The Preference for Reciprocity in Congress

The forthcoming article The Preference for Reciprocity in Congress  by Christian Fong is summarized by the author below.

Most ordinary people help those who have helped them, even if they won’t get anything in return.  However, elected politicians might not behave like ordinary people.  Perhaps only the most cunning and ruthless people candidates can win elections, or perhaps the intense pressure and high stakes of their work numbs politicians to the feeling of gratitude that is so important to ordinary people.  Maybe politicians return past favors, but out of a cold, calculated desire to get others to help them in the future rather than any feeling of obligation or gratitude. 

This article shows that legislators, like ordinary people, like to help those who have helped them for its own sake, even if they don’t have anything to gain.  A survey presented state legislators with a hypothetical situation in which a legislator must vote on an amendment to increase government spending.  The state legislators reported that, even if the hypothetical legislator was about to leave office, he would still care more about whether the sponsor of the amendment had voted for his recent bill than whether the state was facing a budget deficit.   The results from this survey were reinforced by a study of how members of the US Congress who had just lost their campaigns for reelection voted in the two-month lame duck session between their defeat and when they had to leave office.  The legislators who received more campaign money from their party leader voted with the party more often, even though they were about to leave politics.  Finally, members of the US House of Representatives vote with their party at a higher rate after their party leader gives them an assignment to a prestigious committee, but only for as long as that leader stays in office.  As soon as that leader leaves office, they stop voting with their party so often. 

The survey and the study of the lame duck session both show that legislators repay past favors, even when they are about to leave politics and therefore have nothing to gain by repaying those favors.  The study of committee assignments shows that they feel gratitude toward the particular person who performed the favor.  Together, these three studies show that whatever character traits it might take to win elections, however much pressure holding elected office might place on politicians, legislators feel the same obligation to repay past kindness that most of us do. 

About the Author: Christian Fong is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Their research “The Preference for Reciprocity in Congress” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science

Bicameralism and Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion

The forthcoming article “Bicameralism and Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion” by Lawrence Ezrow, Michele Fenzl, and Timothy Hellwig is summarized by the authors below.

In The Federalist Papers (No. 62), James Madison asserted that introducing a second legislative chamber was an effective tool to diffuse power and prevent the tyranny of the majority.  Our study, however, suggests that the presence of a strong second chamber reduces a key source of government legitimacy: policy responsiveness to public opinion.  

We show that the organization of the legislature, into one or two chambers, affects whether governments deliver policy that reflects the changing preferences of the public. This question has gained prominence in recent political debates in Europe. For example, in 2014, Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi tried to pass a constitutional reform that would have weakened the Senate. The rationale that was put forward for weakening the upper house and thus the “perfect” bicameralism of the Italian Parliament was precisely to grant the government more leeway to respond to socio-economic challenges and public demands.  

Our findings support this reasoning. Our theory emphasizes the distribution of power between chambers and how equal power distributions can reduce the ability of governments to respond to shifts in public opinion. Drawing on data on public opinion and policy outputs, we analyze the role of citizens’ preferences for the design of welfare and immigration policies across fourteen established democracies.  We find that governments are more responsive to shifts in public opinion in systems with a single dominant chamber than under strong bicameralism. Furthermore, evidence from the case of Belgium, wherein the fourth State Reform shifted power away from the Senate, confirms that policy became more responsive to public opinion after the Senate was weakened.  

These findings are important for theoretical and policy reasons. With respect to theory, we evaluate an often overlooked prediction for how institutions affect democracies. To some, bicameral institutions matter because the presence of an upper chamber reduces prospects for policy outcomes to diverge from the status quo. For others, the influence of such institutional arrangements over policy outcomes stems from the specific distribution of authorized control between chambers over decision-making. We build on both perspectives and show that the number of chambers matters—and so too does the power distribution between them. In terms of policy implications, our study shows that reforms, such as that completed in Belgium in the 1990s and the one proposed in Italy in the 2010s, can strongly affect policy-making processes in democracies. The findings should therefore inform discussions also in other contexts, such as the United Kingdom, where reform of the House of Lords has been a point of discussion for well over a century by members of parliament and constitutional scholars seeking to modernize Britain’s democracy.  

About the Authors: Lawrence Ezrow is a Professor of Government at the University of Essex, Michele Fenzl is a Post-doc in the Institute of Political Science at the University of Zurich, and Timothy Hellwig is a Professor of Political Science at Indiana University. Their research “Bicameralism and Policy Responsiveness to Public Opinion” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Talk May Be Cheap, but Deeds Seldom Cheat: On Political Liberalism and the Assurance Problem

The forthcoming article “Talk May Be Cheap, but Deeds Seldom Cheat: On Political Liberalism and the Assurance Problem” by Baldwin Wong and Man-Kong Li is summarized by the authors below.

Partisan polarization has recently become a pressing problem in contemporary democracies. However, according to John Rawls, political disagreement does not necessarily threaten democracy. Rawls proposed a theory of political liberalism and tried to show that, despite political disagreements, reasonable citizens can still live together in a mutually respectful way. For reasonable citizens share some basic political values, such as freedom, equality, and fairness. They trust each other and are willing to comply with the unfavorable laws made by other reasonable citizens, for they know that others are willing to make similar sacrifices.    

Nevertheless, apart from reasonable citizens, a democratic society also has some unreasonable citizens who merely want to use state power to pursue their sectarian goals. Reasonable citizens are willing to cooperate with each other, but they want to avoid being exploited by unreasonable citizens. Hence, before trusting others, reasonable citizens want to ensure that others are trustworthy. We call this the assurance problem. This problem is more serious among democratic officials who control coercive political power. In other words, in political disagreements, how can a reasonable democratic official ensure that other officials are reasonable as well? In our article, we try to show how the assurance problem can be resolved in Rawls’s political liberalism. 

Usually, Rawlsians suggested that speaking in terms of public reason can provide mutual assurance. By explaining their political decisions in terms of shared political values, officials show each other that they are reasonable citizens committed to these values. This solution, however, has recently been criticized as exaggerating the power of words. The cost of presenting one’s views in terms of public reason is too low. The meanings of political values are usually vague, and thus public reason can be used to defend vastly different policies. Even some unreasonable officials can offer public reasons to fool other reasonable officials. In brief, public reason is merely a kind of “cheap talk.” It is unable to provide any assurance among democratic officials.  

We argue that this “cheap talk critique” wrongly assumes that the discourse of public reason alone is the source of mutual assurance. Rather, mutual assurance is created by the discourse of public reason together with civic deeds. For civic deeds, It means actions that are public-spirited and answerable to others. For example, officials are frequently willing to listen to the arguments of their political opponents respectfully. Or, during the discussion, officials are eager to contribute to public discussions by improving the opponents’ arguments, even if this may strengthen their position. We further use the relationship between Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia to show that, despite political disagreement, civic deeds can enable officials to ensure that each other is reasonable.  

Furthermore, the cost of performing civic deeds is high enough for reasonable officials to differentiate their fellows from unreasonable officials. It may be simple to present one’s view in terms of public reason, but it is never easy to perform civic deeds over time continuously. It takes enormous time and effort to always behave in a public-spirited and answerable way in open discussions. Sometimes people also have to give up possible gains for the sake of the common good. Hence, by observing the civic deeds of each other, reasonable officials can ensure that others will act reasonably when they do the same, and thus the assurance problem can be resolved. Talk may be cheap, but deeds seldom cheat. 

About the Authors: Baldwin Wong is an Assistant Professor of Religion and Philosophy at the Hong Kong Baptist University and Man-Kong Li is an Assistant Professor of Social Science at Hang Seng University of Hong Kong. Their research “Talk May Be Cheap, but Deeds Seldom Cheat: On Political  Liberalism and the Assurance Problem” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

How Patronage Delivers: Political Appointments, Bureaucratic Accountability, and Service Delivery in Brazil

The forthcoming article “How Patronage Delivers: Political Appointments, Bureaucratic Accountability, and Service Delivery in Brazil” by Guillermo Toral is summarized by the author below.

Governments all around the world use political appointments to fill at least some bureaucratic posts. This practice is especially important in developing contexts, where civil service systems are less consolidated. How do political appointments impact public service delivery, governance, and development more broadly? 

The established answer to that question, at least when it comes to developing contexts, is that political appointments jeopardize governance, through two mechanisms – the selection of worse types (e.g., less qualified candidates) and the depression of bureaucrats’ level of effort (because of their connections to those in power).  

In this article, I advance an alternative view of political appointments as an institution that changes not just who enters the bureaucracy or how much they work but also, and critically, how they work. I argue that political appointments facilitate the monitoring of bureaucrats by politicians, enable the application of sanctions and rewards, provide access to material and non-material resources, align priorities and incentives, and increase mutual trust. In so doing, political appointments can facilitate bureaucratic accountability and effectiveness. 

I test this theory using a variety of data and methods (including quasi-experiments, surveys, and in-depth interviews). I focus on municipal governments in Brazil, a context where political appointments coexist with other modes of bureaucratic selection.  

Using a difference-in-discontinuities, I show that politically appointed school directors (or principals) become less effective at boosting student learning when they lose their political connections. This suggests that political connections can be mobilized to increase bureaucratic effectiveness.  

In a regression discontinuity design, I demonstrate that politically appointed school directors who meet a student learning target are less likely to be replaced. This suggests that politicians take bureaucratic effectiveness into consideration when selecting appointees, and use performance metrics to hold them accountable.   

I then use original surveys of bureaucrats and politicians to explore the mechanisms through which political appointments can enhance bureaucratic effectiveness and accountability. I find that appointed bureaucrats have more frequent contact with, higher levels of trust in, and better alignment with politicians than unappointed bureaucrats do. In conjoint experiments with bureaucrats and politicians, I find that political appointees are seen as better at communicating with the government and more responsive to its demands. 

These often-overlooked benefits of patronage suggest that politics in the developing world can be a source not only of corruption and misallocations, but also of governance resources that can help overcome development challenges. The advantages of political appointments may be particularly important in contexts where other, more impartial sources of bureaucratic effectiveness (e.g., high levels of human capital or strong bureaucratic norms) are not yet developed.  

The article also helps explain why political appointments are so important to rent-seeking politicians. By changing how bureaucrats work –for example, by making them more aligned and more easily monitored and sanctioned– political appointments make it easier for corrupt politicians to use the bureaucracy to their advantage. This ambivalence of political appointments helps explain why they have proven to be so resilient throughout history. 

About the Author: Guillermo Toral is an Assistant Professor at IE University, and a Faculty Affiliate at MIT GOV/LAB. Their research “How Patronage Delivers: Political Appointments, Bureaucratic Accountability, and Service Delivery in Brazil” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Does Relative Deprivation Condition the Effects of Social Protection Programs on Political Support? Experimental Evidence from Pakistan

The forthcoming article “Does Relative Deprivation Condition the Effects of Social Protection Programs on Political Support? Experimental Evidence from Pakistan” by Katrina Kosec and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo is summarized by the authors below.

Income inequality within countries is on the rise—a trend currently being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This trend is notable given the growing body of research demonstrating that citizens’ support for and confidence in government is influenced by real and perceived levels of inequality. One of the key ways governments address poverty and inequality is through redistributive social protection programs, including cash transfers. By reallocating wealth, these programs, too, may affect citizen attitudes towards government. Yet, little is known about how perceptions of inequality moderate the relationship between social protection and political support. 

Classic economic voting theory focuses on absolute rather than relative welfare, holding that citizens reward the government for good economic outcomes and punish it for bad ones. However, an emerging literature in political science suggests that relative well-being considerations are important in shaping citizens’ assessments of their political leaders and institutions. Building on this research, we examine whether such comparisons impact the relationship between social protection and political attitudes. 

The empirical literature on how social protection influences political satisfaction and support is mixed. A number of studies demonstrate that receipt of targeted social protection programs increases support for policymakers delivering the program. However, other studies find that targeted government welfare programs do not always translate into political support. We posit that citizens’ perceptions of their relative economic standing can partially explain these mixed empirical findings. 

To test this hypothesis, we evaluate whether the effects of Pakistan’s national unconditional cash transfer program, the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP), on citizen support for and confidence in political leaders and state institutions are moderated by feelings of relative deprivation. That is, does receipt or non-receipt of the BISP differently affect political attitudes according to how well-off citizens feel compared to others? We do so by lveveraging a regression discontinuity design (RDD) overlaid with a survey experiment in Pakistan. In 2010, the Pakistani government used a proxy means test to identify BISP beneficiaries; this generated a cutoff wealth score which we exploit to assess the effects of transfers on political support. To evaluate how perceptions of relative economic position impact these effects, we conducted an original survey priming experiment, which subtly manipulated respondents’ perceptions of their relative economic position, modeled on several recent studies. 

We demonstrate that when feelings of relative poverty are not salient, cash transfers have little effect on citizens’ political support one to four years after transfers were first initiated. But, when feelings of relative poverty are salient, beneficiaries have higher political support than do non-beneficiaries. A natural question is: among those for whom relative poverty is salient, who is driving our effects? Is it that beneficiaries are more positive about their political system and leaders, or is that non-beneficiaries are more politically disgruntled? The short answer is, a little bit of both. However, the magnitude of the reduction in political support among non-beneficiaries is larger than the magnitude of the increase in political support among beneficiaries. 

The fact that we observe an effect among non-beneficiaries highlights that it can be problematic to view non-recipients of an intervention as a “control” group when assessing program effects; even if programs are randomly assigned, as we observed, non-recipients can be affected by the non-receipt of an intervention. 

In sum, we see clear evidence that individuals’ perceptions of their relative deprivation are an important moderator of program effects on political support – and there is a big risk for erosion of government trust due to not getting social protection when one feels deprived and thus deserving. Overall, our research illustrates both the power of beliefs to change political perceptions, as well as the power and limitations of government to mold and shape those beliefs. 

About the Authors: Katrina Kosec is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and Cecilia Hyunjung Mo is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. Their research “Does Relative Deprivation Condition the Effects of Social Protection Programs on Political Support? Experimental Evidence from Pakistan” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Indigenous Sovereignty, Common Law, and Natural Law

The forthcoming article “Indigenous Sovereignty, Common Law, and Natural Law” by Samuel Piccolo is summarized by the author below.

In recent years in Canada and the United States, there have been significant protest movements by Indigenous peoples aimed at increasing—if not achieving entirely—their sovereignty on traditional territories, especially in response to the Dakota Access and the Coastal Gaslink pipelines. The spirit behind these protests has also appeared in Supreme Court cases in both countries, such as in McGirt v. Oklahoma and Tsilthqot’in Nation v. British Columbia. These claims to sovereignty, I show, are based on traditional Indigenous concepts of sovereignty that reject modern Westphalianism, and instead understand sovereignty to involve sovereignty with—not over—land and other beings in accordance with normativity inherent in nature. Indeed, I argue that Indigenous scholars describe their understandings as flowing from Indigenous natural law. Amid these political and legal struggles, scholars have suggested that North American common law has the resources to endorse some notion of Indigenous sovereignty that at least resembles the claims made by Native peoples. They look to legal precedents including the Royal Proclamation of 1763, the Treaty of Niagara, and the United States Supreme Court decision Worcester v. Georgia. In this article, I argue that the North American common law tradition is in fact limited in its capacity to endorse Indigenous political legitimacy. While there are some precedents in the common law that appear to endorse Indigenous sovereignty, there are many others that do not. Not only does the main common law principle of stare decisis (deference to established precedent) counteract Indigenous claims to sovereignty because by now American and Canadian state sovereignty is established, under common law it is unclear how state courts could undermine their own sovereignty.  

But the limitations of common law do not mean that North American has no resources to endorse Indigenous sovereignty. By closely examining the strongest defence of Indigenous sovereignty in North American law, Worcester v. Georgia, I show that there are elements of natural law reasoning in the defence. Given that natural law as a concept resonates with contemporary Indigenous philosophy that maintains that non-human nature is suffused with morality and normativity, I suggest it is worth considering the natural law tradition for defenses of Indigenous sovereignty. I propose beginning with Bartolomé de las Casas, who I show understands natural law and sovereignty in ways that may resemble the claims of Indigenous societies to territory. While my aim is not to defend either Lascasian or Indigenous natural law’s account of sovereignty, I conclude that they should be part of efforts to understand the ongoing conflicts between Indigenous nations and colonial states. In this article I show that when we think of questions of Indigenous sovereignty, we cannot think solely of conventional positive law.  

About the Author: Samuel Piccolo is a recent Ph.D. graduate from the University of Notre Dame. Their research “Indigenous Sovereignty, Common Law, and Natural Law” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Drinking Wine with Friends: Plato’s Lesson for Contemporary Democratic Theory

The forthcoming article “Drinking Wine with Friends: Plato’s Lesson for Contemporary Democratic Theory” by Eno Trimçev is summarized by the author below.

Democratic citizenship is bound with a vision of small, face-to-face exchanges where everyone speaks and is listened to freely. And our democratic imagination calls on us to be engaged, informed, passionate, reasonable, willing to speak up, ready to listen, and militant or restrained as the case may be. But in real life we may find this difficult; the size of our republics, the structure of our societies, the technologies of our political communications, and our chastened sense of our selves make a mockery of the very ideals in which we most fervently believe.  

Surprisingly, Plato’s reflections on drinking wine with friends in the Laws can help us to reflect on this gulf. I argue that we are right to view democratic citizenship as a personal challenge to speak and act publicly in ways that fit the circumstances. This presents us with two problems however: not only are most citizens unable to share in the promise of free and equal citizenship, but also ours is the one regime that cannot train citizens according to a given substantive model of citizenship. We may quite reasonably be discouraged and bewildered as to what to do. Plato’s reflections, I argue, provide us with a model to think about the peculiar challenge of democratic citizenship and its practical implications. 

Democratic citizenship requires that we become mature, and the wine-fueled symposium provides an example of the sort of social practice that may help us achieve this. Somewhat counter-intuitively perhaps, by clouding our sober awareness of right and wrong, transgressing social norms, and intensifying our emotions at the expense of reason we become more mature over time. In the symposium we achieve maturity by continuously degrading it just as we strengthen our body in the gym by damaging our muscles. The symposium is the gymnasium of the psyche: do it enough times with due care and you will not only increase your strength, but also learn to use it responsibly.  

The political effectiveness of the symposium lies precisely in the fact that sympotic experiences are unlike political experiences: alcohol-lubricated discussions, after all, do not even approximate political deliberation. Nevertheless, the small size and intimate nature of the practice, the drinking of wine, and the friendship of participants stimulate our willingness to venture forth in speech and deed in the short run and the acquisition of individual maturity over the long run; precisely what we require for the exercise of democratic citizenship. At the same time, however, these experiences are free of the burdens of power, money, hierarchy, responsibility, and exclusion that plague political engagements; in contradistinction to most political action, drinking with friends is easier, more enjoyable, and far less risky. The symposium thus provides us with a practice where we can acquire the virtues necessary to democratic citizenship, but also enjoy the promise of that citizenship in the face of the likely impossibility of enjoying it in real political life. 

About the Author: Eno Trimçev is a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Greifswald. Their research “Drinking Wine with Friends: Plato’s Lesson for Contemporary Democratic Theory” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Care or Justice: Care Ethics and the Restricted Reporting Sexual Assault Policy in the US Military

The forthcoming article “Care or Justice: Care Ethics and the Restricted Reporting Sexual Assault Policy in the US Military” by Jennet Kirkpatrick and Carolyn Warner is summarized by the authors below.

How should institutions respond to sexual assault? Many institutions like universities and the military have adopted an “offender-centered approach” because they do not want to appear soft on crime. These institutions focus on finding and punishing the offender. For instance, they may encourage victim reporting, strengthen investigative and punitive processes, or pursue justice primarily through punishment.  

We argue that institutions should not always pursue justice by punishing sexual assault offenders. An offender-centered approach may not meet the victims’ need for care in contexts with little institutional trust. Victims are varied. According to numerous studies, many victims of sexual assault do not want to pursue formal legal action. If no other course of action is available, some never report the crime. As a result, these victims may not receive medical, psychological, or spiritual care after their assaults.  

To address this lack of care, we argue for a “victim-centered” approach that allows all victims to receive care regardless of whether they report the crime for investigation. To support our argument, we examine some of the US military’s “restricted reporting” policies which de-emphasize investigations and punishment and shift the focus from the perpetrator to the victim. Since 2005 the military has moved towards addressing the victim’s care to the extent of sometimes forgoing holding perpetrators accountable. Victims can confidentially report a crime, receive care, and decide later whether they want to have the military pursue the case. Recognizing that institutions must improve processes to increase victim confidence if they file a report that launches an investigation, we favor policy approaches allowing victim autonomy.  

We support a victim-centered approach through care ethics, a contextual method that assigns moral significance to providing care, receiving care, and dependent relationships in human life. The US military’s sexual assault policy aligns with the values of attentiveness and responsiveness, which are vital elements of care.  

Our research has implications for other institutions. For example, American universities, which generally require mandatory reporting according to Title XI legislation, and the Catholic Church, which covered up decades of sexual abuse, are likely candidates for a victim-centered approach. Both organizations may have a similar problem as the military: non-reporting because victims do not trust these institutions. Moreover, both possess the organizational resources to provide extensive care to all victims, even those who choose never to punish perpetrators by making a formal legal complaint.

About the Authors: Jennet Kirkpatrick is an Associate Professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University and Carolyn Warner is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Nevada, Reno. Their research “Care or Justice: Care Ethics and the Restricted Reporting Sexual Assault Policy in the US Military” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Veto Institutions, Hostage-Taking, and Tacit Cooperation

The forthcoming article “Veto Institutions, Hostage-Taking, and Tacit Cooperation” by Justin Fox and Mattias Polborn is summarized by the authors below.

In political systems with a strong separation of powers, the executive often has some veto power over legislation. With an absolute veto (AV) — similar to what the U.S president and several governors have — the executive can either veto a bill wholesale, or not at all. Other executives have a line-item veto (LIV) under which they can block specific parts of a bill, while letting other parts pass. In our article, “Veto Institutions, Hostage-taking, and Tacit Cooperation,” we consider the strengths and weaknesses of both AV and LIV, and also propose a new veto institution that improves upon both of them. 

We focus on the case of divided government in which different parties control the legislature and the executive. In our model, the legislature can combine various “projects” into a single bill. Some projects are “universal,” providing a positive payoff to both parties. Others are “partisan,” benefiting one party at the expense of the other.  

The two veto systems described above each have some problems. Under AV, the legislature can bundle universal projects with ones that benefit only itself. This way, universal projects are “held hostage,” effectively undercutting the executive’s veto power: A veto of the bundled bill would not only kill the partisan projects that harm the executive, but also the universal projects valued by both sides. Furthermore, the more valuable the universal projects are for everyone, the more partisan pork the legislature can load into a bill while still shielding it from a veto. 

While the LIV eliminates this type of hostage-taking, it does so at the expense of preventing mutually beneficial “log rolls.” Sometimes, both parties can gain from implementing a package where each party gets some of their preferred partisan projects. However, the legislature would have to fear that, if they passed such a bundle, the executive would simply line-item veto those parts that benefit the legislature while leaving intact those that benefit the executive. Consequently, mutually beneficial compromise bills may go unrealized under the LIV. 

We then design a novel institution, the alternating line-item veto (ALIV), under which proposed bills alternate between legislature and executive, with each having the power to delete parts of the previous version and returning the remaining parts to the opponent, or deciding to accept the opponent’s latest proposal. We show that ALIV can eliminate hostage-taking while also preserving beneficial inter-party log-rolls. Although the ALIV is currently, to our knowledge, not implemented anywhere, some countries in Latin America operate under a related system. 

Finally, we analyze how the different veto institutions perform in a dynamic setting where power fluctuates, and the government is sometimes united and sometimes divided. Here, we identify a range of conditions under which the LIV best facilitates inter-party cooperation. This dynamic effect also explains why numerous empirical studies have found that, contrary to expectations, the LIV has little impact on government spending. 

About the Authors: Justin Fox is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis and Mattias Polborn is a Professor of Economics and Political Science at Vanderbilt University. Their research “Veto Institutions, Hostage-Taking, and Tacit Cooperation” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Sexism and the Far-Right Vote: The Individual Dynamics of Gender Backlash

The forthcoming article “Sexism and the Far-Right Vote: The Individual Dynamics of Gender Backlashby Eva Anduiza and Guillem Rico is summarized by the authors below.

The rise of the far right has often been interpreted as a backlash reaction against progressive values such as gender equality. However, instead of being employed as an observable concept, the term gender backlash has been used more as a narrative, one that is either defended or contested.  

Do people change their attitudes towards gender equality in a way that is compatible with the gender backlash thesis? Do these changes have consequences for far-right voting? To answer these questions, we look into people’s attitudes regarding modern sexism, a subtle form of prejudice which closely reflects typical far-right discourses that deny that discrimination against women exists, and reject any actions aimed at correcting existing inequalities.   

We define gender backlash attitudinal change as increases in sexism that occur in a context of feminist mobilizations and normalization attitudinal change as increases in sexism occurring in a context of the far right gaining momentum. We take the case of Spain where these two moments have been clearly distinguishable. 

Our data show that individuals’ levels of modern sexism changed through time in these periods of feminist mobilization and far-right visibilization, but following two disparate logics. While feminist mobilization operates along a polarizing dynamic (after feminist protests, sexism decreases particularly among women, supporters of left-wing liberal parties, and citizens engaged in feminist protests), far-right visibility seems to be related to increasing levels of sexism for all citizens regardless of their predispositions. 

Those who became more sexist during the wave of feminist mobilization were later more likely to become far-right voters. That is to say, this backlash attitudinal change had electoral consequences. On the other hand, those who became more sexist after the far right became visible were not more likely to later vote for the far right. While this normalization attitudinal change has no direct short-term electoral consequences, it is disturbing in terms of the extent to which prejudiced views may become prevalent, and their potential long-term electoral consequences.  

These findings are important for those of us who are concerned about sex-based equality. They point to the fact that we must not only confront a situation of existing inequality and discrimination against women, but also one where feminists’ displays of strength are likely to generate backlash reactions with electoral consequences.  

About the Authors: Eva Anduiza is a Professor of Political Science at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Guillem Rico is a Research Fellow at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Their research “Sexism and the Far-Right Vote: The Individual Dynamics of Gender Backlash” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.


The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.