Identifying the Effect of Political Rumor Diffusion Using Variations in Survey Timing ” 2019. Quarterly Journal of Political Science 14(3): 293-311. (with Jin Woo Kim)

Despite growing concerns about the diffusion of political rumors, researchers often lack the means to estimate their effects. Field experiments seem infeasible due to ethical issues. Survey experiments typically invoke strong assumptions about homogeneous treatment effects across subjects and settings. We argue that exploiting temporal overlap between rumor circulations and survey interviews can be a useful alternative. We focus on an accidental and sudden spread of “Obama-is-a-Muslim” myths in September 2008. Using a difference-in-difference strategy that compares over-time belief changes of those interviewed for the September wave of the 20082009 American National Election Studies surveys before the rumor circulation and afterwards, we find that this event increased people’s belief that Barack Obama is a Muslim by 4 to 8 percentage points. To rule out various alternative explanations, we show that the treatment and control groups changed in parallel across waves in terms of an extensive set of placebo variables including political knowledge, other political misperception, and general attitudes toward Obama.

Does Newspaper Coverage Influence or Reflect Public Perceptions of the Economy?2017. Research & Politics 5(1):78–93. (with Daniel J. Hopkins and Soo Jong Kim)

Citizens’ economic perceptions can shape their political and economic behavior, making the origins of those perceptions an important question. Research commonly posits that media coverage is a central source. Here, we test that prospect while considering the alternative hypothesis that media coverage instead echoes public perceptions. This paper applies a straightforward automated measure of the tone of economic coverage to 490,039 articles from 24 national and local media outlets over more than three decades. By matching the 245,947 survey respondents in the Survey of Consumer Attitudes and Behavior to measures of contemporaneous media coverage, we can assess the sequencing of changes in media coverage and public perceptions. Together, these data illustrate that newspaper coverage does not systematically precede public perceptions of the economy, a finding which analyses of television transcripts reinforce. Neither national nor local newspapers appear to strongly influence economic perceptions.

The Impact of In-group Favoritism on Trade Preferences” 2017. International Organizations 71(4): 827-850. (with Diana C. Mutz)

Using a population-based survey experiment, this study evaluates the role of in-group favoritism in influencing American attitudes toward international trade. By systematically altering which countries gain or lose from a given trade policy (Americans and/or people in trading partner countries), we vary the role that in-group favoritism should play in influencing preferences. Our results provide evidence of two distinct forms of in-group favoritism. The first, and least surprising, is that Americans value the well-being of other Americans more than that of people outside their own country. Rather than maximize total gains, Americans choose policies that maximize in-group well-being. This tendency is exacerbated by a sense of national superiority; Americans favor their national in-group to a greater extent if they perceive Americans to be more deserving. Second, high levels of perceived intergroup competition lead some Americans to prefer trade policies that benefit the in-group and hurt the out-group over policies that help both their own country and the trading partner country. For a policy to elicit support, it is important not only that the US benefits, but also that the trading partner country loses so that the US achieves a greater relative advantage. We discuss the implications of these findings for understanding bipartisan public opposition to trade.