Category Archives: Elections

Electoral College Reform: Contemporary Issues for Congress

Source: Thomas H. Neale, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R43824, October 6, 2017

The electoral college method of electing the President and Vice President was established in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and revised by the Twelfth Amendment. It provides for election of the President and Vice President by electors, commonly referred to as the electoral college. A majority of 270 of the 538 electoral votes is necessary to win. For further information on the modern-day operation of the college system, see CRS Report RL32611, The Electoral College: How It Works in Contemporary Presidential Elections, by Thomas H. Neale ….

MapLight – Data

Source: Maplight.org, 2017

MapLight tracks several data sets that you can search for evidence of money’s influence on politics.

CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS
Top contributions from major donors to congressional politicians.

CONGRESSIONAL BILLS
Bills paired with contributions, positions taken by special interests, and vote results.

LEGISLATORS
Profiles of elected officials with campaign finance statistics.

LOBBYING
See how much money companies and interest groups spend trying to influence lawmakers.

BULK DATA SETS + APIS
Use MapLight’s data for your own research or software project.

The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments

Source: Joshua Kalla, David E. Broockman, American Political Science Review – Forthcoming, September 25, 2017

From the abstract:
Significant theories of democratic accountability hinge on how political campaigns affect Americans’ candidate choices. We argue that the best estimate of the effects of campaign contact and advertising on Americans’ candidates choices in general elections is zero. First, a systematic meta-analysis of 40 field experiments estimates an average effect of zero in general elections. Second, we present nine original field experiments that increase the statistical evidence in the literature about the persuasive effects of personal contact 10-fold. These experiments’ average effect is also zero. In both existing and our original experiments, persuasive effects only appear to emerge in two rare circumstances. First, when candidates take unusually unpopular positions and campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable voters. Second, when campaigns contact voters long before election day and measure effects immediately — although this early persuasion decays. These findings contribute to ongoing debates about how political elites influence citizens’ judgments.

Related:
Most Campaign Outreach Has Zero Effect on Voters
Source: Emma Green, The Atlantic, September 30, 2017

A new paper finds that direct mail, door-to-door canvassing, and television ads almost never change people’s minds. What does this mean for American democracy?

A massive new study reviews the evidence on whether campaigning works. The answer’s bleak.
Source: Dylan Matthews, Vox, September 28, 2017

In general elections, campaigns’ attempts to win swing voters appear to not work at all.

The 2017 CPA-Zicklin Index of Corporate Political Disclosure and Accountability – Sustained Growth Among S&P 500 Companies Signals Commitment to Political Disclosure and Accountability

Source: Bruce F. Freed, Center for Political Accountability (CPA), September 26, 2017

The CPA-Zicklin Index benchmarks the political disclosure and accountability policies and practices of leading U.S. public companies. Issued annually, it is produced by the Center for Political Accountability in conjunction with the Zicklin Center for Business Ethics Research at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

The indicators used to score companies are available here, and the detailed Scoring Guidelines can be downloaded here. To see the raw data used to compile this report, see this spreadsheet.

Related:
Your favorite companies may be political black boxes
Source: Lateshia Beachum, Center for Public Integrity, September 26, 2017

A New Study Shows Just How Many Americans Were Blocked From Voting in Wisconsin Last Year

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, September 25, 2017

Trump won the state by 22,748 votes. ….

…..Even though Brinkman was already registered in Wisconsin and had other forms of ID, poll workers only allowed her to cast a provisional ballot. It was never counted. “I was very frustrated,” she said. “This past election was kind of a big one.” She described herself as “liberal” and said she didn’t vote for Donald Trump, who carried the state by just 22,000 votes.

A comprehensive study released today suggests how many missing votes can be attributed to the new law. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison surveyed registered voters who didn’t cast a 2016 ballot in the state’s two biggest counties—Milwaukee and Dane, which is home to Madison. More than 1 out of 10 nonvoters (11.2 percent) said they lacked acceptable voter ID and cited the law as a reason why they didn’t vote; 6.4 percent of respondents said the voter ID law was the “main reason” they didn’t vote.

The study’s lead author, University of Wisconsin political scientist Kenneth Mayer, says between roughly 9,000 and 23,000 registered voters in the reliably Democratic counties were deterred from voting by the ID law. Extrapolating statewide, he says the data suggests as many as 45,000 voters sat out the election, though he cautioned that it was difficult to produce an estimate from just two counties.*….

Related:
Elections Center Affiliates Release Initial Results from Voter ID Study
Source: Professor Kenneth R. Mayer (Principal Investigator) and Ph.D. candidate Michael G. DeCrescenzo, September 25, 2017

Initial findings from a new study on the effects of Wisconsin’s voter ID requirement.

  • Press Release
  • Background Study and Technical Documentation
  • Questions and Answers
  • Survey Instrument (Questionnaire)
  • Democracy Counts: A Report On U.S. College And University Student Voting

    Source: Nancy Thomas, Inger Bergom, Ishara Casellas Connors, Prabhat Gautam, Adam Gismondi, And Alena Roshko, Tufts University – Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life – Institute for Democracy & Higher Education, 2017

    From the summary:
    The National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement is a study of U.S. college and university student voting. At the time of this report, the database consists of deidentified records for 9,511,711 and 9,784,931 students enrolled at the time of the 2012 and 2016 elections, respectively. These students attended 1,023 higher education institutions in the U.S. across all 50 states. Participating institutions give NSLVE permission for their student enrollment records to be matched with public voting records, yielding precise data on their students’ turnout. The demographics of the nearly 10 million students in NSLVE resemble those of the approximately 20 million college students in the U.S.
    • Turnout rose
    • Women voted more
    • Hispanic and Asian turnout up; Black turnout down from a high baseline
    • Youngest students saw turnout increase
    • Social science majors voted at significantly higher rates than STEM majors
    • Turnout rose in private four-year institutions and women’s colleges, fell at HBCUs Institutions in New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania led the turnout increases

    Related:
    Data Portal

    Partisanship, Propaganda, & Disinformation: Online Media & the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

    Source: Robert Faris, Hal Roberts, Bruce Etling, Nikki Bourassa, Ethan Zuckerman, Yochai Benkler, Harvard – Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, Research Paper, August 2017

    From the abstract:
    In this study, we analyze both mainstream and social media coverage of the 2016 United States presidential election. We document that the majority of mainstream media coverage was negative for both candidates, but largely followed Donald Trump’s agenda: when reporting on Hillary Clinton, coverage primarily focused on the various scandals related to the Clinton Foundation and emails. When focused on Trump, major substantive issues, primarily immigration, were prominent. Indeed, immigration emerged as a central issue in the campaign and served as a defining issue for the Trump campaign.

    We find that the structure and composition of media on the right and left are quite different. The leading media on the right and left are rooted in different traditions and journalistic practices. On the conservative side, more attention was paid to pro-Trump, highly partisan media outlets. On the liberal side, by contrast, the center of gravity was made up largely of long-standing media organizations steeped in the traditions and practices of objective journalism.

    Our data supports lines of research on polarization in American politics that focus on the asymmetric patterns between the left and the right, rather than studies that see polarization as a general historical phenomenon, driven by technology or other mechanisms that apply across the partisan divide.

    The analysis includes the evaluation and mapping of the media landscape from several perspectives and is based on large-scale data collection of media stories published on the web and shared on Twitter.
    Related:
    Trump backers’ alarming reliance on hoax and conspiracy theory websites, in 1 chart
    By Source: Aaron Blake, Washington Post, August 22, 2017

    Can Geometry Help Fix Our Political System? Mathematicians Invite Public To Fight Gerrymandering

    Source: Carol Zall, WBUR, August 4, 2017

    A group of Boston-based mathematicians calling themselves the Metric Geometry and Gerrymandering Group are using their math superpowers to fight back against gerrymandering.

    They’re holding a public event, the Geometry of Redistricting workshop, which begins on Monday. The workshop will feature lectures on legal and mathematical topics related to gerrymandering, as well as hands-on sessions on how to use open-source mapping software to redraw voting districts.

    The connection between math and gerrymandering may not be obvious at first, but gerrymandering is (in part) about manipulating the shapes of voting districts — and who knows more about shapes than geometry experts? ….

    The Congressional Map Is Historically Biased Against Democrats

    Source: David Wasserman, FiveThirtyEight, August 7, 2017

    When Democrats think about their party’s problems on the political map, they tend to think of President Trump’s ability to win the White House despite losing the popular vote and Republicans’ potent efforts to gerrymander congressional districts. But their problems extend beyond the Electoral College and the House: The Senate hasn’t had such a strong pro-GOP bias since the ratification of direct Senate elections in 1913.

    Even if Democrats were to win every single 2018 House and Senate race for seats representing places that Hillary Clinton won or that Trump won by less than 3 percentage points — a pretty good midterm by historical standards — they could still fall short of the House majority and lose five Senate seats.

    This is partly attributable to the nature of House districts: GOP gerrymandering and Democratic voters’ clustering in urban districts has moved the median House seat well to the right of the nation. Part of it is bad timing. Democrats have been cursed by a terrible Senate map in 2018: They must defend 25 of their 48 seats1 while Republicans must defend just eight of their 52. ….

    For First Time, Millennials And Gen X Were A Majority Of Electorate In 2016

    Source: Danielle Kurtzleben, NPR, July 31, 2017

    Political strategists, take note: For the first time, millennials and Gen Xers outvoted their elders in 2016, according to data from the Pew Research Center. Fully 69.6 million millennials (defined as people who were 18 to 35 in 2016) and members of Generation X (ages 36 to 51) cast votes in 2016, according to a Pew analysis of data from the Census Bureau. By comparison, 67.9 million baby boomers and members of older generations voted. This is the culmination of a steady march of the young electorate slowly catching up to the middle-aged and elderly electorates in terms of size.

    Related:
    Millennials and Gen Xers outvoted Boomers and older generations in 2016 election
    Source: Richard Fry, Pew Research Center, Fact Tank, July 31, 2017