Forthcoming and Accepted Papers
How much does self-interest drive Americans’ policy attitudes? Survey research typically finds that self-interest’s role is minimal. Such conclusions are typically reached by examining attitudes toward federal policies that present diffuse costs and low stakes. We consider a starker test-case of self-interest: controversies surrounding development of dense and affordable housing in Americans’ communities. Liberal homeowners, especially, must cope with dissonance between their egalitarian ideology and a desire to protect their home values and quality of life. They often embrace liberal housing goals and redistributive housing policies, but join conservatives in opposing dense housing in their own communities. Two survey experiments show that liberal homeowners are cross-pressured, and barely more likely than conservative homeowners to support dense housing development. Messages appealing to homeowners’ self-interest reduce support further, while countervailing appeals about housing’s benefits to low- and middle-income families barely offset the negative effect. We discuss implications for the politics of equality of opportunity in state and local politics.
Amalie Jensen, William Marble, Kenneth Scheve, and Matthew Slaughter. “City Limits to Partisan Polarization in the American Public." Conditionally accepted, Political Science Research and Methods. PDF.
How pervasive is partisan sorting and polarization over public policies in the American public? We examine whether the barriers of partisan sorting and polarization seen in national politics extend to important local policies that shape economic development. To describe the extent of partisan sorting and polarization over local development policies, we employ conjoint survey experiments in representative surveys of eight U.S. metropolitan areas and a hierarchical modeling strategy for studying heterogeneity across respondents. We find that strong partisans are sorted by party in some of their policy opinions, but rarely polarized. The same voters who disagree about national issues have similar preferences about local development issues suggesting a greater scope for bipartisan problem solving at the local level.
William Marble and Matthew Tyler. “The Structure of Political Choices: Distinguishing Between Constraint and Multidimensionality." Conditionally accepted, Political Analysis. PDF.
In the literatures on public opinion and legislative behavior, there are debates over (1) how constrained preferences are and (2) whether they are captured by a single left-right spectrum or require multiple dimensions. But insufficient formalization has led scholars to equate a lack of constraint with multidimensional preferences. In this paper, we refine the concepts of constraint and dimensionality in a formal framework and describe how they translate into separate observable implications for political preferences. We use this discussion to motivate a cross-validation estimator that measures constraint and dimensionality in the context of canonical ideal point models. Using data from the public and politicians, we find that American political preferences are one-dimensional, but there is more constraint among politicians than among the mass public. Furthermore, we show that differences between politicians and the public are not explained by differences in agendas or the incentives faced by the actors.
Ala’ Alrababa’h, William Marble, Salma Mousa, and Alexandra Siegel. “Can Exposure to Celebrities Reduce Prejudice? The Effect of Mohamed Salah on Islamophobic Behaviors and Attitudes." Revised and resubmitted, American Political Science Review. Link to paper.
Can exposure to successful celebrities from a stigmatized group reduce prejudice toward that group writ large? We study the sudden and phenomenal rise to fame of Liverpool F.C. soccer star Mohamed Salah, a visibly Muslim player. We estimate the causal effect of Salah joining Liverpool F.C. on Islamophobia using hate crime reports throughout England, 15 million tweets from British soccer fans, and a survey experiment of Liverpool fans. We find that Merseyside (home to Liverpool F.C.) experienced a 16% drop in hate crimes, compared to a synthetic control. There is no similar effect for other types of crime. We also find that Liverpool fans halved their rates of posting anti-Muslim tweets relative to fans of other top-flight clubs. The survey experiment suggests that the salience of Salah's Muslim identity is important for reducing prejudice against Muslims more broadly. Our findings indicate that positive exposure to outgroup role models can decrease prejudice.
William Marble. “Responsiveness in a Polarized Era: How Local Economic Conditions Structure Campaign Rhetoric." PDF.
Politics in the United States has become increasingly nationalized and polarized, raising the question: Are politicians responsive to the local concerns of their constituents? I investigate this question by examining how local economic conditions affect the expressed priorities of congressional candidates, drawing on the content of televised campaign advertisements between 2000 and 2016. Exploiting over-time changes in local unemployment rates, I find that the issue content of campaign ads varies substantially with local conditions. Specifically, candidates in high-unemployment areas devote more attention to jobs and employment and less to the safety net. Democrats also discuss business less in high-unemployment areas. The magnitude of the effects varies by party in a way consistent with theories of strategic emphasis. These findings suggest that, rather than politics being uniform throughout the country, candidates are responsive to the conditions in their districts — but this responsiveness depends in part on the national-level political environment. Economic geography therefore acts as a constraint on the nationalization of politics.
Justin Grimmer and William Marble. “Who Put Trump in the White House? Explaining the Contribution of Voting Blocs to Trump’s Victory." PDF.
A surprising fact about the 2016 election is that Trump received fewer votes from whites with the highest levels of racial resentment than Romney did in 2012. This fact is surprising given studies that emphasize “activation” of racial conservatism in 2016—the increased relationship between vote choice and racial attitudes among voters. But this relationship provides almost no information about how many votes candidates receive from individuals with particular attitudes. To understand how many votes a voting bloc contributes to a candidate’s total, we must also consider a bloc’s size and its turnout rate. Taking these into account, we find that Trump’s most significant gains came from whites with moderate attitudes about race and immigration. Trump’s vote totals improved the most among swing voters: low-socioeconomic status whites who are political moderates. Our analysis demonstrates that focusing only on vote choice is insufficient to explain sources of candidate support in the electorate.
William Marble. “Mail Voting Can Decrease Ballot Roll-Off." PDF.
Throughout the United States, an increasing number of states are adopting laws that make it easier for voters to vote by mail (VBM). While research has addressed the potential effects of these changes on turnout, little attention has been paid to other aspects of voter behavior. In this paper, I argue that mail voting can decrease ballot roll-off — the tendency of voters to selectively abstain from voting in some races on the ballot. Roll-off is very common, with roll-off rates often exceeding 10%. Exploiting county-level variation in implementation of mandatory vote-by-mail laws in Washington, I show that VBM is associated with an aggregate decrease in roll-off in a variety of down-ballot races. The results persist even after several mail elections. These findings are consistent with absentee voting causing voters to take more time to educate themselves about their choices.
William Marble and Nathan Lee. “Why Not Run? Assessing Disincentives to Office-Seeking." Link to paper.
A core question in the study of democratic politics is what factors influence the decision to run for office. A full accounting of the process of candidate emergence requires understanding the individual-level factors that influence potential candidates. Yet, existing studies typically focus on a single factor in isolation or study aggregate outcomes, rather than individual-level decisions. To overcome these limitations, we embed a conjoint experiment into a survey of local officials — a population from which candidates for from which candidates for higher office often emerge. We vary election scenarios and measure interest in running for the given office. Politicians are more sensitive to variation in the fundraising burden than any other factor considered — including legislative salary. Politicians are also deterred by the presence of an incumbent and by negative advertising. We find little evidence that they are directly responsive to their opponent’s ideology.
Kaiping Chen, Nathan Lee, and William Marble. “How Policymakers Evaluate Online versus Offline Constituent Messages." Link to paper.
The internet has made it easier than ever for citizens to voice their opinion to their elected representatives. However, theories of costly signaling suggest officials may infer that constituents who write to them via lower-effort online mediums care less about the issues than those who communicate in person. To examine this possibility, we fielded a national survey of local U.S. policymakers to examine responsiveness to different types of constituent messages. We find that policymakers rate social media messages as substantially less informative and less influential than identical messages delivered in person. However, this discount factor can be overcome through increased participation: our conjoint estimates imply that a message received online from 47 constituents is as influential as the same message received from a single constituent in person. Taken together, these findings illustrate the double-edged nature of low-cost communication technologies for representation in the digital era.
Policy brief from April 2020 reviewing early research on covid-19. “The Evidence and Tradeoffs for a“Stay-at-Home Pandemic Response." (with A. Doyle, M. Friedlander, G. Li, C. Smith, et al.). Link to paper.