“Identifying the Effect of Political Rumor Diffusion Using Variations in Survey Timing” with Jin-Woo Kim (Revise & Resubmit, Quarterly Journal of Political Science

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 2008-2009 American National Election Studies surveys before the rumor circulation and afterwards, we find that this event increased people’s belief that Barak 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.

“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.

“The Racial Gap in Attitudes toward International Trade” with Diana C. Mutz and Edward Mansfield.

In multiple representative national surveys of American attitudes toward trade, minorities have been found to hold more favorable attitudes toward international trade than whites. This finding is puzzling in part because minorities are more likely to experience unemployment than whites. Moreover, the position of minorities in the national income and education distribution makes them an unlikely source of support for trade. In this study, we document the racial gap in trade opinions, drawing on multiple data sets spanning over a decade. Using decomposition analysis, we examine why minorities are more supportive of trade than whites. In addition to economic theories, we draw on psychological explanations for trade support to solve this puzzle. Finally, using an extremely large national survey, we begin to disentangle which minority groups appear most likely to drive this effect.

— Featured in Chicago Council on Global Affairs

“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 lead to 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.

“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 underdelivered—, 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)

“Switching On and Off: Rethinking Partisan Selective Exposure” with Jin Woo Kim

Despite concern that selective exposure to congenial sources drives partisans to disagree about even purely factual matters, existing empirical research finds little to mixed evidence that most Americans do seek out like-minded sources of information. In this paper, we suggest an alternative conceptualization of selective exposure; people choose when to pay attention to politics, instead of which ideological sources to follow, such that they avoid politics altogether in the times when they anticipate unpleasant information. We argue that presidential performance shapes such expectations, which would, in turn, create divergent overtime ebbs and flows in the levels of political engagement across partisan groups. Drawing on two multi-wave survey datasets, we find partisans display a lower level of political interest and media consumption during a politically disappointing period. Our findings suggest that that the stream of information that Democrats receive in the long run can be different from Republicans, even if partisans follow mostly central news sources.

— Top Paper Award from International Communication Association's Political Communication Division