Category Archives: Elections

Labor Unions and Political Participation in Comparative Perspective

Source: Jasmine Kerrissey Evan Schofer, Social Forces, Advance Access, June 6, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This research uses comparative survey data to examine the effects of labor union membership on individual political participation. We argue that national political institutions—specifically, democracy and corporatism—shape the ways that unions mobilize their members to engage in the political sphere. Democratic regimes provide structural opportunities and cultural repertoires that lead unions to focus on member mobilization, especially via contentious politics and political parties. Corporatism, which directly links unions to state structures, undercuts the logics and incentives for union mobilization. We draw upon historical cases of Germany, the United States, Chile, and Egypt to illustrate how democracy and corporatism shape unions’ mobilization efforts. Multilevel models of World Values Survey data from roughly 60 countries find that union members participate more than non-members across a range of electoral and extra-institutional political acts, such as demonstrating, occupying buildings, signing petitions, party work, and so forth. In democratic societies, such effects are stronger and participation shifts toward parties and contentious politics. In less democratic societies, union members are particularly likely to work with and through other political organizations. Corporatist arrangements generally dampen the political activities of union members.

50 Years After 1968, Can the Young Change Politics? A Striking New Poll Says Yes

Source: Richard Eskow, OurFuture.org, June 5, 2018

Fifty years ago, in the dust and fire of global youth activism, everything seemed possible. The political world was a cloud filled with chaos and opportunity, pain and promise. The young were a powerful force, even a world-changing one.

Could they become that force again?

As many Millennials vote for the first time today in state primaries from New Jersey to Iowa and California, a new poll of their views offers some intriguing glimpses into the future.

The survey finds that most Millennials want “a strong government” to manage the economy, and that most millennial Democrats have a favorable view of socialism.

What do this poll, and the past, say about our political future? ….

…. A new survey from the University of Chicago’s GenForward project suggests that these voters could pull the Democratic Party, and American politics, sharply to the left. The survey of 1,750 respondents found that “Majorities of Millennials across race and ethnicity believe a strong government rather than a free market approach is needed to address today’s complex economic problems.” ….

Related:
Political Polarization and Trust among Millennials: A summary of key findings from the first-of-its-kind bimonthly survey of racially and ethnically diverse young adults 18-34
Source: Cathy J. Cohen, Matthew Fowler, Vladimir E. Medenica and Jon C. Rogowski, GenForward, May 2018

Naming Our Desire: How Do We Talk About Socialism in America?
Source: Mark Engler, Dissent, Fall 2017

The millennial embrace of socialism has allowed a new generation to draw inspiration from a long legacy of struggle.

Status threat, not economic hardship, explains the 2016 presidential vote

Source: Diana C. Mutz (PNAS), published ahead of print April 23, 2018

From the abstract:
This study evaluates evidence pertaining to popular narratives explaining the American public’s support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 presidential election. First, using unique representative probability samples of the American public, tracking the same individuals from 2012 to 2016, I examine the “left behind” thesis (that is, the theory that those who lost jobs or experienced stagnant wages due to the loss of manufacturing jobs punished the incumbent party for their economic misfortunes). Second, I consider the possibility that status threat felt by the dwindling proportion of traditionally high-status Americans (i.e., whites, Christians, and men) as well as by those who perceive America’s global dominance as threatened combined to increase support for the candidate who emphasized reestablishing status hierarchies of the past. Results do not support an interpretation of the election based on pocketbook economic concerns. Instead, the shorter relative distance of people’s own views from the Republican candidate on trade and China corresponded to greater mass support for Trump in 2016 relative to Mitt Romney in 2012. Candidate preferences in 2016 reflected increasing anxiety among high-status groups rather than complaints about past treatment among low-status groups. Both growing domestic racial diversity and globalization contributed to a sense that white Americans are under siege by these engines of change.

Significance:
Support for Donald J. Trump in the 2016 election was widely attributed to citizens who were “left behind” economically. These claims were based on the strong cross-sectional relationship between Trump support and lacking a college education. Using a representative panel from 2012 to 2016, I find that change in financial wellbeing had little impact on candidate preference. Instead, changing preferences were related to changes in the party’s positions on issues related to American global dominance and the rise of a majority–minority America: issues that threaten white Americans’ sense of dominant group status. Results highlight the importance of looking beyond theories emphasizing changes in issue salience to better understand the meaning of election outcomes when public preferences and candidates’ positions are changing.

Campaign Finance Law Database

Source: Campaign Finance Institute, 2018

From the press release:
The Campaign Finance Institute is pleased to release a groundbreaking new tool, “CFI’s Historical Database of State Campaign Finance Laws”. The database covers all of the states’ campaign finance laws every two years since 1996. It is designed for everything from interactive and visualized lookups to downloadable datasets.

Anyone with a serious interest in politics is bound to have made, heard, or wondered about claims to the effect that the laws governing money in politics “make a difference”. These claims may be about who runs for office, how they campaign, who wins, how they govern, or what policies come out in the end. But until now it has been impossible to evaluate most of these claims properly. You cannot really understand a law’s effects unless you can compare jurisdictions with different laws to themselves and each other over time.

CFI’s new tool opens the door to let everyone make those comparisons. It covers every state since 1996 and is structured to handle queries from the simplest to the most complex. Because not everyone will want to use the tool in the same way, the material comes in two formats.

One is a remarkably compact and attractive visualization that will let users look up the answers to what we expect will be their most common questions. For example:
– What are the laws in my state? When did they change?
– Which states disclose what kinds of information about independent spending?
– Which ones changed their contribution limits after Citizens United?
– Which states offer public financing or political contribution tax credits? In rank order, which states had higher and lower disclosure thresholds (or contribution limits, etc.) in any given year?

All of these kinds of questions can be answered through the visualization tool. But the tool is based on only a fraction of what the data can offer. The full database has literally hundreds of pieces of information for each state and year. The visualization only covers about 10% of these. The full set can be downloaded in whole, or part. It then can be manipulated or merged with other data sets at the user’s pleasure. Downloading is the first step for answering “what difference” questions. For example:
– What difference does it make to have higher or lower limits?
– Is the law really responsible for a particular effect – whether positive or negative?

America’s Electoral Future: Demographic Shifts and the Future of the Trump Coalition

Source: Rob Griffin, Ruy Teixeira, and William H. Frey, Center for American Progress, April 14, 2018

From the introduction:
The recent elections of Donald Trump and Barack Obama were influenced in no small measure by shifts in the nation’s underlying demographic structure—the rise of communities of color, the increase in the number of older Americans, the sharpening of education divisions—and the distinctive voting behavior of these demographic groups. This 2018 report of the States of Change project, the fourth in an annual series, examines an array of future presidential election outcome scenarios—from 2020 through 2036—that could arise as the demography of the nation and its 50 states changes over the next 18 years.

These scenarios, developed by the authors, include outcomes that favor both Republican and Democratic candidates. They are not intended as predictions but are simulations based on assumptions about different demographic groups’ future voting patterns. Each of the alternative scenarios assumes the same projections for the nation’s underlying demographic structure of eligible voters (EVs) with respect to race, age, and education attainment. As such, the scenarios provide for a more in-depth understanding than national or state polling trends can supply about how emerging voting patterns may interact with changes in the demography of the nation’s electorate to affect future popular vote and Electoral College outcomes…..

Federal Election Commission: Membership and Policymaking Quorum, In Brief

Source: R. Sam Garrett, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R45160, April 12, 2018

The Federal Election Commission (FEC) is the nation’s civil campaign finance regulator. The agency ensures that campaign fundraising and spending is publicly reported; that those regulated by the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and by commission regulations comply and have access to guidance; and that publicly financed presidential campaigns receive funding.

FECA requires that at least four of six commissioners agree to undertake many of the agency’s key policymaking duties. As of this writing, the FEC is operating with four commissioners instead of six. Others reportedly are considering leaving the agency. One nomination to the FEC has been resubmitted during the 115th Congress; no committee or floor action has been taken on it to date.

It is entirely possible that the FEC will retain at least four commissioners and that the agency will remain able to carry out all its duties. If, however, the FEC loses its policymaking quorum—as happened for six months in 2008—the agency will be unable to hold hearings, issue rules, and enforce campaign finance law and regulation. This CRS report briefly explains the kinds of actions that FECA would preclude if the commission lost its policymaking quorum.

This report will be updated in the event of significant changes in the agency’s policymaking quorum or the status of agency nominations….

Company Men: The 200-year legal struggle that led to Citizens United and gave corporations the rights of people

Source: Kim Phillips-Fein, New Republic, Vol. 249, no. 4, April 2018

More than 100 years ago, at the height of the last Gilded Age, Congress passed its first law prohibiting corporations from spending money to influence election campaigns. From the start, the wealthy chafed against this limit, and some sought to test it in court. Alcohol manufacturers—terrified of high taxes and Prohibition—might not have seemed the ideal candidates to take on this fight. But they were nonetheless the first to challenge the law, contributing cash to candidates in state and federal races and then arguing that any effort to keep money out of politics was no less than an unconstitutional limitation on free speech.

At that time, state and federal courts rejected these arguments out of hand. To the Michigan Supreme Court, for example, it was self-evident that a local brewery had no “right to participate” in elections. The company, wrote the chief justice in a 1914 decision, was created not to engage in politics, but “for the purpose of manufacturing beer.” In a different case involving the Brewers Association, a federal court ruled that corporations “are not citizens of the United States,” and that as far as the franchise went, they must “at all times be held subservient to the government and the citizenship of which it is composed.”

Yet the beermakers finally had their day in 2010, when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in Citizens United. In a reversal of last century’s common sense, the Court found that corporations did have free speech rights after all and that campaign finance laws placed an intolerable restriction on those rights….