Adjusting for Confounding with Text Matching

The forthcoming article “Adjusting for Confounding with Text Matching” by Margaret E. Roberts, Brandon M. Stewart and Richard A. Nielsen,  is summarized by the author(s) below. 

Adjusting for Confounding with Text Matching

We propose a family of methods for conditioning on text when it confounds the relationship between treatment and an outcome.   

Does being censored once make Chinese citizens more likely to be censored online in the future?  Is there gender bias in the reception of academic scholarship?  Do jihadist preachers get more popular when they are killed in counterterrorism operations?  These are questions we have tackled in our research because we believe the answers are important to society.   

However, they are also questions that are difficult to answer.  Gold-standard experimental evidence isn’t possible on these questions because experimentation with censorship, gender bias, and terrorism is usually unethical and infeasible.  Instead, we have to use non-experimental data, but then face the challenge of confounding factors.   

To get the intuition for why non-experimental data is problematic in these settings, consider our investigation of the effects of gender on citation counts in International Relations, a subfield of Political Science.  We want to know whether the author’s perceived gender influences the number of citations the paper ultimately receives.  Understanding this would allow us to better understand the obstacles certain groups face in academia.  If we could run an experiment, we could randomly assign names to papers and then see how the effect of having a female name on a paper influenced downstream citation counts.  However, we can’t do this for ethical and logistical reasons.  What we can do is collect academic papers in International Relations and compare the citation counts of those written by men and those written by women.  But this approach is also flawed.  Women tend to write about different subject matter than men, and we wouldn’t be able to tell whether or not the differences in citation count are due to these different topics, or due to their gender, a classic case of the old adage “correlation does not equal causation.” 

Modern statistical methods offer principled ways for trying to move from correlation to causation when we believe that experimental intervention is as good as randomly assigned within units with similar confounders.  However, we couldn’t use existing techniques because in each of these examples, we were working with confounders that were measured with text data. To make progress, we developed a new family of methods that we call “text matching.” 

To detect whether there is a gender citation gap, we start with the articles written by women and then use text matching to find a comparison set of articles written by men that are very similar in terms of subject matter and approach.  Comparing the downstream citation counts of these matched comparison sets gives us a plausible estimate of the causal effect of perceived gender on citations.  Consistent with previous studies, we find large negative effects of female authorship on citation count. 

Text matching is a family of statistical tools, not a single technique.  This paper describes our favorite approach, which we have given the unwieldy name of Topical Inverse Regression Matching, or TIRM for short.  However, there are now other options to choose from.  Since we first proposed text matching in a 2015 working paper,1 other research groups have suggested alternative techniques that might be better for some research questions.2  We urge readers of this paper to also learn about the exciting developments in the growing literature. 

About the Author(s): Margaret E. Roberts is an Associate Professor, Department of Political Science at University of California, San Diego, Brandon M. Stewart is an Assistant Professor and Arthur H. Scribner Bicentennial Preceptor, Department of Sociology at Princeton University and Richard A. Nielsen is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science at Massachusetts Institute for Technology. Their research “Adjusting for Confounding with Text Matching” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Judicial Reshuffles and Women Justices in Latin America 

The forthcoming article “Judicial Reshuffles and Women Justices in Latin America” by Ignacio Arana Araya, Melanie M. Hughes and Aníbal Pérez‐Liñán is summarized by the author(s) below. 

Judicial Reshuffles and Women Justices in Latin America

Can weak institutions facilitate access of excluded groups into positions of power? Weak institutions arguably have negative consequences for developing countries, but a research stream has linked institutional disruptions to women’s advancement to positions of power. We inquire into the relationship between de-institutionalization and gender equality by analyzing political reshuffles of the judiciary in Latin America.  

Judicial reshuffles are episodes in which a majority of justices in the Supreme Court or Constitutional Tribunal are forced to leave office. Latin America presents wide variation regarding judicial purges, and the number of women justices has increased dramatically, going up from 3% of all justices in high courts in 1980 to 19% in 2010. 

Gender equality can improve the quality of legal decisions by increasing the diversity of ideas, values, and legal styles. Women jurists are more likely to make decisions that promote gender equality, and may decide differently across cases. Their presence also brings institutional legitimacy to courts. At the same time, women justices can only exercise power if courts are independent. 

We argue that institutional disruptions facilitate the appointment of women justices, but only when left parties control the nomination process. Leftist governments have stronger motivations to diversify the courts than other administrations at least for two reasons. First, judicial reshuffles give leftist parties an opportunity to prove their ideological commitment to gender equality. Second, left governments may appoint women justices for strategic reasons. The appointment of women allows leftist governments to bring legitimacy to a power grab, enables them to control the narrative, and diverts attention from their efforts to limit the independence of the judiciary.  

We test this argument using difference-in-differences and dynamic panel models for Supreme Courts and Constitutional Tribunals in 18 Latin American countries between 1961 and 2014. The analysis offers support for our hypothesis, but gains in gender diversification are modest in size and hard to sustain over time. Political reshuffles may produce short-term advances for women in the judiciary, but do not represent a path to substantive progress in gender equality. 

Our findings connect to four bodies of literature. First, by showing that institutional disruptions may benefit women jurists, we have extended prior arguments about the gendered effects of institutional disruption. Second, our study connects to research that has assessed the role of leftist political parties in promoting womenThird, we contribute to the scholarship that has unveiled how anti-democratic forces nominally advance women’s rights and representation to distract from democratic failures. Finally, our study relates to the nascent literature on weak institutions showing that, under certain conditions, they facilitate the entrance of new players into power. However, institutional weakness may also undermine these gains over the long run. In the absence of deeper social transformations, women’s gains in the higher courts may be limited and hard to sustain. Therefore, there is still work to do to identify the circumstances in which the advancement of women justices reflects a progression that is likely to hold over time. 

About the Author(s): Ignacio Arana Araya is an Assistant Teaching Professor in the Institute for Politics and Strategy at Carnegie Mellon University, Melanie M. Hughes is a Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh and Aníbal Pérez‐Liñán is a Professor of Political Science and Global Affairs, University of Notre Dame. Their research “Judicial Reshuffles and Women Justices in Latin America” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Media Influence on Vote Choices: Unemployment News and Incumbents’ Electoral Prospects

The forthcoming article “Media Influence on Vote Choices: Unemployment News and Incumbents’ Electoral Prospects” by Marcel Garz and Gregory J. Martin is summarized by the author(s) below. 

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Our paper investigates a subtle but important form of media influence on electoral politics. We ask not if media coverage influences what people think, but if it influences what they think about. There are simply too many possible stories happening at any given time for news sources to cover them all, and editors must therefore make choices about which to emphasize and which to de-emphasize in their coverage. Political scientists have long recognized the possibility that this “agenda setting” function of media might have important electoral consequences. A corruption scandal, for example, can’t hurt an incumbent if media outlets opt not to cover it. 

The difficulty in testing for this form of influence is that editorial choices respond to and anticipate reader interest. Imagine that media coverage in some campaign focuses on candidates’ personality traits and ignores their policy proposals. Are news outlets shaping the public’s choices, inducing citizens to focus on personality differences over policy? Or are they simply anticipating that voters care more about the personality dimension, and providing voters with the type of information for which they have more interest? 

Our solution to this challenge focuses on a category of news for which new information arrives at regular intervals: the US government’s monthly unemployment reports. We show that media attention to these reports is higher when unemployment numbers cross a round-number threshold, or “milestone.” Milestone events are an example of a phenomenon that psychologists call left-digit bias. A report that the unemployment rate has just hit 6 percent tends to get much more media coverage than a report showing the rate rose to 5.9 percent, even though the underlying conditions in the economy are nearly the same in both cases. 

 This difference in coverage allows us to measure the effect of media attention to unemployment on voting, holding constant the actual economic conditions on the ground. We look at gubernatorial elections, and compare the election results of incumbent governors in states with very similar economic conditions at election time, but where one state has just experienced an unemployment milestone and one has not. We show that good milestones – where unemployment dips below a round number threshold – help incumbents, and bad milestones – where unemployment rises above a round number – hurt them. The effects are large in both cases, but they are strongly asymmetric: bad milestones hurt about twice as much as good milestones help. 

Our results demonstrate that media outlets collectively have substantial influence over election outcomes, deriving from their ability to emphasize or de-emphasize economic performance in news coverage. Citizens can only hold incumbents accountable for their economic performance if they are aware of it. Milestone events dramatically increase voters’ sensitivity to incumbent governors’ economic records, and thereby reveal an otherwise hidden form of media influence. 

 About the Author(s): Marcel Garz is Assistant Professor of Economics, Jönköping International Business School and Gregory J. Martin is Assistant Professor of Political Economy, Stanford Graduate School of Business. Their research “Media Influence on Vote Choices: Unemployment News and Incumbents’ Electoral Prospects” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

How Settlement Locations and Local Networks Influence Immigrant Political Integration

The forthcoming article “How Settlement Locations and Local Networks Influence Immigrant Political Integration” by Bernt Bratsberg, Jeremy Ferwerda, Henning Finseraas and Andreas Kotsadam is summarized by the author(s) below. 

 

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Weak political engagement among immigrants might bias public policy against immigrant preferences and stymie immigrants’ social and cultural integration more broadly. Yet, our knowledge of the factors that shape immigrant political participation remains incomplete. We argue that the initial neighborhoods immigrants settle in establish patterns of behavior that influence subsequent political participation. 
 
We identify the causal effect of available neighborhood and peer networks by leveraging the quasi-exogenous placement policy of the Norwegian refugee resettlement program, which directly places UNHCR refugees within Norwegian neighborhoods. Linking administrative data on refugee placement with validated individual-level turnout records, we assess the long-term consequences of the initial placement location on electoral participation. We use administrative registers to identify the individuals who lived within refugee neighborhoods at the time of arrival. By examining different clusters of these individuals, as well as their socio-demographic and behavioral characteristics, we proxy the influence of local peer networks available upon arrival, as delineated by age, gender and minority status. The data also permit the inclusion of family fixed effects, which allow us to assess the impact of peer networks by comparing siblings. 
 
 The results suggest that the initial placement neighborhood explains a significant proportion of the variation in refugees’ future electoral participation. We find that the difference in electoral turnout between refugees initially placed in 20th and 80th percentile neighborhoods is 12.6 percentage points, which represents 47 percent of the participation gap between refugees and residents. 
 
 Investigating the mechanism, we find that while neighborhood socio-demographic characteristics weakly predict outcomes, the political engagement of peers within the arrival location is strongly linked to refugees’ future electoral participation. Refugees placed in neighborhoods where turnout was one standard deviation above the mean were three percentage points more likely to participate in subsequent elections. This estimate increases to five percentage points — roughly one quarter of the gap between refugee and non-refugee turnout — when examining turnout among same-sex and same-age cohorts, suggesting that the downstream influence of networks can be primarily attributed to peer effects rather than to generalized social capital in the arrival location. Finally, the results indicate that the effect of the initial neighborhood persists over the long run, with residual effects observed for refugees who were placed two decades prior to the election we examine. 
 
 These findings provide, to our knowledge, the first causal evidence that settlement neighborhoods exert path dependent effects on immigrant political integration. The results underscore the importance of initial experiences in shaping the integration trajectories of refugees and immigrants, and highlights specific pathways through which patterns of political participation are formed after arriving in the host country. In particular, our results suggest that the influence of neighbors and peers plays a central role in establishing modes of behavior within the host society. From a policy perspective, these results suggest that policymakers seeking to promote immigrant integration may observe elevated returns when targeting interventions towards improving immigrants’ initial arrival experience and facilitating positive interactions with existing residents.” 

About the Author(s): Bernt Bratsberg is a Senior Research Fellow at Frisch Centre for Economic Research, Jeremy Ferwerda is an Assistant Professor at Dartmouth College, Henning Finseraas is a Research Professor at Institute for Social Research and Andreas Kotsadam is a Senior Research Fellow at Frisch Centre for Economic Research. Their research “How Settlement Locations and Local Networks Influence Immigrant Political Integrationis now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Pleasing the Principal: U.S. Influence in World Bank Policymaking

The forthcoming article “Pleasing the Principal: U.S. Influence in World Bank Policymaking” by Richard Clark and Lindsay R. Dolan is summarized by the author(s) below. 

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Do powerful countries control the behaviors of international organizations? If so, how are they able to wield their influence? These questions are central to understanding not only the role that these organizations play in world politics but also the relationship between institutions and their authorizing members, known as “principals. 

We address these questions by studying the behaviors of the World Bank. Specifically, we investigate a wonky but important practice known as policy conditionality. Borrowing countries are often required to enact domestic policy reforms in exchange for receiving loans from international institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World BankSince borrowers would generally prefer loans with no strings attached, conditions are a vital source of bargaining leverage for a lending institution. 

Given that the World Bank is widely known to be a U.S.-led institution, it is no surprise that we find that friends of the U.S. receive fewer and less stringent policy conditions (although we are the first to directly show this). What is more surprising is that the U.S. doesn’t even need to ask for these softer packages for its friends; staff just design programs that treat U.S. friends more favorably, thereby “pleasing the principal.” We substantiate this claim by quantitatively analyzing conditions attached to development policy lending between 2005-2018 and by interviewing elites who have participated in these processes. 

We propose that staff could be consciously trying to demonstrate to their largest financial backer that their work supports its interests, or they could unconsciously share the worldview of the U.S., and this guides their judgments. Either way, neither borrower countries nor the U.S. need to be especially active for U.S. interests to pervade World Bank policymaking. 

Our story contrasts with accounts of “global horse trading” at the IMF, where powerful countries and borrower countries bargain conditions for favors in a quid pro quo (Dreher, Sturm, and Vreeland 2009). These state-led dynamics are less consistent with our evidence than the staff-led explanation we propose. Overall, our findings illustrate how state power in international institutions may be deeply structural, diffuse, and indirect. 

About the Author(s): Richard Clark is a PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science, at Columbia University and Lindsay R. Dolan is an Assistant Professor, Department of Government at Wesleyan University. Their research “Pleasing the Principal: U.S. Influence in World Bank Policymaking” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Does Economic Inequality Drive Voters’ Disagreement about Party Placement?

The forthcoming article “Does Economic Inequality Drive Voters’ Disagreement about Party Placement?” by Taishi Muraoka and Guillermo Rosas is summarized by the author(s) below. 

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Economic inequality produces a number of negative impacts on democracy. For example, inequality is associated with lower turnout, increased polarization among elites, and diminished support for political institutions. In this study, we suggest that inequality can deteriorate the quality of democracy for yet another reason: high inequality can make it more difficult for people in different economic strata to agree on the ideological (left-right) positions of political parties. 

We build our argument on class conflict theory, which suggests that people are more likely to use class identification as a meaning-making tool in highly-unequal societies. People in different strata develop beliefs and attitudes consistent with their economic status, which in turn shape not only how they see the world but also how they think the world ought to be. A straightforward, but largely ignored, implication of this theory is that class-based reasoning makes people understand the messages of parties in ways that are consistent with their own class beliefs, introducing systematically warped views about where parties stand on the ideological spectrum. These perceptual biases, we submit, become even larger in highly unequal societies. 

Our analysis is based on cross-national surveys from 113 elections in 45 countries, which comprise a diverse set of electoral democracies. We demonstrate that after controlling for individual-, party-, and system-level factors, the respondent’s economic status and the country’s level of inequality jointly predict how he or she perceives the ideological positions of political parties. Specifically, people in the top income quintile in highly unequal societies tend to show leftward perceptual biases in party positions, which means that they tend to see left-leaning parties as more extreme compared to the perceptions of people in the middle-income quintile. By contrast, people in the bottom-income quintile tend to hold rightward biases in party positions. In the aggregate, these perceptual biases add up to pronounced rich-poor disagreement on the ideological placement of political parties. 

We think that class-based disagreement on party positions has two worrisome consequences. First, it can have a noticeable effect on aggregate electoral results. Indeed, we suggest in simulation exercises that class-based misperceptions are most likely to result in declining electoral support for centrist parties. This result is consistent with the idea of a “hollowing out’’ of the center that arguably characterizes a number of contemporaneous Western democracies. Second, a more serious threat is that class-based disagreement on perceived positions may make it more difficult for governments to establish legitimacy. After all, when people in different classes cannot agree on where the government stands, they are also unlikely to agree on how well the government performs. Both of these consequences can hinder the effective operation of representative democracy. 

About the Author(s): Taishi Muraoka is a Postdoctoral Fellow, Program on US‐Japan Relations at Harvard University and Guillermo Rosas is an Associate Professor, Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis. Their research “Does Economic Inequality Drive Voters’ Disagreement about Party Placement?” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science 

Literacy and State-Society Interactions in 19th Century France

The forthcoming article “Literacy and State-Society Interactions in 19th Century France” by Nan Zhang and Melissa Lee is summarized by the author(s) below. 

Literacy and State–Society Interactions in Nineteenth‐Century France

Modern states are distinguished by the breadth and depth of public regulation over private affairs. Indeed, a defining axiom of the contemporary international state system is that state institutions should provide the predominant (if not exclusive) rules and regulations governing social and economic behavior over a given territory. Many scholars therefore consider the ability to make and enforce binding rules to be central to conceptions of stateness and state capacity.

Importantly, the everyday practice of this rule-making authority is predicated upon frequent and dense encounters between the state’s administrative institutions and the population it seeks to control. In strong states today, these interactions are so common as to be banal. Historically, however, the extent to which states were able to penetrate society and interpose themselves in the individual lives of citizens varied widely within national territorial boundaries.

Our paper argues that literacy in the official language of administration facilitates those interactions by lowering linguistic and cognitive barriers in encounters between citizens and public officials. These encounters proceed more smoothly when citizens can understand and comfortably communicate with the state through the medium of official written documents. By contrast, in areas where literacy is confined to an elite minority, ordinary citizens face increased transaction costs in dealing with state institutions. At the margin, these costs may deter citizens from interacting with the state altogether, thereby weakening a crucial component of state power.

In advancing this argument, we offer a new spin on the oft-cited role of literacy in mediating the relationship between states and their citizens. A central outcome of state-sponsored schooling was to inculcate a sense of shared national identity and loyalty to the state that ultimately served to elicit greater compliance with centralized “rules of the game.” While we acknowledge the loyalty-enhancing dimensions of education, our paper focuses instead on the role of literacy in reducing the costs of communication between states and their citizens. Though mundane, the everyday communicative aspect of literacy serves as an important factor supporting the effective implementation of official rules and regulations. This channel is especially important in domains of state-society interaction where loyalty is unlikely to affect society’s acceptance of the state as a monopoly regulator of social relations.

We test our argument using rich historical data from 19th century France, a foundational case in the state- and nation-building literature. We construct a subnational panel spanning the period 1836–1896 and demonstrate that as literacy increases, so too does the frequency of state-society interactions. Importantly, we control for the effect of loyalty to the state to show that reduced transaction costs constitutes an independent mechanism linking literacy to state-society interactions.

This article contributes to the rich scholarship on state formation and state capacity. Much of this literature has fruitfully focused on explaining the origins of the state’s formal institutions. We advance this line of research by studying how formal institutions, once constructed, actually interact with the populations they purport to rule. We draw attention to the importance of state-society interactions in the development of state capacity during a period when the state sought to expand its powers beyond extraction and conscription into the realm of social regulation. Our paper’s primary contribution is to highlight the central role of transaction costs in shaping the state-society interactions that form the bedrock of state power.

About the Author(s): Nan Zhang is a Senior Research Fellow at Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods and Melissa M. Lee is an Assistant Professor of Politics and International Affairs at Princeton University. Their research “Literacy and State-Society Interactions in 19th Century France” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

State Visits and Leader Survival

The forthcoming article “State Visits and Leader Survival” by Matt Malis and Alastair Smith is summarized by the author(s) below. 

 

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Political leaders spend substantial portions of their time traveling internationally to meet face-to-face with other leaders. Recent U.S. Presidents, for instance, have spent one-third of their days in office visiting or hosting foreign heads of state. This practice, while commonplace in contemporary politics, raises some basic questions: First, given the high opportunity cost of leaders’ time, why do leaders conduct visits themselves, rather than delegating diplomatic work to their (presumably better-informed) agents? Second, why are visits conducted in-person, despite the proliferation of technologies that would facilitate long-distance diplomatic communication? And finally, why do leaders seem to treat visits as a thing of material value, which can be proffered or withheld as part of an international exchange?

This paper seeks to resolve these puzzles, using a formal model of top-level diplomatic exchange and an empirical analysis of US presidential visits from 1960-2013. We develop a theory focused on the publicness of a visit and the information it reveals, and the impact of that information on domestic political contestation. Our model features a domestic challenger who can attempt to unseat an incumbent, but who only wants to challenge when the incumbent is weak and a challenge is likely to succeed. In anticipation of this domestic competition, a foreign power can choose whether or not to conduct a diplomatic visit with the incumbent, in exchange for some future deal or policy concession. Importantly, the foreign power faces a cost for conducting the visit, and only enjoys the benefit of the bilateral deal if the incumbent stays in office long enough to deliver. So the foreign power only visits leaders who are sufficiently strong as to make the visit worthwhile in expectation. Aware of these incentives, domestic opponents update their beliefs of the incumbent’s strength following a diplomatic visit, and are deterred from mounting a challenge against her.

The empirical analyses support the model’s predictions: a diplomatic visit with the U.S. President is associated with a dramatic reduction in the risk of being removed from office that same year. Visits have the largest effect in reducing the risk of irregular removal from office (that is, removal by extra-constitutional means), and are most consequential when they are least expected to occur (consistent with a standard logic of Bayesian updating). Further, visits are systematically reciprocated with policy concessions, in the form of closer voting alignment with the U.S. in the U.N. General Assembly and receipts of U.S. imports.

About the Author(s): Matt Malis is a PhD Student, Department of Politics at New York University and Alastair Smith is Professor, Department of Politics at New York University. Their research “State Visits and Leader Survival” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Supply Chain Linkages and the Extended Carbon Coalition

The forthcoming article “Supply Chain Linkages and the Extended Carbon Coalition” by Jared Cory, Michael Lerner and Iain Osgood is summarized by the author(s) below. 

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Which special interest groups in the United States oppose effective action to reduce CO2 emissions and confront global climate change? In public debates, the fossil fuel industry is generally identified as having the most to lose from climate actionCertain non-fossil fuel emitters of CO2 – like the cement industry – and heavy consumers of electricity – like aluminum smelters  might also stand to loseSince the set of all industries that directly benefit from unrestricted CO2 emissions is generally thought to be small, only a relatively narrow base of directly affected industries ought to oppose proposals to mitigate climate change by putting a price or tax on carbon.  

A few examples might lead one to question this simple model. If aluminum smelters face significant costs from climate regulation due to their heavy use of electricity, wouldn’t consumers of aluminum also face higher costs from a carbon tax as the price of aluminum went up? For that matter, wouldn’t the bauxite mining industry, which depends on supplying ore to the aluminum industry, face a loss of sales if aluminum were to become more costly to make?  A similar chain of reasoning might lead you to ask whether the concrete pipe industry and the silica mining industry – major consumers and suppliers of concrete manufacturers, respectively – might come to oppose climate action due to their close links with a heavily emitting industry. 

In order to systematically test this idea, we assembled the largest-ever dataset on special interest activity around climate politics in the United States. We identified over 80 public coalitions which included US firms or trade associations with a focus on climate politics, totaling over 13000 unique members. 27 of these coalitions opposed climate action. Using these data, we found that the number of firms that have publicly opposed climate action is not small. Moreover, firms and associations opposed to climate action are drawn from a diverse set of industries, spanning all sectors of the economy. Surprisingly, the majority of opposition to climate action comes from firms and associations with no business activity whatsoever in the most heavily emitting and electricity-consuming industries.  

We then show that the opposition to climate action among these firms can be explained by their supply chain linkages to heavy CO2 emitting industries. Firms that consume the products of heavily emitting industries as inputs are much more likely to join a coalition opposing climate action than firms that don’t. Likewise, firms that sell more to heavily emitting industries are also substantially more likely to oppose climate action. These patterns explain the considerable reach of climate opposition throughout US industry.  

Why does this matter? Crafting effective policies to combat climate change requires developing successful political coalitions in support of that goal. Our research suggests that policymakers should develop political strategies with the supply chain in mind, because the economic consequences of decarbonization can spread beyond direct emitters. For example, plans to compensate firms (and their workers) for the redistributive effects of decarbonizing the economy may need to include a far wider group of stakeholders than is generally acknowledged. Understanding how supply chains create complex networks of shared interests will help in both the design and adoption of the next generation of policies to confront climate change. 

About the Author(s): Jared Cory is a PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science at University of Michigan, Michael Lerner is a PhD Candidate, Department of Political Science and Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at University of Michigan and Iain Osgood is an Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science at University of Michigan. Their research “Supply Chain Linkages and the Extended Carbon Coalition” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Persuasive Lobbying with Allied Legislators

The forthcoming article “Persuasive Lobbying with Allied Legislators” by Emiel Awad is summarized by the author below. 

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Interest groups are often highly selective in whom they lobby to get preferred policies passed. A substantial empirical literature finds that interest groups typically lobby legislative allies. One mechanism through which these allied legislators can help is by being active intermediaries in persuading their peers. But why do interest groups not simply skip this step and directly target those who need to be convinced? One explanation is that interest groups simply lack access to those legislators who ultimately need to be persuaded. This would imply that interest groups would only go to their friends if access is too costly or simply unavailable. The second explanation, studied more in this article, ignores restrictions on access but completely relies on a legislature’s ideological composition. That is, interest groups have unrestricted access to every legislator, but may still choose to selectively lobby allied legislators. The reason is that these friendly legislators are able to put policies in a more favorable light, which biased interest groups are unable to do by themselves. 

I develop a theoretical model to further study how these intermediaries are selected and how they can be successful in increasing an interest group’s influence over policy-making. The key part of the model is an ideological disagreement among legislators over whether a policy should be implemented, as well as uncertainty about the effects of the proposed policy. After an interest group provides a report with hard evidence that convinces an intermediary to endorse the group’s preferred policy, other legislators learn that the proposal is better than initially thought. For this to work, however, the intermediary has to be moderate enough for his or her endorsement to persuade a majority of legislators. Among the legislators who are sufficiently moderate, interest groups prefer to meet with friendly legislators because they are more likely to support preferred policies. Thus, the value of a connection to a legislator increases in how similar preferences are to interest groups, but legislators are worthless if they are too similar. 

Besides exploring the mechanism of intermediary influence, there are various other implications for the role and value of intermediaries. Interest groups are not always willing to pay for access to legislators if they can directly persuade a majority of legislators without help in the lobbying process. But at the same time, access to carefully chosen intermediaries can increase an interest group’s influence over policies by not having to fully disclose all information. With interest group competition, groups are forced to meet with even more moderate intermediaries, limiting the influence an interest group would have in isolation. 

About the Author(s): Emiel Awad is a LSE Fellow, Department of Government, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Their research “Persuasive Lobbying with Allied Legislators” 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.