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    Religion and abortion: The role of politician identity

    Sonia Bhalotra, Irma Clots-Figueras and Lakshmi Iyer

    Debates around abortion typically invoke religion and politics but there is no causal evidence of the impact of politician religion on abortion. Leveraging quasi-random variation in politician religion generated by close elections in India and controlling for the party affiliation of politicians, we find lower rates of sex-selective abortion in districts won by Muslim state legislators, consistent with a higher reported aversion to abortion among Muslims compared to Hindus. The competing hypothesis that this reflects weaker son preference among Muslims is undermined by stated preference data and by demonstrating that fertility and girl-biased infant mortality increase in Muslim-won districts.

    Date
    Thursday, 23 September 2021
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    Citizen Forecasts of the 2021 German Election

    Andreas E. Murr and Michael S. Lewis-Beck

    There are various scientific approaches to election forecasting: poll aggregation, structural models, electronic markets, and citizen forecasting. With respect to the German case, the first two approaches—polls and models—perhaps have been the most popular. However, relatively little work has been done deploying citizen forecasting (CF), the approach described in this article. In principle, CF differs considerably from other methods and appears, on its face, quite simple. Before an election, citizens are asked in a national survey who they think will win. As the percentage of expectations for party X increases, the likelihood of an X win is judged to be higher. The method has been applied regularly with success in other established democracies, such as the United Kingdom and the United States.

    Date
    Thursday, 09 September 2021
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    Does Party Competition Affect Political Activism?

    Anselm Hager, Johannes Hermle, Lukas Hensel, and Christopher Roth

    Does party competition affect political activism? This paper studies the decision of party supporters to join political campaigns. We present a framework that incorporates supporters’ instrumental and expressive motives and illustrates that party competition can either increase or decrease party activism. To distinguish between these competing predictions, we implemented a field experiment with a European party during a national election. In a seemingly unrelated party survey, we randomly assigned 1,417 party supporters to true information that the canvassing activity of the main competitor party was exceptionally high. Using unobtrusive, real-time data on party supporters’ canvassing behavior, we find that respondents exposed to the high-competition treatment are 30% less likely to go canvassing. To investigate the causal mechanism, we leverage additional survey evidence collected two months after the campaign. Consistent with affective accounts of political activism, we show that increased competition lowered party supporters’ political self-efficacy, which plausibly led them to remain inactive.

    Date
    Monday, 23 August 2021
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    Vote Expectations Versus Vote Intentions: Rival Forecasting Strategies

    Andreas E. Murr, Mary Stegmaier and Michael S. Lewis-Beck

    Are ordinary citizens better at predicting election results than conventional voter intention polls? The authors address this question by comparing eight forecasting models for British general elections: one based on voters' expectations of who will win and seven based on who voters themselves intend to vote for (including ‘uniform national swing model’ and ‘cube rule’ models). The data come from ComRes and Gallup polls as well as the Essex Continuous Monitoring Surveys, 1950–2017, yielding 449 months with both expectation and intention polls. The large sample size permits comparisons of the models' prediction accuracy not just in the months prior to the election, but in the years leading up to it. Vote expectation models outperform vote intention models in predicting both the winning party and parties' seat shares.

    Date
    Thursday, 19 August 2021
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    Security Transitions

    Thiemo Fetzer, Pedro C. L. Souza, Oliver Vanden Eynde and Austin L. Wright

    How do foreign powers disengage from a conflict? We study this issue by examining the recent, large-scale security transition from international troops to local forces in the ongoing civil conflict in Afghanistan. We construct a new dataset that combines information on this transition process with declassified conflict outcomes and previously unreleased quarterly survey data of residents' perceptions of local security. Our empirical design leverages the staggered roll-out of the transition, and employs a novel instrumental variables approach to estimate the impact. We find a significant, sharp, and timely decline of insurgent violence in the initial phase: the security transfer to Afghan forces. We find that this is followed by a significant surge in violence in the second phase: the actual physical withdrawal of foreign troops. We argue that this pattern is consistent with a signaling model, in which the insurgents reduce violence strategically to facilitate the foreign military withdrawal to capitalize on the reduced foreign military presence afterward. Our findings clarify the destabilizing consequences of withdrawal in one of the costliest conflicts in modern history, and yield potentially actionable insights for designing future security transitions.

    Date
    Wednesday, 07 July 2021
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    UN Peacekeeping and Households' Well-Being in Civil Wars

    Vincenzo Bove, Jessica Di Salvatore and Leandro Elia

    Civil wars affect the economic conditions of households by disrupting economic transactions and harming their psychological well-being. To restore basic conditions for local economic recovery in conflict-torn regions, the international community has only a limited number of tools at its disposal. We ask whether UN peacekeeping is one instrument to mitigate the negative effect of conflict on households' economic well-being. We argue that, by reducing violence and heightening perceptions of safety, UN missions (i) encourage labor provision and economic exchanges, and (ii) instill confidence by reducing the psychological impact of daily stressors. Combining high-frequency household survey data and information on subnational deployment of UN peacekeepers in South Sudan, we show that peacekeepers' military presence improves security (observed and perceived), which in turn revitalizes local economies and households' subjective well-being. These improvements ultimately boost households' consumption, partially countering the negative effect of ongoing civil wars by keeping local communities' economy afloat.

    Date
    Thursday, 01 July 2021
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    Do party leadership contests forecast British general elections?

    Andreas Erwin Murr

    When assessing election forecasts, two important criteria emerge: their accuracy (precision) and lead time (distance to event). Curiously, in both 2010 and 2015 the most accurate forecasts came from models having the longest lead time—albeit at most 12 months. Can we increase the lead time further, supposing we tolerate a small decrease in accuracy? Here, we develop a model with a lead time of more than 3 years. Our Party Leadership Model relies on the votes of MPs when selecting their party leader. We assess the forecasting quality of our model with both leave-one-out cross-validation and a before-the-fact forecast of the 2019 general election. Compared to both simple forecasting methods and other scientific forecasts, our model emerges as a leading contender. This result suggests that election forecasting may benefit from developing models with longer lead times, and that party leaders may influence election outcomes more than is usually thought.

    Date
    Thursday, 10 June 2021
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    Roberts' weak welfarism theorem : a minor correction.

    Peter Hammond

    Roberts’ “weak neutrality” or “weak welfarism” theorem concerns Sen social welfare functionals which are defined on an unrestricted domain of utility function profiles and satisfy independence of irrelevant alternatives, the Pareto condition, and a form of weak continuity. Roberts (Rev Econ Stud 47(2):421–439, 1980) claimed that the induced welfare ordering on social states has a one-way representation by a continuous, monotonic real-valued welfare function defined on the Euclidean space of interpersonal utility vectors—that is, an increase in this welfare function is sufficient, but may not be necessary, for social strict preference. A counter-example shows that weak continuity is insufficient; a minor strengthening to pairwise continuity is proposed instead and its sufficiency demonstrated.

    Date
    Sunday, 30 May 2021
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    Did Terrorism Affect Voting in the Brexit Referendum?

    Vincenzo Bove, Georgios Efthyvoulou and Harry Pickard

    This article contributes to the recent research on Brexit and public opinion formation by contending that the determinants of the referendum results should be evaluated against the background of wider public security concerns. The British public has long regarded terrorism as a top concern, more so than in any other European country. Terrorist attacks on UK soil raised voters' awareness of security issues and their saliency in the context of the EU referendum. The study finds that locations affected by terrorist violence in their proximity exhibit an increase in the share of pro-Remain votes, particularly those that experienced more sensational attacks. Using individual-level data, the results show that in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, citizens are more likely to reconsider the security risks involved in leaving the EU.

    Date
    Wednesday, 21 April 2021
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    Beliefs about public debt and the demand for government spending?

    Christopher Roth, Sonja Settele and Johannes Wohlfart

    We examine how beliefs about the debt-to-GDP ratio affect people’s attitudes towards government spending and taxation. Using representative samples of the US population, we run a series of experiments in which we provide half of our respondents with information about the debt-to-GDP ratio in the US. Based on a total of more than 4,000 respondents, we find that most people underestimate the debt-to-GDP ratio and reduce their support for government spending once they learn about the actual amount of debt, but do not substantially alter their attitudes towards taxation. The treatment effects seem to operate through changes in expectations about fiscal sustainability and persist in a four-week follow-up.

    Date
    Wednesday, 31 March 2021
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    Leader Identity and Coordination

    Sonia Bhalotra, Irma Clots-Figueras, Lakshmi Iyer, and Joseph Vecci

    This paper examines policy effectiveness as a function of leader identity. We experimentally vary leader religious identity in a coordination game implemented in India, and focus upon citizen reactions to leader identity, controlling for leader actions. We find that minority leaders improve coordination, while majority leaders do not. Alternative treatment arms reveal that affirmative action for minorities reverses this result, while intergroup contact improves the effectiveness of leaders of both identities. We also find that minority leaders are less effective in towns with a history of intergroup conflict. Our results demonstrate that leader and policy effectiveness depend upon citizen reactions, conditioned by social identity and past conflict.

    Date
    Wednesday, 17 March 2021
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    Beliefs about Racial Discrimination and Support for Pro-Black Policies

    Ingar Haaland and Christopher Roth

    This paper provides representative evidence on beliefs about racial discrimination and examines whether information causally affects support for pro-black policies. Eliciting quantitative beliefs about the extent of hiring discrimination against blacks, we uncover large disagreement about the extent of racial discrimination with particularly pronounced partisan differences. An information treatment leads to a convergence in beliefs about racial discrimination but does not lead to a similar convergence in support of pro-black policies. The results demonstrate that while providing information can substantially reduce disagreement about the extent of racial discrimination, it is not sufficient to reduce disagreement about pro-black policies.

    Date
    Wednesday, 10 February 2021
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    Tariffs and Politics: Evidence from Trump's Trade Wars

    Thiemo Fetzer and Carlo Schwarz

    We use the recent trade escalation between the USA and its trade partners to study whether retaliatory tariffs are politically targeted. We find comprehensive evidence using individual and aggregate voting data suggesting that retaliation is carefully targeted to hurt Trump. We develop a simulation approach to construct counterfactual retaliation responses allowing us to quantify the extent of political targeting while also studying potential trade-offs. China appears to place great emphasis on achieving maximal political targeting. The EU seems to have been successful in maximising political targeting while at the same time minimising the potential damage to its economy.

    Date
    Wednesday, 09 December 2020
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    Fake Reviews

    Jacob Glazer, Helios Herrera, Motty Perry

    We propose a model of product reviews in which some are genuine and some are fake in order to shed light on the value of information provided on platforms like TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. In every period, a review is posted which is either genuine or fake. We characterise the equilibrium of the dynamic model and prove that it is unique. In equilibrium, valuable learning takes place in every period. Fake reviews, however, do slow down the learning process. It is established that any attempt by the platform to manipulate the reviews is counterproductive.

    Date
    Thursday, 29 October 2020
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    Shadow Lobbyists

    Rocco d’Este, Mirko Draca and Christian Fons-Rosen

    Special interest influence via lobbying is increasingly controversial and legislative efforts to deal with this issue have centered on the principle of transparency. In this paper we evaluate the effectiveness of the current regulatory framework provided by the US Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA). Specifically, we study the role of ex-Congressional officials who join US lobbying firms in positions that could be related to lobbying activity but without officially registering as lobbyists themselves. We find that firm lobbying revenues increase significantly when these potential ‘shadow lobbyists’ join, with effects in the range of 10-20%. This shadow lobbyist revenue effect is comparable to the effect of a registered lobbyist at the median of the industry skill distribution. As such, it is challenging to reconcile the measured shadow lobbyist effect with the 20% working time threshold for registering as a lobbyist. Based on our estimates, the contribution of unregistered ex-Congressional officials could explain 4.9% of the increase in sectoral revenues, compared to 24.0% for the group of registered officials.

    Date
    Friday, 23 October 2020
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    Citizen Forecasting 2020: A State-by-State Experiment

    Andreas E. Murr and Michael S. Lewis-Beck

    The leading approaches to scientific election forecasting in the United States consist of structural models, prediction markets and opinion polling. With respect to the last, by far the dominant mode relies on vote intention polling, e.g., “If the election were held tomorrow, who would you vote for?” However, there exists an abiding opinion polling strategy that shows a good deal of promise—citizen forecasting. That is, rather than query on vote intention, query on vote expectation, e.g., “Who do you think will win the upcoming election?” This approach has been pursued most extensively in the United Kingdom (Murr 2016) and the United States (LewisBeck and Tien 1999). Recent performance evaluations have shown that in the United Kingdom vote expectations clearly offer more predictive accuracy than vote intentions (Murr et al. forthcoming) and that in the United States vote expectations appear to be superior to an array of rival forecasting tools (Graefe 2014). However, the timing of the data collection has forced most of the studies using citizen forecasts to forecast elections ex post, i.e., after they occurred. Indeed, to date, there are only two ex ante citizen forecasting papers to have appeared before a national election (Lewis-Beck and Stegmaier 2011; Murr 2016). Both these efforts forecasted British General Elections, with Murr (2016) relatively most accurate among 12 academic forecasts (Fisher and Lewis-Beck 2016).

    Date
    Thursday, 15 October 2020
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    Labor Market Concerns and Support for Immigration

    Ingar Haaland and Christopher Roth

    Do labor market concerns affect support for immigration? Using a large, representative sample of the US population, we first elicit beliefs about the labor market impact of immigration. To generate exogenous variation in beliefs, we then provide respondents in the treatment group with research evidence showing no adverse labor market impacts of immigration. Treated respondents update their beliefs and become more supportive of immigration, as measured by self-reported policy views and petition signatures. Treatment effects also persist in an obfuscated follow-up study. Our results demonstrate that information about the labor market impact of immigration causally affects support for immigration.

    Date
    Friday, 25 September 2020

    Does Information Change Attitudes Towards Immigrants?

    Alexis Grigorieff , Christopher Roth and Diego Ubfal

    Strategies aimed at reducing negative attitudes toward immigrants are at the core of integration policies. A large literature shows that misperceptions about the size and characteristics of immigrants are common. A few studies implemented interventions to correct innumeracy regarding the size of the immigrant population, but they did not detect any effects on attitudes. We study whether providing information not only about the size but also about the characteristics of the immigrant population can have stronger effects. We conduct two online experiments with samples from the United States, providing one-half of the participants with five statistics about immigration. This information bundle improves people’s attitudes toward current legal immigrants. Most effects are driven by Republicans and other groups with more negative initial attitudes toward immigrants. In our second experiment, we show that treatment effects persist one month later. Finally, we analyze a large cross-country survey experiment to provide external validity to the finding that information about the size of the foreign-born population is not enough to change policy views. We conclude that people with negative views on immigration before the intervention can become more supportive of immigration if their misperceptions about the characteristics of the foreign-born population are corrected.

    Date
    Thursday, 18 June 2020
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    Negative Voters? Electoral Competition with Loss-Aversion

    Ben Lockwood and James Rockey

    This paper studies the effect of voter loss aversion in preferences over both candidate policy platforms and candidate valence on electoral competition. Loss-aversion over platforms leads to both platform rigidity and reduced platform polarisation, whereas loss-aversion over valence results in increased polarisation and the possibility of asymmetric equilibria with a self-fulfilling (dis)-advantage for the incumbent. The results are robust to a stochastic link between platforms and outcomes; they hold approximately for a small amount of noise. A testable implication of loss-aversion over platforms is that incumbents adjust less than challengers to shifts in voter preferences. We find some empirical support for this using data for elections to the US House of Representatives.

    Date
    Tuesday, 14 April 2020
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    The Race to the Base

    Dan Bernhardt, Peter Buisseret and Sinem Hidir

    We study multi-district legislative elections between two office-seeking parties when one party has an initial valence advantage that may shift and even reverse during the campaign; and, each party cares not only about winning a majority, but also about its share of seats. When the initial imbalance favoring one party is small, each party targets the median voter. For moderate imbalances, the advantaged party maintains the centre-ground, but the disadvantaged party retreats to target its core supporters; and for large imbalances, the advantaged party advances toward its opponent, raiding its moderate supporters in pursuit of an outsized majority.

    Date
    Tuesday, 03 March 2020
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