Title: The Effects of Panel Assignment on the US Court of Appeals in Death Penalty Cases
Authors: Deborah Beim, Tom S Clark and Benjamin E Lauderdale
Status: In Preparation
Abstract: We use the random assignment of three judge panels on the US Court of Appeals to measure the preferences of individual judges for granting relief in death penalty appeals, and how they are aggregated into decisions. We provide evidence that judges on the US Court of Appeals for the 5th, 6th, 9th, and 11th Circuits apply highly inconsistent thresholds for relief from death penalty sentences. In future versions of this paper, we will examine the extent to which en banc and Supreme Court review reduce the inconsistencies that arise as well as the ultimate effects of random panel assignment on whether and when appellants are executed.
Title: Refugee Roulette Revisited: Judicial Preference Variation and Aggregation on the Swiss Federal Administrative Court 2007-2012
Authors: Dominik Hangartner, Benjamin E Lauderdale, Judith Spirig
Status: In Preparation
Abstract: Recent studies of asylum adjudication in several Western countries have found sizeable disparities between individual adjudicators. We contribute to this literature by exploiting a natural experiment from Switzerland, where all asylum appeals are handled by the Federal Administrative Court. Several features of the Swiss asylum appeal process conspire to offer an unusual opportunity to examine judges’ revealed preferences and how they correlate with their party affiliation. First, the asylum cases have a common, uni-dimensional structure, as all decisions typically involve the appeal of an initial asylum decision. Second, the cases are assigned at random (conditional on language) to panels of judges, each of whom has a known party affiliation. As a result, we can test which of several decision- and game-theoretic theories of group decision-making seem to best fit the panel decisions as well as inferring the judges’ individual preferences. We show that inconsistencies in decision-making due to panel composition were substantially reduced between 2007 and 2012, primarily because judges affiliated with the most liberal party converged towards the rest of the court.
Title: Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: Agenda Setting and Legislative Voting in Response to External Shocks
Authors: Jack Blumenau and Benjamin Lauderdale
Status: Under Review
Abstract: When exogenous shocks make status quo policies less attractive, legislators be- come more tolerant to proposed alternatives that are further from their ideal in general political dimensions. This increases the discretion of legislative agenda-setters, and allows them to pass policy that would have been impossible in the absence of a crisis. We argue that this dynamic explains changes in voting patterns of the European Parliament during the period of the financial crisis, given control of the agenda-setting process by pro-integration actors. We observe voting coalitions increasingly dividing legislators along the pro-anti integration dimension of disagreement, but only in policy areas related to the crisis. In line with more qualitative assessments of the content of passed legislation, the implication is that pro-integration actors were able to shift policy further towards integration than they could have without the crisis.
Title: Recovering Vote by Race in Primary Elections: Does Local Ecological Inference Provide Accurate Estimates of Voting Behavior Without Polling Data?
Authors: Ryan D. Enos and Benjamin E. Lauderdale
Last version: MPSA 2011
Abstract: Scholars know far less about voting behavior in primary elections than in general elec- tions, yet in the many parts of the country where one party dominates, it is primary elections that determine who holds office. Because of the absence of the party cue, the roles of race, income and education in voting behavior are potentially more varied and consequential in the context of primaries. For example, elections contested by multiple black candidates–typically in majority-black electorates–can show striking patterns of racial voting despite the apparent lack of any overt cue from the race of the candidate. Unfortunately, studying primary elections is difficult because polling is sparse and of low quality. In this paper, we begin an assessment of whether the use of a local ecologi- cal inference method based on geographically-weighted kernel regressions can facilitate systematic study of these unpolled elections. Our local ecological inference technique weakens the assumptions made by standard ecological inference methods in an intuitive way that is appropriate to political geography. We demonstrate the relative robustness of our local ecological estimates of support by race in a difficult case where the correct answer is known and standard ecological inference methods give spectacularly wrong estimates: the state-level vote by race for Barack Obama and John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. We then apply these methods to a pilot study of the 2000 Illinois 1st Congressional District primary between Barack Obama and Bobby Rush.
Title: Legislator Characteristics, Constituency Characteristics, and Roll Call Voting
Authors: Nicholas Carnes and Benjamin E. Lauderdale
Last version: MPSA 2011
Abstract: Which matters more when legislators make decisions, their own characteristics or those of the people they represent? This paper uses comprehensive data on the personal attributes of both members of Congress and their constituents to com- pare the relative influence of eight legislator and constituency characteristics–party, race, gender, age, income, education, religion, and occupation–on roll call voting in the 109th and 110th Congresses. Our findings suggest that who governs matters considerably more than the literatures on representation and legislative decision-making have previously acknowledged: the effects of legislators’ own backgrounds are not limited to the handful of issue areas and personal characteristics that previous studies have examined. These findings strongly support recent calls for renewed attention to the “personal roots” of elite decision-making.
Title: Latent Versus Self-Reported Ideology
Authors: Benjamin E. Lauderdale
Last version: July 2007
Abstract: Spatial voting axes are seldom directly measurable. In general, political scientists employ latent variable models that aim to infer the presence and characteristics of axes from their impact on measurable quantities such as voting behavior. Ideology in the electorate is a rare case where researchers regularly attempt to measure a spatial quantity directly, typically by asking people to rank themselves on ordinal scales from liberal to conservative. These self-reported ideology scores have been widely used as a nationally comparable measure of ideological position, but whether different citizens are using consistent criteria for assessing and reporting their ideology is largely unknown. To better understand the relationship between issue positions and ideology in the electorate, I develop a item-response model for self-reported ideology as a function of issue positions. I find that political information is required for voters to self-report ideology consistently with their issue positions. Groups which are less attuned to the terminology of the national political discourse tend to self-report ideology in ways that are less informative about their issue positions on the primary political axis defined by that discourse.