WHO IS “ON WELFARE”? VALIDATING THE USE OF CONJOINT EXPERIMENTS TO MEASURE STEREOTYPE CONTENT (W/ KRISTIN LUNZ TRUJILLO AND KIRILL ZHIRKOV)
Conditionally Accepted Political Behavior
In this paper, we use the case of welfare recipients to validate conjoint experiments as a measure of stereotype content. Stereotypes are politically consequential, but their content can be difficult to measure. The conjoint measure of stereotype content, in which respondents see profiles describing hypothetical persons and rate these persons’ degree of belonging to the target group, offers several advantages over existing measures. However, no existing work evaluates the validity of this new measure. We evaluate this measurement technique using the case of welfare recipients. Stereotypes of welfare recipients are politically important and extensively studied, providing strong a priori expectations for portions of the stereotype, especially race, gender, and “deservingness.” At the same time, scholars disagree about the importance of another attribute with important political implications: immigration status. We find that aggregate stereotypes, measured via a conjoint experiment, match the strong a priori expectations: white Americans see welfare recipients as black, female, and violating the norms of work ethic. Individual-level stereotypes also predict welfare policy support—even when other demographic and ideological factors are accounted for. We also find that immigration status is not part of the welfare recipient stereotype for most Americans, but support for welfare is lower among those who do stereotype welfare recipients as undocumented immigrants. Finally, we suggest an improvement in the wording of the conjoint task. Overall, we confirm that conjoint experiments provide a valid measure of stereotypes.
ISSUES, GROUPS, OR IDIOTS? COMPARING THEORIES OF PARTISAN STEREOTYPES
When individuals picture the two parties, what do they think of? Given the dominant understanding of partisan ship as a social identity, understanding the content of these mental images – individuals’ stereotypes of the two parties – is essential, as social identity theory claims that stereotypes play an important role in determining an identity’s effects on attitudes, behaviors, and inter-group relations. The existing literature offers three distinct theories about how members of the mass public picture the two parties: A group-based theory which claims that people picture the two parties in terms of their constituent social groups, an issue-based theory that claims that people picture the two parties in terms of policy positions, and partisan-trait theory that claims that people view the two parties in terms of individual traits they associate with partisans. This paper adjudicates between these theories by employing a new method that measures stereotype content using a conjoint experiment. An important advantage of the conjoint measure is that it allows for the direct comparison of the importance of different attributes, and different kinds of attributes, to the stereotype. Using a pre-registered 2,909-person survey, I evaluate the relative importance of issues, groups, and traits to stereotypes of partisans. I find strong evidence for the issue-based theory of partisanship; relative to issue positions, groups and traits play a small role in stereotypes of partisans. Social issues are more central than economic issues, though even economic issues play a larger role than most group or trait attributes.
CHANGING PARTISAN STEREOTYPES IN THE TRUMP ERA (W/ ETHAN BUSBY AND ADAM HOWAT)
Stereotypes of the two parties play an important role in political cognition, and a range of recent studies have examined the content and effects of partisan stereotypes. However, little work has studied change in partisan stereotypes over time. We address this question by comparing data on stereotypes of partisans collected before and after the Trump presidency, a time when we might expect individuals’ images of the two parties to undergo significant change. Using a structural topic model, we compare responses to open-ended questions asking respondents to list words describing members of the two parties from 2016 and 2021. We find that partisan stereotypes became less group and issue-based during this period and focused more on personal traits. These results suggest that during the Trump era members of the mass public came to see the parties less as coalitions of groups and more as social groups in their own right, potentially contributing to affective polarization.
EXPLICIT VS. IMPLICIT SIGNALLING OF RACE IN CONJOINT EXPERIMENTS (W/ KIRILL ZHIRKOV AND KRISTIN LUNZ TRUJILLO)
Experiments explicitly including race—a socially sensitive topic in America—are subject to biased effects, as respondents may hide socially undesirable views on racial issues. Thus, race is often signaled in experiments implicitly. Conjoint experiments are an exception because researchers assume they mitigate the social desirability bias associated with explicit racial cues. However, this assumption remains untested. To validate it, we use an experiment-in-experiment that randomly assigns respondents to explicit or implicit race conditions within a larger conjoint experiment measuring stereotypes of welfare recipients. In the explicit condition, race is signaled openly: profiles are described as white, black, or Hispanic. In the implicit condition, race is signaled through racially distinctive names. Across these two conditions we find no differences in the effects of the race attribute. Our results support the current practice of including race explicitly in conjoint experiments.
POLITICS OR PUBLIC HEALTH? POLITICIZED FRAMING OF THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC IN NATIONAL AND LOCAL NEWSPAPERS
Beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to the COVID-19 pandemic quickly became polarized along partisan lines. One possible cause of this is media coverage that frames the pandemic in terms of partisan conflict instead of public health. We analyze the content of COVID-19 related articles published on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, and a random sample of local newspapers between February 21 and May 15. We find these newspapers employed partisan framings of the pandemic less frequently than some media criticism would lead us to expect. However, these frequencies differ across the kind of newspaper, with the two national papers far more likely to employ partisan framings than the local newspapers. These results suggest that the degree to which news consumers perceive the pandemic in political terms may depend on what kind of news they consume. Further, the technology-driven trend towards consumption of national instead of local media and the accompanying collapse of local news outlets may increase the degree to which news consumers perceive heath crises as partisan issues.
THE EFFECT OF COUNTER-STEREOTYPICAL PARTISAN EXEMPLARS ON PARTISAN STEREOTYPES AND AFFECTIVE POLARIZATION
July 12, 2025
Partisans hold negative and inaccurate stereotypes of members of the out-party. Yet, little research has explored where these stereotypes come from. Drawing on theories of stereotype construction from psychology, we argue that stereotypes of the out-party are constructed from the stream of partisan exemplars that an individual encounters, either in person or, more commonly, through the media. Drawing on an established experimental paradigm for studying racial stereotypes, we test this theory using an experiment that presents with either ideologically stereotypical or ideologically counter-stereotypical exemplars of the party they do not identify with. We evaluate the effect of these exemplars on stereotypes of and affect towards out-partisans. The results suggest that counter-stereotypical exemplars can moderate stereotypes of partisan ideology and improve affect towards the out-party. These results have important implications for understanding how the media shape partisan stereotypes, and also suggest methods for reducing inter-partisan animosity.
STORYTELLING AND INTERGROUP RELATIONS
July 12, 2025
Understanding the experiences of others, particularly out-group members, is important for a functioning democracy. One possible way to encourage mutual understanding is telling stories, messages that use plot, characters, and narrative suspense to make a point. An extensive literature in communications and psychology suggests that stories are processed differently than other messages, in a way that makes them particularly conducive to communicating experience and reducing barriers to persuasion. Drawing on this work, some democratic theorists, as well as empirical scholars studying prejudice reduction, suggest that storytelling might improve intergroup attitudes and behaviors. This paper evaluates the relative effects of narrative and non-narrative messages in the news media, one of the most common places for citizens to encounter stories about other groups. We do so using an experiment that manipulates whether a newspaper article opens with an anecdotal lead, a story about an individual affected by the events described in the article. Contrary to recent work, we find no evidence that articles that lead with a story are more effective than articles that employ a more traditional, non-narrative lead. These results suggest that narrative messages have little advantage over non-narrative messages in common forms of political communication.
PUBLICATIONS (POLITICAL SCIENCE)
THE DYNAMICS OF SOCIAL IDENTITY: EVIDENCE FROM DELIBERATING GROUPS
Political Psychology, 2022
During a period of rising affective polarization, the public deliberation movement has had remarkable success remarkable success in bringing together politically diverse groups of people for discussion of contentious political issues. How has this happened? I argue that public deliberation succeeds because it creates a new social identification for deliberators, identification with the deliberating group itself. Drawing on non-participant observation and interviews from three mini-publics on climate change in rural Minnesota, I demonstrate how this identity is constructed, and how it allows for deliberation across lines of difference. While the process of public deliberation is in many ways extraordinary, these results suggest that scholars should pay more attention to how social identities on politics are fluid, continuously constructed and reconstructed by political processes.
NO EFFECT OF PARTISAN FRAMING ON OPINIONS ABOUT THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, 2021
Media critics frequently complain about the tendency of reporters to cover political news using partisan conflict or partisan game frames, which describe policy disagreement as sites of partisan conflict where the parties can score “wins” or “losses.” Such frames, thought to decrease trust and increase partisan polarization, may be particularly dangerous when used in the coverage of public health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic. We report a survey experiment where 2,455 respondents were assigned to read coverage of the pandemic that was framed in non-partisan terms, in terms of partisan conflict, or as a game where one party was winning and the other losing. Contrary to expectations, we find no effect of these frames across a broad range of opinions about and actions related to the pandemic, with the exception of a small negative effect of partisan game-framed coverage on the desire to consume news about the pandemic. These results suggest that partisan framing may not have negative effects during a public health crisis or, alternately, that such effects are difficult to detect in real-time using traditional survey experiments.
DOES GROUP DELIBERATION MOBILIZE? THE EFFECT OF PUBLIC DELIBERATION ON WILLINGNESS TO PARTICIPATE IN POLITICS (W/ HUNTER G. GORDON, SUSAN DORR GOOLD, HYUNGJIN MYRA KIM, AND ZACHARY ROWE)
Political Behavior, 2020
Proponents of public deliberation suggest that engaging in deliberation increases deliberators’ subsequent participation in other forms of politics. We evaluate this “deliberative participation hypothesis” using data drawn from a deliberative field experiment in which members of medically underserved communities in Michigan deliberated in small groups about the design of that state’s Medicaid program. Participants were randomly assigned to deliberate about the program in a group or to think about the decision individually, and then completed a post-survey that included measures of willingness to engage in a variety of political acts. We measured willingness to engage in common forms of political participation, as well as willingness to participate in particularistic resistance to adverse decisions by insurance bureaucracies. Contrary to the claims of much of the existing literature, we find no impact of deliberation on willingness to engage in political participation. These results suggest that the ability of public deliberation to increase broader political engagement may be limited or may only occur in particularly intensive, directly empowered forms of public deliberation.
HOW WOULD LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES PRIORITIZE MEDICAID SPENDING? (W/ SUSAN DOOR GOOLD AND OTHERS)
Journal of Health Policy, Politics, and Law, 2020
Medicaid plays a critical role in low-income, minority, and medically underserved communities, particularly in states that have expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Yet, the voices of under-resourced communities are often unheard in decisions about how to allocate Medicaid's scarce resources, and traditional methods of public engagement are poorly suited to gathering such input. We engaged 209 residents of low-income, medically underserved Michigan communities in discussions about Medicaid spending priorities using an exercise in informed deliberation. Participants prioritized broad eligibility consistent with the ACA expansion, accepted some cost sharing, and prioritized spending in areas—including mental health—that are historically underfunded. Participants allocated less funding beyond benefit coverage, such as spending on healthy communities. The choices of participants from low-income, medically underserved communities reflect a unique set of priorities and suggest that engaging low-income communities more deeply in Medicaid policy making might result in different prioritization decisions.
POLITICAL DELIBERATION AND THE COMMON KNOWLEDGE EFFECT
Journal of Public Deliberation, 2018
Deliberation depends on the ability of deliberators to learn from each other through the exchange of information. However, the Common Knowledge Effect (CKE) finding, a well-established phenomenon affecting small-group discussion, shows that when people talk in groups they tend to ignore novel information and instead discuss commonly known information; things that everyone knew before discussion started. Some theorists have worried that the CKE makes small group discussion - one of the most common features of recent democratic innovations - a poor tool for making deliberative democracy a reality. However, most research on the CKE is limited to situations where group members share a common goal or interest, while political deliberation generally happens in situations where citizens have at least some conflicting interests. This paper looks for evidence of the CKE in two group-discussion experiments where subjects had partially conflicting interests, ultimately finding find no evidence of this effect. Scholars of deliberation frequently view conflicting interests as an obstacle to the success of deliberation; this result suggests that conflicting interests may, in fact, enhance deliberation by reducing the overreliance on commonly-known information.
INTERESTS, INFORMATION, AND MINORITY INFLUENCE IN DELIBERATION
Journal of Politics, 2017
The ability of citizens to advance arguments and have them considered fairly is essential to the equality and epistemic quality of deliberative institutions. This article builds on game-theoretic models of strategic information transmission to offer a theory of how the interests that deliberators have in the outcome of deliberation can reduce the influence of some citizens in deliberative processes. Specifically, this article argues that the influence of an argument depends on whether the deliberator making the argument is in the majority or minority in terms of her interests in the outcome of deliberation. An argument made by a member of the minority will be less influential than the same argument made by a member of the majority. We offer the first empirical test of this kind of model in realistic deliberative conditions using a laboratory experiment and a field experiment and find support for this theory.
THE INFLUENCE OF EMOTION ON TRUST (W/ DUSTIN TINGLEY)
Political Analysis, 2016
Political scientists frequently wish to test hypotheses about the effects of specific emotions on political behavior. However, commonly used experimental manipulations tend to have collateral effects on emotions other than the targeted emotion, making it difficult to ascribe outcomes to any single emotion. In this letter, we propose to address this problem using causal mediation analysis. We illustrate this approach using an experiment examining the effect of emotion on dyadic trust, as measured by the trust game. Our findings suggest that negative emotions can decrease trust, but only if those negative emotions make people feel less certain about their current situation. Our results suggest that only anxiety, a low-certainty emotion, has a negative impact on trust, whereas anger and guilt, two emotions that differ in their control appraisals but induce the same high level of certainty, appear to have no effect on trusting behavior. Importantly, we find that failing to use causal mediation analysis would ascribe a positive effect of anxiety on trust, demonstrating the value of this approach.
PARTICIPATION AND PUNISHMENT
Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2016
Studies have demonstrated that altruistic punishment can motivate pro-social behavior in settings that require group cooperation. This paper extends these findings to the voter participation game. Using a laboratory experiment we find that some subjects are willing to punish abstainers and that punishment increases participation. However, not all subjects respond to punishment equally. We find that punishment increases turnout more among subjects with a egoist social value orientation (SVO) than among subjects with a pro-social SVO. This suggests that increased opportunities for altruistic punishment do not just increase participation, but may also change the composition of the electorate.
LEARNING FROM OTHERS: AN EXPERIMENTAL TEST OF BROWNIAN MOTION UNCERTAINTY MODELS (W/ DAVID GLICK)
Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2015
Models of decision-making with outcome uncertainty are common in political science and related fields. Recent work in flagship journals has challenged canonical work by modeling outcome uncertainty as Brownian motion. This theoretical innovation has resonated because it is highly tractable and captures intuitively important realities of many decisions in ways that earlier models cannot. As theoretically attractive as the new models are, they have not yet been evaluated empirically. This is especially important because Brownian motion models place actors in more cognitively demanding situations than previous models. We offer what we believe to be the first experimental test of actors’ ability to behave in ways consistent with the Brownian motion model by evaluating subjects’ ability to rationally learn from another actor’s experiences. We show that subjects adjust their actions in response to the Brownian motion uncertainty. However, they deviate from optimal behavior in important ways, particularly in more complex situations.
Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology (2nd Ed.), 2013
Deliberation plays an important role in a number of political institutions and is also an increasingly common way that citizens participate in politics. This chapter divides political psychology research on small-group deliberation into three clusters of variables: the context in which deliberation takes place, the process by which deliberation proceeds, and the outcomes that deliberation produces. The existing literature shows that deliberation can have meaningful effects on important outcome variables like policy attitudes, citizen knowledge, and subsequent political engagement. However, research on how the context and process of deliberation produce these outcomes is still in its infancy. This chapter argues that as the political psychology literature on deliberation matures, it must pay more attention to process and context questions, in large part because the normative value of deliberation depends less on what the outcomes of deliberation are than on how those outcomes are produced.
EVALUATING COMMUNITY DELIBERATIONS
ABOUT HEALTH RESEARCH PRIORITIES
Health Expectations, 2019
Engaging underrepresented communities in health research priority-setting could make the scientific agenda more equitable and more responsive to their needs. Participants from underrepresented communities throughout Michigan (47 groups, n = 519) engaged in structured deliberations about health research priorities in professionally facilitated groups. We evaluated some aspects of the structure, process, and outcomes of deliberations, including representation, equality of participation, participants’ views of deliberations, and the impact of group deliberations on individual participants’ knowledge, attitudes, and points of view. Follow-up interviews elicited richer descriptions of these and also explored later effects on deliberators. Participation in discussions was well distributed. Deliberators improved their knowledge about disparities, but not about health research. Participants, on average, supported using their group's decision to inform decision-makers and would trust a process like this to inform funding decisions. Views of deliberations were the strongest predictor of these outcomes. Follow-up interviews revealed deliberators were particularly struck by their experience hearing and understanding other points of view, sometimes surprised at the group's ability to reach agreement, and occasionally activated to volunteer or advocate. Deliberations appeared to change some opinions, improved some knowledge, and were judged by participants worth using to inform policymakers.
MEMBERS OF MINORITY AND UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES SET PRIORITIES FOR HEALTH RESEARCH
Milbank Quarterly, 2018
A major contributor to health disparities is the relative lack of resources—including resources for science—allocated to address the health problems of those with disproportionately greater needs. Engaging and involving underrepresented communities in setting research priorities could make the scientific research agenda more equitable, more just, and more responsive to their needs and values. We engaged minority and underserved communities in informed deliberations and report here their priorities for health research. Nearly all the deliberating groups selected child health and mental health research (93.6% and 95.7%), and most invested at the highest level. Aging, access, promote health, healthy environment, and what causes disease were also prioritized by groups. However, the level of investment in many categories changed after the group deliberations. Minority and medically underserved communities overwhelmingly prioritized mental health and child health research in informed deliberations about spending priorities.
PRIORITIES FOR PATIENT‐CENTERED OUTCOMES RESEARCH: THE VIEWS OF MINORITY AND UNDERSERVED COMMUNITIES
Health Services Research, 2017
To learn how minority and underserved communities would set priorities for patient‐centered outcomes research (PCOR), sixteen groups (n = 183) from minority and underserved communities in two states deliberated about PCOR priorities using the simulation exercise CHoosing All Together (CHAT). Academic–community partnerships adapted CHAT for PCOR priority setting using existing research agendas and interviews with community leaders, clinicians, and key informants. Individuals and groups prioritized research on Quality of Life, Patient‐Doctor, Access, Special Needs, and (by total resources spent) Compare Approaches.
COMMUNITY DELIBERATION TO BUILD LOCAL CAPACITY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION: THE RURAL CLIMATE DIALOGUES PROGRAM
Climate Change Adaptation in North America, 2017
Apathy and skepticism about climate change make mobilizing collective action for adaptation difficult in rural areas of the US. This paper evaluates the potential for deliberative public engagement to overcome these obstacles through a case study of the Rural Climate Dialogues (RCD) program. A Rural Climate Dialogue (RCD) convenes a demographically and politically representative group of residents for three days of deliberation about the local impacts of climate change and about how their community can adapt. Following the Citizens Jury model, participants spend three days hearing expert testimony, deliberating together to identify elements of their community that are threatened by climate change, and devising recommendations for individual and community actions that can enhance their community’s climate resilience. Drawing on case studies of RCDs in three Minnesota communities, this evaluation finds that participating in an RCD reduces skepticism about climate change and increases beliefs that the local community can and should take action. Further, these dialogues spur collective action by setting clear, public goals and building support for direct involvement from community leaders and public officials. This success suggests that deliberative public engagement can be a useful tool for adaptation planning in rural communities and other areas where apathy and skepticism are significant barriers.