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There are a number of observed gender differences in the frequency of political discussion, perceived levels of expertise, and importantly, openness to persuasion. This article explores the consequences of these differences for political choices. Given the difficulty in separating influence from homophily with observational data, this paper relies on a group-based experiment. Results suggest that when selecting between candidates, women are more likely to accept information from others, even if the information in the signals is not helpful. Men, on the other hand, often ignore outside signals in favor of sticking with their own choices even when outside signals would be helpful to their decision-making. A reanalysis of a previously published experiment on social communication leads to similar gender differences.
Is public support for social welfare programs’ contingent on an individual’s exposure to risk? Prior work has examined whether tough economic times lead people to “reach out” (i.e. become more accepting of government expansion of social welfare programs) or “pull back” (i.e. become less supportive of welfare). However, these studies do not account for the conditional relationship between an individual’s exposure to risk and his or her risk orientation. Using new survey data, we find that an individual’s risk orientation moderates the relationship between risk exposure and public support for welfare spending. When individuals perceive exposure to economic risk, those who are risk averse are highly supportive of welfare expansion; those who are risk acceptant become less supportive. Broadly, these findings suggest that public support for welfare spending is contingent on whether an individual perceives exposure to risk and, if so, the individual’s propensity to tolerate that risk.
Helicopter parenting is a phenomenon that is attracting sizable attention from university administrators and instructors. We examine the implications of helicopter parenting for both the political science classroom and for public opinion. Using a survey conducted at multiple universities in the United States, we find that helicopter parenting has a significant impact on the policy attitudes of college students. Specifically, students with helicopter parents are more likely to express support for both government surveillance and nanny state policies than are students without helicopter parents. Given the growing trend of helicopter parenting, these findings will likely have substantial implications for both the political science classroom and public opinion in the near future.
Recently, many U.S. states that allow citizen initiatives have passed laws designed to make it more difficult for an initiative to qualify for the ballot (e.g., by increasing the number of signatures required to get on the ballot), thereby making it harder for citizens to bypass the legislature and make direct changes to public policy. Such laws have reduced both the number of measures that make the ballot and the number that pass on Election Day. I show that laws governing access of initiatives to the ballot also shape the policy agenda; provisions making it harder for proposals to get on the ballot decrease the complexity of the initiatives on the ballot. As less complex initiatives are more likely to be understood by voters and voters are reluctant to vote for measures they do not understand, more restrictive laws actually increase the likelihood that an initiative will pass.
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