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The 2020 U.S. presidential election saw rising political tensions among ordinary voters and political elites, with fears of election violence culminating in the January 6 riot. We hypothesized that the 2020 election might have been traumatic for some voters, producing measurable symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We also hypothesized that negative sentiment toward the opposing party correlates with PTSD. We measured PTSD using a modified version of the PCL-5, a validated PTSD screener, for 573 individuals from a nationally representative YouGov sample. We modeled the association between affective polarization and PTSD, controlling for political, demographic, and psychological traits. We estimate that 12.5% of American adults (95% CI: 9.2% to 15.9%) experienced election-related PTSD, far higher than the annual PTSD prevalence of 3.5%. Additionally, negativity toward opposing partisans correlated with PTSD symptoms. These findings highlight a potential need to support Americans affected by election-related trauma.
Key [1949. Southern Politics in State and Nation. New York: A.A. Knopf] observed voters tend to support local candidates at higher rates, a phenomenon he termed “friends-and-neighbors” voting. In a recent study, Panagopoulos et al. [2017. Political Behavior 39(4): 865–82] deployed a nonpartisan randomized field experiment to show that voters in the September 2014 primary election for state senate in Massachusetts were mobilized on the basis of shared geography. County ties and, to a lesser extent, hometown ties between voters and candidates have the capacity to drive voters to the polls. We partnered with a national party organization to conduct a similar, partisan experiment in the November 2014 general election for the Pennsylvania state senate. We find localism cues can stimulate voting in elections, including in neighboring communities that lie beyond the towns and counties in which the target candidate resided, at least among voters favorably disposed to a candidate and even when voters reside in the home county of the opponent.
Good education requires student experiences that deliver lessons about practice as well as theory and that encourage students to work for the public good—especially in the operation of democratic institutions (Dewey 1923; Dewy 1938). We report on an evaluation of the pedagogical value of a research project involving 23 colleges and universities across the country. Faculty trained and supervised students who observed polling places in the 2016 General Election. Our findings indicate that this was a valuable learning experience in both the short and long terms. Students found their experiences to be valuable and reported learning generally and specifically related to course material. Postelection, they also felt more knowledgeable about election science topics, voting behavior, and research methods. Students reported interest in participating in similar research in the future, would recommend other students to do so, and expressed interest in more learning and research about the topics central to their experience. Our results suggest that participants appreciated the importance of elections and their study. Collectively, the participating students are engaged and efficacious—essential qualities of citizens in a democracy.
We report the results of a field experiment conducted in New York City during the 2013 election cycle, examining the impact of nonpartisan messages on donations from small contributors. Using information from voter registration and campaign finance records, we built a forecasting model to identify voters with an above-average probability of donating. A random sample of these voters received one of four messages asking them to donate to a candidate of their choice. Half of these treatments reminded voters that New York City's campaign finance program matches small donations with public funds. Candidates’ financial disclosures to the city's Campaign Finance Board reveal that only the message mentioning policy (in generic terms) increased donations. Surprisingly, reminding voters that matching funds multiplied the value of their contribution had no effect. Our experiment sheds light on the motivations of donors and represents the first attempt to assess nonpartisan appeals to contribute.
If an experimental treatment is experienced by both treated and control group units, tests of hypotheses about causal effects may be difficult to conceptualize, let alone execute. In this article, we show how counterfactual causal models may be written and tested when theories suggest spillover or other network-based interference among experimental units. We show that the “no interference” assumption need not constrain scholars who have interesting questions about interference. We offer researchers the ability to model theories about how treatment given to some units may come to influence outcomes for other units. We further show how to test hypotheses about these causal effects, and we provide tools to enable researchers to assess the operating characteristics of their tests given their own models, designs, test statistics, and data. The conceptual and methodological framework we develop here is particularly applicable to social networks, but may be usefully deployed whenever a researcher wonders about interference between units. Interference between units need not be an untestable assumption; instead, interference is an opportunity to ask meaningful questions about theoretically interesting phenomena.
Against the backdrop of the 2008 presidential election, a watershed event in terms of electoral participation, many speculated that renewed interest in voting would spill over into the 2010 cycle, resulting in a meaningful uptick in voter turnout in the midterm elections overall. Turnout was expected to be especially robust among Republicans eager to regain their numbers in 2010, capitalizing on Democratic withdrawal fueled by voters' frustration with President Obama, congressional Democrats, and the struggling economy. In 2008, an electorate energized around an historic contest and unprecedented levels of voter mobilization helped to drive more citizens to the polls on Election Day than ever before (Panagopoulos and Francia 2009). An estimated 131.1 million Americans voted for president, representing 61.6% of the eligible voting population (McDonald 2009). Voter turnout among eligible voters in 2008 was 1.5 percentage points higher than in 2004, when 122.3 million voters participated in the presidential election (Bergan et al. 2005). The 2008 election thus marked the third consecutive presidential election cycle in which voter turnout increased, reversing a trend of declining participation that began in the 1960s (McDonald 2009). In fact, national turnout in recent presidential elections has rivaled modern highs in the level of electoral participation that occurred in the 1950s and 1960s.
Congressional midterm elections were held in the United States in November 2010. Midterm cycles have historically been unkind to the party of the incumbent president, which has on average lost 24 seats in the U.S. House and 4 seats in the U.S. Senate in midterms during the postwar era. In the 2010 general elections, Democrats, who had enjoyed unified control of the federal government since January 2009, suffered devastating defeats in congressional, gubernatorial, and state legislative races nationwide. Democrats lost a total of 63 seats in the U.S House of Representatives—a loss greater than in any other midterm in the postwar period—relinquishing control to the GOP for the first time since 2007 and ushering in a new era of divided government in Washington. Republicans also made gains in the U.S. Senate, although Democrats ultimately retained control of the chamber by a narrow margin of 51 to 47 (two independents also caucus with the Democrats).
Political consulting is not a wholly new enterprise. Advisers have
provided services informally to politicians for centuries. In recent
years, however, political consulting has become increasingly formalized.
Sabato (1981) offers an operational definition
of contemporary political consultants: a campaign professional who is
engaged primarily in the provision of advice and services (such as
polling, media creation and production, direct mail fundraising) to
candidates, their campaigns, and other political committees. Fueled
primarily by developments in the United States, the political consulting
industry experienced tremendous growth in the 20th century
since the establishment of the first modern political consulting firm in
1934 (Friedenberg 1997; Baumgartner 2000; Thurber and Nelson 2000; Lathrop 2003; Plasser
and Plasser 2002). Presidential candidates have
sought the expertise of political marketing professionals consistently
since Alfred Landon's 1936 campaign (Baumgartner 2000). Since 1969, when Joseph Napolitan (who had
worked on Hubert Humphrey's campaign in 1968) founded the American
Association of Political Consultants with 25 members, the organization has
grown substantially, currently boasting over 4,000 members. (Baumgartner
 estimates the number of
political consultants across the United States to exceed 35,000.) This
proliferation of political consultants instigated the formation of an
industry that has become increasingly specialized and professionalized
(Thurber 1998; Baumgartner 2000).
The final chapter on the 2004 presidential election may not yet be
written, but it is not too soon to look ahead to the 2008 contest.
Public pollsters have been assessing opinions about the 2008
campaign for months already. Given the importance of frontrunner
status in an increasingly frontloaded presidential primary system
(Mayer 2004), the 2008 race has
already begun for many prospective candidates, parties, and voters.
In this article I analyze early public opinion polling data
available from the Roper Center's IPOLL database about the 2008 race
to determine the frontrunning candidates (at least through June
2005) and to reflect on the preliminary dynamics of the next
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