“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.
“Temporal Selective Exposure: How Partisans Choose When to Follow Politics” with Jin Woo Kim (Under Review)
Despite widespread conjecture that partisan selective exposure drives mass polarization, there is little evidence that most Americans have skewed media consumption patterns. We suggest an alternative conceptualization of selective exposure: partisans select when to pay attention to politics, instead of which ideological sources to follow, such that they modify their political attentiveness in response to whether the flow of information is congenial to their party. We employ two empirical strategies to test our hypothesis. First, we compare the in- and out- partisans’ differential levels of political engagement over the last six decades. Second, we use a natural experiment leveraging a dramatic change in information environment during the 2008 financial crisis. Both approaches show that, over time, partisan groups’ changes in political attentiveness are affected by the performance of the incumbent government, suggesting that partisans’ information diets may be imbalanced even if their media diets are well-balanced.
— Presented at APSA 2017, ICA 2018
— Top Paper Award from International Communication Association's Political Communication Division
“The Racialization of International Trade” with Diana C. Mutz and Edward Mansfield. (Under Review)
In this study, we examine the extent to which overseas trade has become “racialized” in two ways. First, Americans’ attitudes toward trade may vary based on their race and ethnicity. We expect that whites will be more opposed to international trade than minorities, primarily because ethnocentrism is associated with anti-trade attitudes and whites tend to display greater ethnocentrism than minorities. Second, the predominant race and ethnicity of potential trading partner countries may condition Americans’ willingness to trade with those countries. In particular, we expect that white Americans will be more likely than minorities to favor trade with racially similar countries. Our results—based on various surveys and multiple experiments conducted over the past twelve years—support both of these predictions. As the United States grows ever closer to becoming a “majority minority” nation, the racialization of trade attitudes may stimulate shifts in the likely future of America’s trade relationships.
— Presented at APSA 2017.
— Featured in Chicago Council on Global Affairs
“Identifying the Downstream Effect of First Time Presidential Voting on Trust in Government” with Jin Woo Kim
What do first-time voters learn after participating in a presidential election? Democratic theorists relish political participation for its benefits in promoting a sense of political legitimacy. Yet these benefits are theorized in a small-scale self-government setting, and it is unclear whether similar effects can be found in a representative democracy, where many citizens participate only through voting. We argue that presidential voting typically results in eventual disappointment—either because preferred candidate loses or because the elected president’s big promises are under-delivered—, which may have long-term consequences on political trust. Applying a regression discontinuity design to the ANES time-series data (1974 to 2008), we find that being just eligible to vote in a presidential election undercuts political trust 2 or 4 years down the road by several percentage points—a tendency that is more pronounced under a failing economy. We discuss the implications of our findings for political socialization.
— Presented at PolMeth 2017 (poster), AAPOR 2017, MPSA 2017.
— Top Student Paper Award from the DC-Chapter of the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR)
“Why Concerns About Economic Inequality Do Not Translate into Support for Redistributive Policies” with Rasmus T. Pedersen and Diana C. Mutz.
Rising levels of economic inequality currently receive a great deal of attention from the mass public. However, the widespread concern has not increased support for policies aimed at lessening inequality. Using data from multiple surveys and survey experiments, this study investigates potential reasons for this weak link between concern about inequality and support for redistributive policies. Results show that many Americans fundamentally misunderstand the concept of economic inequality. Further, Americans' perceptions and preferences regarding inequality and related policies are highly affected by motivated reasoning and, to a lesser degree, by antigovernment sentiment. Together, these factors help to explain the relatively weak link between concern about inequality and support for redistributive economic policies.
— Presented at MPSA 2016.
“The Implications of Partisan Media for Economic Perceptions” with Diana C. Mutz.
The rise of partisan media in the United States raises new questions about the extent to which retrospective national economic perceptions change based on the particular sources of news citizens use. To the extent that economic perceptions are mere extensions of partisan identity and partisan media consumption, this change in the media environment diminishes the potential for democratic accountability. We use a unique collection of six waves of panel data including repeated measures of both retrospective national economic perceptions and exposure to partisan and nonpartisan television programs to examine this question. We find that partisan media have the capacity to influence retrospective national economic perceptions over time, beyond the anticipated effects from partisan rationalization and real economic change. These effects are particularly strong for consumption of outparty media. As outparty television consumption increases, its viewers come to perceive the economy as moving in an increasingly negative direction.
— Presented at APSA 2016.