Taken together, these results suggest that one reason the majority of Americans are contented with their private health insurance plans is because they have not yet had to push the boundaries of their coverage, whereas the minority of Americans who have had to cope with substantial healthcare utilization, particularly utilization of medical services in hospitals, are not quite as satisfied with their private plans.


Cecilia Mo, PhD Candidate, Political Economics, Stanford University

March 7, 2011

Perceived Relative Poverty and Risk: An Aspiration-Based Model of Vulnerability

ABSTRACT: Vulnerability to being trafficked often involves a willingness to acquiesce to danger- ous economic opportunities (e.g., having one’s child migrate far away from home without his/her family for work). In this research project, my claim is the following: as opposed to absolute poverty, an increased salience in relative deprivation can lead individuals to be more risk-seeking, putting themselves and their children at risk for modern forms of slavery. I hypothesize that the mechanism by which this occurs is as follows. Informa- tion regarding others’ relative wealth shifts an individuals’ aspiration level or reference point such that individuals reference points are no longer their status quo endowment. Rather their aspiration or reference point is the higher endowment held by others within their cognitive window – those in their socio-economic and spatial neighborhood. It is then possible for expected utility from economic opportunities to be below one’s reference point. One’s perceived relative deprivation can then place a person in the domain of bad (below-aspirations) payoffs, and drawing on prospect theory, this individual would be more likely to exhibit risk-seeking behavior as a result. Using a controlled survey experiment conducted in trafficking-prone areas of Nepal with a subject pool representing the target population, I find that perceived relative poverty, a sense that one’s wealth falls below some salient point of reference, induces more risk-seeking behavior with regards to eco- nomic opportunities. Additionally, using nationally-representative district-level data from Nepal on inequality and trafficking incidence, I find suggestive evidence that perceived relative poverty explains variation in vulnerability.


Aila M. Matanock, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Stanford University

March 28, 2011


A Tangled Web: Measuring and Explaining Popular Support for Armed Groups in Colombia.


ABSTRACT: How much popular support do armed groups in a situation of civil conflict have? Armed groups likely require some level of external social support to survive and thrive, but we have little idea of how much they have, who supports them, and how much support they need. Directly measuring social support for terrorist is problematic because individuals likely falsify their preferences to some extent due to fear of coercion or social sanctioning. Using experimental survey techniques allows us to overcome some of these fears to some extent. In Colombia, we employ direct and experimental questions to explore the levels of social support that individuals profess for various armed actors — insurgents, paramilitaries, the military — and their tactics. The evidence in the paper comes from 1,900 face-to-face interviews conducted in May 2010 that constitute a nationally representative sample and an oversample of conflicted regions. We find significant differences between responses to direct questions compared to list experiment, which provide less obtrusive mechanisms for asking about support.


Stephen Kosslyn, Director of CASBS

April 3, 2011


Effective PowerPoint: Common Errors and How to Avoid Them


ABSTRACT: PowerPoint is ubiquitous, and is used in a wide variety of contexts. We can characterize these contexts with a dimension, anchored on one pole by “conveying information” and on the other pole by “convincing the audience.” But most presentations fail to accomplish either sort of goal; it is commonplace to hear of “Death by PowerPoint,” and without question many such presentations are bad. But why are they bad? To blame the medium for the problem is like blaming a word processing program for a bad essay; the problem is not in the computer program, but in how it is used. This talk focuses on 12 common errors, and shows that they occur because simple psychological principles have not been respected. These errors occur surprisingly frequently, as the results of a study of a stratified sample of PowerPoint presentations demonstrates. The key to using PowerPoint to give clear and compelling presentations is to understand that your audience is composed of human beings, and we humans
have specific kinds of minds. A presentation is for people, not Martians or computers endowed with artificial intelligence. As humans, our minds have certain strengths and certain weaknesses. Clear and compelling presentations play to the cognitive strengths of the audience and avoid falling prey to their weaknesses.



Laura Stoker, Director of Graduate Affairs, Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

April 11, 2011


Caught in the Draft: The Effects of Vietnam Draft Lottery Status on Political Attitudes


ABSTRACT: The 1969 Vietnam draft lottery assigned numbers to birth dates, determining which young men would be called to fight in Vietnam. We exploit this natural experiment to examine how draft vulnerability influenced political attitudes. Data are from the Political Socialization Panel Study, which surveyed high school seniors from the Class of 1965 before and after the national draft lottery was instituted. Males holding low lottery numbers became more anti-war, more liberal, and more Democratic in their voting compared to those whose high numbers protected them from the draft. They were also more likely than those with safe numbers to abandon the party identification they had held as teenagers.Trace effects are found in re-interviews from the 1990s. Draft number effects exceed those for pre-adult party identification and are not mediated by military service. The results show how profoundly political attitudes can be transformed when public policies directly impact citizens’ lives.

Curtiss Cobb, Director of Survey Methodology, Knowledge Networks

Monday, April 18, 2011


Optimizing the Design of a Question Intended to Measure Expected Starting Salary


ABSTRACT: Past research suggests that when answers can be either numeric or categorical, open-ended questions yield more accurate measurements than closed-ended questions. However, many researchers prefer to ask closed questions to measure income on the assumption that an open question might be perceived to be intrusive and might ask for more precision than respondents can provide. This paper reports an experimental comparison of question formats in terms of item non-response, unit non-response, and the distribution of answers. The optimal question format began by asking an open question; respondents who declined to answer the open question were then asked a closed question. In comparison to an open question alone or a closed question alone, the combination approach led to the lowest unit and item nonresponse rates and acquired data with maximum refinement without distorting the distribution of answers. This study therefore suggests that the best measurement approach for collecting unbounded numeric answers might be the use of an open/closed pair of questions.


Sam Larson, Senior Undergraduate, Public Policy, Stanford University

Measuring Americans‘ Issue Priorities: A New Version of the Most Important Problem Question Reveals More Concern About Global Warming and the Environment.

ABSTRACT: For decades, numerous surveys have asked Americans the ―Most Important Problem (MIP) question: What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today? Global warming and the environment have rarely been cited by more than a tiny number of respondents in these surveys in recent years, which might seem to suggest that these have not been the most important issues to Americans.

This paper explores the possibility that an additional method of assessing the public‘s priorities might support a different conclusion. Three experiments embedded in national surveys (two done via the Internet, the other done by telephone) show that when asked the traditional MIP question, respondents rarely mentioned global warming or the environment, but when other respondents were asked to identify the most serious problem that will face the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it, global warming and the environment were the most frequently mentioned problems. Furthermore, a large majority of Americans indicated that they wanted the federal government to devote substantial effort to combating problems that the world will face in the future if nothing is done to stop them. Thus, future surveys might include both versions of the MIP question to more fully document Americans‘ priorities.


Yphtach Lelkes, PhD Candidate, Communication, Stanford University

Monday, April 25, 2011


Measuring perceptions of probabilities: Verbal or numerical response options?


ABSTRACT: Researchers across disciplines often attempt to measure respondents’ perceptions of probabilities. For example, respondents may be asked to estimate the likelihood that they will they will vote in an upcoming election, or to estimate the percent chance that they will lose their job in the next year. However, the measurement of probability questions has been inconsistent: Participants are sometimes asked to respond using verbal response options, such as, “very likely” and “very unlikely,” and other times asked to respond using numerical response options, such as “0%” or “100%.” Since data quality is contingent on the validity of the measures, guidelines are needed so that researchers write the best possible question to gauge perceptions of probabilities. As a step in that direction, the concurrent validity of a question that utilized verbal response options was compared to that of the same question framed in numerical form. Respondents (N=1203) were asked, as part of the 1998 ANES pilot study, to estimate their perceived probability of voting in upcoming elections and were randomly assigned to receive the question and response either in verbal or numerical form. The association between question form and a number of correlates of vote turnout were compared between groups. In line with our predictions, the association between criterion variables and the numerical form of the question was consistently stronger than that of the verbal form of the question. Surprisingly, this effect was not stronger among the more educated, whom we expected to be more apt at using percentages, than the lower educated.


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

Does Mentioning ―Some People and Other People In An Attitude Question Improve Measurement Quality?

ABSTRACT: Researchers often measure attitudes and beliefs using ―some/other questions “Some people think that … but other people think that…”) instead of asking simpler ―direct questions. This is done to, presumably, decrease social desirability or acquiescence response bias by communicating that either response is normative. The present study tested the alternative hypothesis that implicitly telling respondents that the public‘s opinion is split 50/50 on the issue would be confusing for some respondents, thus reducing the quality of their data. Meta-analyses of thirteen original experiments embedded in national surveys of adults provided no evidence that the some/other form improves response validity. Direct questions yielded more valid reports than did some/other questions when using a conversationally natural response order (which was found to be more valid than the conversationally unnatural response order). Because some/other questions produce less valid measurements and involve more words than direct questions – so they involve more cognitive burden for respondents – the direct form using a conversationally conventional response order seems preferable.


LinChiat Chang, Visiting Scholar at Stanford University, Data Analytics and Survey Research Methodology

Monday, May 02, 2011


The Impact of Healthcare Utilization on Satisfaction with Health Insurance Plans.


ABSTRACT: This paper explores the impact of healthcare utilization on perceived quality of health insurance plans, using data from a landline-cellphone bilingual (English/Spanish) telephone survey conducted in November 2009 with a nationally-representative probability sample of 1,502 adults. Although 72% of adults rated the quality of their private plans as “good” or “excellent”, those who had received more inpatient care over the past 5 years gave significantly lower quality ratings, as did people who reported poorer state of health. In contrast, the negative relationship between healthcare utilization and satisfaction with insurance plans did not emerge among Medicare or Medicaid recipients, and was reversed among beneficiaries of military health plans.

Further analyses revealed that the negative impact of inpatient care utilization on satisfaction with private insurance was more pronounced among the less empowered segments of the population – namely, ethnic minorities, women, and people in lower income groups. In contrast, the amount of outpatient care over the past 5 years was associated with higher quality ratings for private health plans only among White Americans and people in higher income groups. The impact of healthcare utilization on perceived quality of private health plans was mediated by whether the plans had refused to pay for healthcare services in the past.

Taken together, these results suggest that one reason the majority of Americans are contented with their private health insurance plans is because they have not yet had to push the boundaries of their coverage, whereas the minority of Americans who have had to cope with substantial healthcare utilization, particularly utilization of medical services in hospitals, are not quite as satisfied with their private plans.


Josh Pasek, Professor of Communication Studies, University of Michigan

Measuring Intent to Participate and Participation in the 2010 Census and Their Correlates and Trends: Comparisons of RDD Telephone and Non-probability Sample Internet Survey Data.

ABSTRACT: Do Internet surveys of non-probability samples yield conclusions similar to those produced by RDD telephone surveys with regard to distributions of variables, relations between variables, and trends over time? This study explored whether probability sample telephone survey data and data from nonprobability sample Internet surveys yielded similar results regarding intent to complete the 2010 Census form and actual completion of the form, the correlates of these variables, and changes in these variables and their correlates over time. Using data collected between January and April, 2010, we found that the telephone samples were more demographically representative of the nation’s population than were the Internet samples. Furthermore, the distributions of opinions and behaviors were often significantly and substantially different across the two data streams, as were relations between the variables and changes over time in the variables. Thus, research conclusions would often be different depending on which data stream was used. Because the telephone data collection methodology rests on well-established theory of probability sampling and produced the most demographically representative samples, the substantive results yielded by these data may also be more accurate than the substantive results generated with the non-probability sample Internet data.


Rebecca Weiss, PhD Candidate, Communication

Monday, May 09, 2011


More comparisons of Probability and Non-Probability Sample Internet Surveys: The Dutch NOPVO Study.


ABSTRACT: Measurement of public perception via survey methods is an expensive endeavor. This is partially due to the cost of probability sampling in recruiting survey respondents. As a result, non-probability sampling has grown in popularity in survey research. While there appear to be some benefits to Internet-based survey methods such as easier administration of survey questionnaires, reduced social desirability bias and reduced survey satisficing, the relative accuracy of non-probability samples has recently been shown to be less reliable than probability samples (Yeager et al., 2009). However, if non-probability samples can be weighted or otherwise analyzed in ways that yield representative results, the merging of Internet data collection and non-probability samples may still be a viable approach to yielding accurate survey measurements.

In this paper, we will present an analysis of non-probability and probability sampling survey data collected in the Netherlands. The Dutch Online Panel Comparison Study (NOPVO) involved 19 Internet survey companies collecting data from non-probability samples of the Dutch population using the same questionnaire, which asked questions on demographic and non-demographic topics. This paper covers a comparison between the accuracy of these companies and probability samples performed at the same time, using benchmarks from the Dutch Census to determine accuracy. The results of this analysis will further illuminate the relationship between accuracy and web-based survey methods, particularly with respect to the viability of weighting methods and non-probability sampling.

Bo MacInnis, Visiting Scholar, Communication, Stanford University

Complete Satisficing in Surveys: An Exploratory Investigation.

ABSTRACT: Satisficing, cognitive compromise in optimally responding to survey questions, has remained a public opinion research topic with enduring interests since its conceptualization by Simon (1957) and elaborate theorization by Krosnick (1991). The research on satisficing has centered around two notions of satisficing—weak satisficing and strong satisficing—based on the absence of or compromise in the four stages in optimized response as delineated in Tourangeau and Rasinski (1988): fully interpret the meaning of each question, search memory for relevant information, process and integrate retrieved information into summary judgment, and report judgment. Weak satisficing and strong satisficing are defined as the second and third stages of the response process being incomplete and/or biased, and skipped altogether, respectively. In this study, we propose a new and stronger form of satisficing, ―complete satisficing, where the first step of fully interpreting the question is compromised or omitted. We first provide an innovative method to devise questions that allow the detection of complete satisficing, proposing that such questions should possess the following design characteristics: a) questions are devoid of the need of information retrieval and integration, b) questions are free of content domains requiring no domain-specific knowledge or interests in question interpretation, c) questions for which there are correct answers and the selection of the correct answer solely depends on the question comprehension, and d) questions are of relatively low cognitive demand, bearing much resemblance to instructions. Second, we assess the statistical properties of questions in which complete satisficing might be manifested, including reliability and validity tests. Third, we investigate the potential instigators of complete satisficing, and its relationships to common representations of weak and strong satisficing in a variety of survey questions. Finally, the potential impact of complete satisficing on data quality and implications for better survey designs are discussed.


Mike Dennis, Executive Vice President, Knowledge Networks

May 16, 2011

Using Ancillary Data Available for Address-Based Sampling to Measure Self-Selection Bias

ABSTRACT: A feature of address-based sampling (ABS) is versatility of the sample frame where many ancillary data can be appended to an address. Commercial databases, e.g., Experian, infoUSA, Acxiom are used to append observed and modeled information at various levels of aggregation. This enables researchers to develop more efficient sample designs and broaden analytical possibilities with expanded sets of covariates. More relevant to the worskshop is the use of these ancillary data to measure self-selection bias, a form of nonresponse bias. Relying on surveys and KnowledgePanel® recruitment samples that employ ABS, the author will present results of comparisons between an array of ancillary data and corresponding observed values collected directly from the responding households. The ancillary data are used to demonstrate the ability to analyze non-response bias by comparing the ancillary data available for the invited sample and the subset of recruited study participants.




Josh Pasek, Ph.D. student in Communication, Stanford University

September 29, 2009


Getting from Knowledge to Participation: The Role of Campaign-Relevant Information


ABSTRACT: Normative democratic theory praises the informed participant. Knowing about the election at hand should presumably help individuals make the best possible decision about who to vote for. Indeed, proponents of rational choice models for voter turnout have emphasized the challenge of information gathering as a costly impediment to participation. We explore the role of campaign-relevant information in large national election studies of the United States in 2004 and New Zealand in 1996 to find that information has at most a minimal influence on turnout. Further, we conducted an experiment during the 2006 Florida Primary election where we provided information about candidate issue positions in a low-information environment. Individuals exposed to issue-position information were more knowledgeable following the election, but were not more likely to have voted. The results suggest that models of electoral participation that rely on campaign information, including most current rational choice theories of participation, need to be significantly revised.


Laurel Harbridge, Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, Stanford University

September 29, 2009


Bipartisanship in a Polarized Congress


ABSTRACT: Both academic and journalist discussions of Congressional polarization make the assumption that polarization has increased at the expense of bipartisanship. Using standard roll call analysis, this assumption is borne out; there is a one-to-one mapping between increased polarization and decreased bipartisanship. However, these findings are misleading for two reasons. First, the bills that face roll call votes are not a random sample of legislation. Second, the likelihood that bipartisanship legislation faces a roll call vote has changed over time. When an original measure of bipartisanship, bill cosponsorship, is used I find a much weaker relationship between polarization and bipartisanship. Consistent with electorally driven legislative behavior, I find that bipartisanship has persisted despite increases in polarization, particularly in policy areas that do not define the party brand name.


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

September 29, 2009


The impact of data collection mode and sampling method on survey findings

ABSTRACT: Volunteer internet panels can provide quick data at a low cost, making them more convenient for researchers in marketing and the social sciences than the slower and costlier random digit dialing (RDD) full-probability samples. Further, tests have shown that data collected over the internet vs. the phone can reduce some response biases that affect respondents who rarely take surveys or who have low cognitive skills. But can opt-in internet panel data be trusted?
Using data from identical surveys administered by 9 different vendors (2 probability, 7 internet) to 10,000 american adults, this talk addresses the validity of probability and non-probability data for three different types of research questions. First, it addresses whether the probability and non-probability samples differ on demographic benchmarks and on other attitude and behavior questions. Non-probability samples differ significantly more than the probability samples from benchmarks. Second, we address whether non-probability samples produce similar correlations, and find that about half of the time the internet panels estimate vastly different regression coefficients than the RDD samples. Third, it addresses whether effects of experimental manipulations differ across the samples, and finds that some experimental effects replicate, but others don’t.


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

October 20, 2009


Does Mentioning “Some People” and “Other People”in an Attitude Question Improve Measurement Quality?


ABSTRACT: When measuring attitudes with questions that offer dichotomous, mutually exclusive response options, researchers sometimes ask “some/other” questions (which present the response options using stems like “some people think that … but other people believe that…”), instead of asking simpler “direct” questions (which do not couch the options in terms of others’ opinions). Two studies reported here investigated whether the some/other form yields more valid attitude reports, as some researchers have claimed, and the posited psychological mechanism of this difference. The first experiment involved face-to-face and telephone interviewing of a representative national sample of American adults (N= 1,509) and showed that the some/other question form yielded responses with lower concurrent validity. The second experiment entailed data collection via the Internet from a national panel of American adults (N= 1,002). It showed that the some/other form reduced validity, reduced respondents’ certainty about their opinions, and led respondents to think that the population’s beliefs are more evenly split. These two studies suggest that in order to maximize data quality and minimize manipulation of respondents, the direct question form is preferable.


Wendy Gross, Ph.D. student in Political Science, Stanford University

November 3, 2009


The Moderation of Issue Congruence by Issue Importance


ABSTRACT: The idealized version of democracy posits that citizens vote for candidates whose issue positions are close to their own. In this manner, citizens can improve the chances that government outcomes are to their liking. However, social psychological theories and political science theories alike contend that voters do not judge candidates on all issues equally. Rather, they weigh their overall evaluations of candidates by the personal importance that they attach to particular issues. Using data from the American National Election Studies from 1968 to 2004, this research explores the moderating effect of issue importance on issue agreement in forming overall evaluations of political candidates.


Gaurav Sood, Ph.D. candidate in Communication, Stanford University

November 10, 2009


Amusing ourselves to death?: Analyzing the effect of humor on political attitudes.


ABSTRACT: In recent years, televised political satire has gained new salience in American popular culture – riding on success of shows like ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’. Using data from a web based survey experiment, we explored the impact of this newly salient form of news delivery on viewers’ political attitudes and behavioral intentions. Respondents watched either a news story from “The Daily Show”, a comparable story from CNN, or no story, and then answered questions. In the full sample, exposure to the Daily Show clip seemed to have little impact on people’s thinking. But when we explored the impact of the manipulations separately among people who have chosen to watch the Daily Show and those who have not, we found striking and interesting effects, often in opposite directions. Thus, to understand the impact that the news media have on readers and viewers requires attention to the self-selection process that determines exposure to the stimulus outside the research setting.


Rose McDermott, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Santa Barbara

November 17, 2009


Sex Differences in Hostile Communications in a Crisis Simulation Game.


ABSTRACT: We conducted an experiment testing the impact of the content of communications on the propensity for aggression in a simulated crisis game. In addition, we investigated the relationship between previous military spending and the outbreak of hostility. Finally, we examined whether the structure of the incentives might alter a player’s strategy. Our sample included male and female subjects who participated in an experimental crisis simulation game in one of three types of dyads: male-male,
female-female, or male-female. In six rounds of play, subjects made procurement decisions, took an action in response to the conflict, and wrote messages to their adversary. The study found significant effects for condition, lagged declared military spending and lagged communication.


Josh Pasek, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication, Stanford University

November 17, 2009


Maligned Youth? How Exit Polls Systematically Misrepresent Youth Turnout


ABSTRACT: Data from the 2008 Exit Polls were used to demonstrate that voter turnout among young people rose slightly from 2004, but that young people were still sorely underrepresented. Indeed, the reports suggested that youth comprised only 18% of the electorate while accounting for over 21% of the voting eligible population. While this fit historical trends in electoral participation, it appeared to belie the popular notion that young people were enthusiastic in anticipation of the election. Yet the exit-polling sampling method is inherently limited by its inability to capture early and absentee voting. While the national exit polls conducted by Edison-Mitofsky use alternative methods to account for these differences, the biases introduced may be rather large. By comparing states with early voting and no-excuse absentee voting to those that only allow absentee voting with an excuse, I find that the supplemental data was highly skewed, leading to inconsistent conclusions about youth turnout. Accounting for this bias, youth voting numbers appear to reach population proportions. A number of alternative explanations could also address these findings. I explore the possibilities that young interviewers may be selecting young interviewees for the exit poll, that overall voting may be higher in early vote states thereby diminishing the youth portion of the electorate, and that differences between the states may explain this discrepancy (e.g. swing state, southern, etc.). Election results, 2004 data, and data from the current population survey are used to disentangle these possibilities. We find that single-mode studies do not vary meaningfully across states, suggesting that the problem lies with the exit poll. Indeed, a similar trend is observed in data from 2004.



Ari Malka, Ph.D., Affiliate Researcher at the Stanford University Institute for Research in the Social Sciences

Jan. 12, 2009


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 treated theoretically as a marker of this dimension. This research evaluates the hypothesis that conservative-liberal self-label partly represents a tendency to follow political cues when forming stances on newly politicized issues. In Study 1, conservative-liberal self-label measured in 2000 had an independent prospective effect on support for invading Iraq in 2002 and support for the Iraq War in 2004, controlling for substantive ideology, party identification, and demographics. In Study 2, conservative- and liberal-identifiers adopted stances on farm subsidy policy, and internalized beliefs in support of those stances, based on randomly varied messages about which ideological group supports which stance. Discussion focuses on the dynamic relations among political discourse, ideological and partisan identity, and substantive political attitudes over time.


Andrew Healy, Assistant Professor, Economics, Loyola Marymount University

Jan. 26, 2009


Euphoria and Retrospective Voting: The Impact of College Football Outcomes and Cloud Cover on Incumbent Reelection


ABSTRACT: While previous studies generally presume that voters engage in retrospective voting to evaluate an incumbent’s performance, another possibility is that voters are simply inclined to support the status quo when they feel personally satisfied or happy. We leverage a set of natural experiments to explore the extent to which personal happiness affects voting behavior. To do this, we examine events that government has nothing to do with and for which no government response would be expected: the outcome for the local college football team on the weekend before Election Day. We collected data on pre-election football scores between 1964 and the present, as well as local election returns for presidential, gubernatorial, and senatorial elections. We find that a win for the local college football team in the weekend before the election can lead the incumbent to receive more than three additional percentage points in the election. We also have some preliminary evidence that the incumbent party does better in gubernatorial elections when there is less cloud cover on Election Day, a phenomenon that affects voter happiness but to which no government would be expected to respond. Together, our results show that voters’ choices depend significantly on events that affect their personal level of happiness even when those events are unrelated to government activity.


Josh Pasek, Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

Feb. 2, 2009


A Return to Quota Sampling? Reconciling Trends Over Time in Probability Telephone and Non-Probability Internet Surveys Through Demographic Weighting


ABSTRACT: Non-probability Internet samples have emerged as a widespread, rapid, and inexpensive way to collect public opinion data. Yet unlike traditional survey methods, the individuals recruited for Internet surveys are not representative of the public. Proponents of Internet samples have suggested that statistical corrections can be employed to mitigate the challenges posed by non-probability samples and thus provide leverage for accurate inferences. In this study, we compared population marginals and trends over time in one non-probability Internet survey and one RDD telephone sample. Looking at 17 variables measured over 17 weeks in both datasets, we found that demographic weighting did not consistently eliminate the differences between the two surveys for either type of inference. The inconsistent pattern of results alludes to the problems researchers experienced with quota sampling in the 1930’s and 1940’s. We discuss the implications of these inconsistent results and what they portend for the future of Internet-based sampling.


Cecilia Mo, Ph.D. Candidate, Political Economics, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Mike Weiksner, Ph.D. Candidate, Communication, Stanford University

February 9, 2009


The Sexist Vote: Results from Field and Lab Election Experiment


ABSTRACT: Why are some voters more likely to choose less qualified male candidates over more qualified female candidates, when virtually no voters will openly admit to sexist attitudes or behaviors? For the first time, we embed innovative but controversial “implicit” and “symbolic” sexism measures within a behavioral vote choice experiment. These measures purport to capture uncontrollable bias (in the case of implicit measures) or unconscious bias (in the case of symbolic measurements), but their predictive validity for important political behaviors like vote choice has yet to be established. First, we find evidence that implicit and symbolic sexism does indeed predict sexist voting suggesting that the electoral process may not be completely gender-neutral. After controlling for the degree to which candidates differ in qualifications, we find that voters who are more biased against women, as shown by both types of bias measures, are less likely to vote for female candidates. Gender expectations and stereotypes exist, are measurable, and can affect the evaluations of women candidates. Second, we find that as the difference between the quality of a female and male candidate increases, the effect of gender bias, as measured by the “Implicit Association Test,” decreases. In other words, there is suggestive evidence that one’s unconscious preference against female candidates can be attenuated by added qualification. Finally, we find preliminary evidence that voters have more favorable evaluations of women candidates who run in campaigns that highlight “female” issues and much lower evaluations of women who run in more “male” issue environments, showing that bias and attenuation responds differently depending on election environment. Our findings have implications for assessing how voters respond to the qualifications of women candidates, and conclude that at least with respect to gender biases, implicit and symbolic measures can predict sexist voting.


Eva Jellison, Undergrad, Stanford University

Feb. 23, 2009


Mario Callegaro & Thomas Wells, Methodologists at Knowledge Networks

Mar. 3, 2009


Laurel Harbridge, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Stanford University

Mar. 9, 2009



Josh Pasek, PhD Candidate in Communication, and Matt DeBell, American National Election Study

April 5, 2009


Toward A Standardization of Survey Weights: The American National Election Studies Weighting System


ABSTRACT: Although there has been a tremendous amount of publication on poststratification in recent years, there appears to be no universally agreed upon, straightforward method for survey weight construction. Indeed, many prominent practitioners believe that constructing weights should be an art, not a science. There is no agreed upon standard for determining which variables should be used, what types of algorithms should be employed, whether and how weights should be truncated, and a variety of other important considerations.

In order to identify best practices in constructing survey weights, the American National Election Studies (ANES) assembled a panel of experts in the field. Doug Rivers, Martin Frankel, Colm O’Muircheartaigh, Charles Franklin, and Andrew Gelman spent months working over a series of recommendations for how to best construct weights. Their work culminated in a September, 2009 report on how weights should be computed for the ANES and other similar studies.

In this presentation, we will describe the methods proposed in the ANES weighting report. We will also introduce a new software package designed to implement the agreed-upon procedures. The software package presents a simpler interface for specifying weighting information, comes pre-loaded with demographic information to match each year’s demographics for the United States population from 2000 to 2009, and also automatically conducts analyses of which variables account for the largest discrepancies from known population parameters. In addition, the algorithm allows the user to specify mechanisms for variable selection, for the creation of weights on separate portions of the population, and for the creation of identically parameterized weights across multiple subsamples.


Wendy Gross, PhD Candidate, Political Science, Stanford University

April 5, 2009


Issue Publics and Candidate Evaluations: Explaining Inconsistent Results in the Moderation of Issue Agreement by Individual Issue Importance


ABSTRACT: The idealized version of democracy entails educated individuals who base their vote choices on a wide swath of information. However, psychological models suggest that individuals selectively incorporate information based on its relative importance. Within politics, this suggests that voters weigh information about personally important political issues more heavily than issues deemed inconsequential when forming political opinions.

While the theoretical expectations are unwavering, some empirical studies have yielded expected results, and other studies have found no evidence of moderation by improtance. Why the disparity?

This paper argues that the disparate results stem from a series of methodological differences in how analyses were conducted, including the operationalization of issue agreement, candidate placement, policy preferences, and much more. These differences and their effects are explained and then illustrated using American National Election Studies data. The paper culminates with an explication of the methodological conditions under which this moderation occurs and when it is suppressed.


LinChiat Chang, Independent Consultant

April 12, 2009


Comparing Web Panel Samples vs. Telephone Samples of Medical Doctors


Although web panels are widely used in market research, there are persistent concerns about panel conditioning, panel attrition, and self-selection biases. We compared web panel samples vs.g fresh samples recruited via telephone across 3 medical specialties: neurology (n=167 web vs. n=97 phone), pulmonology (n=83 vs. n=68), and pediatrics (n=56 vs. n=60). All physicians, regardless of recruitment mode, completed the surveys online. Comparative analyses were conducted on 162+ measures of medical practice characteristics, treatment choices, attitudes and perceptions. Few significant differences emerged, and none of those differences suggested systematic panel biases, possibly because physicians receive the same fundamental training and their treatment choices are restricted by clinical guidelines. I have finished the core analyses, but would love to get some ideas from PPRG on additional analyses I could try.


Chris Bryan, PhD Candidate, Department of Psychology, Stanford University

April 28, 2010


Rui Wang, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

April 28, 2010


Nuri Kim, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

May 3, 2010


Ana Vilar, Research Staff, IRISS

May 5, 2010


David Yeager, PhD Candidate, School of Education, Stanford University

May 10, 2010


Gaurav Sood, PhD Candidate, Department of Communication, Stanford University

May 10, 2010


Jack Glaser, Professor, University of California Berkeley

May 17, 2010


Adam Berinsky, Professor, MIT

May 24, 2010