Crashing the Party? Elites, Outsiders, and Elections

The forthcoming article “Crashing the Party? Elites, Outsiders, and Elections” ( by Peter Buisseret and Richard Van Weelden is summarized by the authors below.

Recent elections in the United States, and elsewhere, have exposed the vulnerability of established parties to Outsider candidates. A defining feature of Outsiders is their ability to enter politics without the support of traditional party elites. Some Outsiders—such as Donald Trump—sought the nomination of an established party. Others, including Ross Perot, and Beppe Grillo’s Five Star Movement, bypassed existing parties by pursuing third-party campaigns or creating new parties.

Our paper asks: Under what conditions will voters support Outsiders? What forces shape an Outsider’s decision to enter an election through an established party’s nomination process, rather than as a third-party candidate? And, why might party elites fail to mitigate the Outsider threat?

We explore these questions in a theoretical model of electoral competition between two established parties. A novel ingredient that we introduce is that there are two dimensions of policy conflict. The first issue—for example, redistribution—represents a traditional policy conflict between parties. The second represents a cleavage on which there is conflict within parties. Our running interpretation of this second dimension is “globalism’’ versus “anti-globalism’’ and we focus on the case in which each party’s presumptive nominee occupies a globalist position.

We introduce the threat of an Outsider, who chooses whether to contest a primary election or launch a third-party campaign.  Regardless of her choice of entry, the Outsider runs as an anti-globalist in order to distinguish herself from more experienced and vetted globalist candidates.

If the Outsider enters the primary, the party’s globalist voters prefer the establishment candidate. Nonetheless, if there is sufficient polarization between the parties, the Outsider anticipates that—if she wins the primary contest—she is likely to rally both of the party’s factions in the general election. The reason is that, in periods of high polarization, even those who opposed the Outsider in the primary are likely prefer her to the opposing party’s nominee. The gamble of early defeat may be worthwhile for the chance to lead a united party. Intense inter-party polarization therefore leads the Outsider to run via a primary challenge.

Conversely, when inter-party polarization is low, the Outsider is unlikely to win the support of globalists even from her own party if she wins the nomination. But, if she stays out of the primary, both parties are represented by elite-backed globalists, fracturing the globalist vote across party lines. The Outsider is then more likely to win the election by running as a third-party candidate.  

The Outsider therefore enters the primary if and only if there is sufficiently high polarization.

Finally, while there is a range of actions party elites could take to reduce the likelihood of an Outsider winning the nomination, we show that elites will be reluctant to take them in periods of intense polarization.  Blocking a primary challenge increases the likelihood of a third-party run, which is particularly damaging when the Outsider is likely to take most votes from one side of the traditional ideological spectrum. Hence increased inter-party polarization renders parties especially vulnerable and non-responsive to Outsider challenges. 

About the Author(s): Peter Buisseret is an assistant professor at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Richard Van Weelden is an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh in the Department of Economics. Their research “Crashing the Party? Elites, Outsiders, and Elections” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

The Well-Ordered Society Under Crisis: A Formal Analysis of Public Reason vs. Convergence Discourse

The forthcoming article “The Well-ordered Society Under Crisis: A Formal Analysis of Public Reason vs. Convergence Discourse” ( by Hun Chung is summarized by the author below.

AJPS - FB Posts_Chung

Can a well-ordered liberal democracy sustain liberal democratic political order after the intrusion of illiberals who wish to change the political system into a perfectionist state? This paper examines whether “the well-ordered society” – which is John Rawls’s proposed conception of an ideal liberal democratic society – can successfully restore political order once it is destabilized by the intrusion of unreasonable political officials who intend to change the political constitution according to their particular comprehensive moral/religious doctrines. In doing so, this paper offers a formal analysis of two competing institutional solutions that have been offered in the philosophical literature of public reason liberalism: namely, public reason vs. convergence discourse.

Public reason and convergence discourse are two alternate forms of public justification. In public reason, public officials are restricted to using only public reason – viz. the type of reasons that everybody shares in virtue of being a liberal democratic citizen regardless of his/her particular moral/religious commitments – to justify political proposals. In convergence discourse, public officials are allowed to rely on private reasons stemming from their own comprehensive moral and religious doctrines to justify political proposals (as long as their proposals are, in the end, consonant with the political conception of justice undergirding the liberal democratic society.)

This paper examines how successful these two institutional solutions are in restoring liberal democratic political order in the well-ordered society once it is destabilized by the intrusion of unreasonable public officials via a formal game-theoretic model.

The formal results of the model show that as an institutional device to restore liberal political order, public reason (modeled as cheap talk) fails completely. This confirms previous worries that it is unlikely for public reason to perform such a stabilizing role as using public reason is mere “cheap talk” that illiberals can readily imitate to falsely assure other liberals to cooperate, which they can, then, exploit for the sake of advancing their own illiberal political aims.

The formal results also show that convergent discourse (modeled as costly signals following Kogelmann and Stich 2016), although doing better, has its own critical limitations. Specifically, it turns out that convergence discourse succeeds only under relatively favorable conditions – namely, when the political ambitions of illiberals are not too excessive relative to the number of comprehensive doctrines existing in the well-ordered society. Even under relatively favorable conditions, there is no guarantee that convergence discourse will successfully operate and restore liberal democratic political order. And, even when it does successfully operate, there will always be some positive probability that the well-ordered society will destabilize nonetheless. Moreover, unlike what Kogelmann and Stich have previously claimed, the effect of social diversity on the success of convergence discourse is at best ambiguous: it may increase the success rate of convergence discourse by increasing the cost of its proper use which makes it more difficult for the illiberals to successfully imitate; but it may also disrupt its very success if it goes too far by introducing moral and religious fundamentalists whose desires to impose their comprehensive doctrines on society are particularly high.

About the Author: Hun Chung is Associate Professor, Faculty of Political Science and Economics, Waseda University. The research “The Well-ordered Society Under Crisis: A Formal Analysis of Public Reason vs. Convergence Discourse” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.



Women’s Authority in Patriarchal Social Movements: The Case of Female Salafi Preachers 

The forthcoming article “Women’s Authority in Patriarchal Social Movements: The Case of Female Salafi Preachers” ( Richard A. Nielsen is summarized by the author below.

AJPS - FB Posts_2

How are women gaining public authority in a conservative Islamic social movement with doctrines that seemingly restrict women’s authority?  In Women’s Authority in Patriarchal Social Movements: The Case of Female Salafi Preachers, I describe this puzzling trend and offer an explanation.  

Salafism is a conservative Islamic social movement with patriarchal gender norms.  The prevailing doctrine of the movement is that men and women should not “mix” in public, that public religious authority belongs to men, and that women’s rightful place is in the domestic sphere.  This seems like an unlikely place for women to be gaining authority. 

But gaining authority they are!  A prominent website for Salafi preachers ( hosts the writings of over 40 women alongside 170 men.  How are these female preachers gaining authority in a movement that seems predisposed to reject women as authorities?  I show that Salafi leaders are actively recruiting these women as authorities because they can reach new audiences and deliver persuasive arguments that male authorities can’t.

In particular, women are uniquely able to support the Salafi version of patriarchy with arguments like, “As a woman, I don’t want the so-called ‘women’s rights’ defined by the United Nations.”  Although Salafi doctrine has little place for women as preachers, male movement leaders want to harness the pro-patriarchy arguments that these women can offer.   

To see this dynamic playing out, I examine the preachers on the Salafi website  In email communication, several of the 40 female preachers indicated that the administrators of the website sought out their work, or even posted it without permission.  This hints at the demand for female preaching from the movement leaders.  Looking at what male and female preachers write, I find that they construct their authority differently.  Men use the traditional “Salafi method” of supporting their arguments through citations to the Quran and Hadith traditions.  Women have less than half the number of citations as men when writing on the same topics.  Instead of relying as heavily on citations, women instead invoke identity authority, supporting their arguments with their experiences as women.  This comes through in their writing quantitatively as well as qualitatively; women use personal pronouns much more than men. 

I also can see that women are reaching new audiences by seeing who reacts to their writings on Twitter.  Female followers on Twitter prefer women’s preaching over men’s.  And female preachers are more likely to get retweets from individuals who have never before reacted to any previous writing on 

To see if these dynamics happen in other social movements with conservative gender norms, I look at the role of women in the contemporary White Nationalist movement in the United States (also called the Alt Right).  Neither the Salafis nor the Alt Right are likely to appreciate the comparison, but the similarities are striking.  Despite large swaths of the movement being deeply skeptical of any public authority for women, male movement leaders are seeking out female spokepersons (like Ayla Stewart, famous for her “white baby challenge”) because they offer unique identity-based arguments and reach new audiences.   

Whether the rise of these female authorities will change the gender norms of conservative movements is unclear.  On one hand, conservative social movements are promoting these women as authorities precisely because of their willingness to support patriarchal norms.  But even so, placing women in positions of authority may have long-term effects that movement leaders don’t anticipate.  The result will largely depend on how these conservative women wield their growing authority.

About the Author(s): Richard A. Nielsen is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His research Women’s Authority in Patriarchal Social Movements: The Case of Female Salafi Preachers ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Ideology Justifies Morality: Political Beliefs Predict Moral Foundations

The forthcoming article Ideology Justifies Morality: Political Beliefs Predict Moral Foundations” ( by Peter K. Hatemi, Charles Crabtree, and Kevin B. Smith is summarized by the authors below.

Ideology Justifies Morality: Political Beliefs Predict Moral Foundations

Moral Foundations Theory (MFT) suggests that political differences are rooted in instinctual right/wrong value judgments. According to this argument, a key difference between liberals and conservatives is that members of each group employ a set of evolved psychological mechanisms that weight individual versus group values differently. This seems to offer a reasonable explanation of why political differences are so persistent and often so difficult to reconcile. The idea here is that these differences are not just produced by reasoned consideration, but reflect deeper differences springing from emotionally-rooted, reflexive judgments of right and wrong. In this way, MFT seems to offer a fairly comprehensive theoretical explanation of ideology and the psychology that underlies partisan divides. Specifically, the key difference between liberals and conservatives is that in making right/wrong evaluations, liberals instinctually over-weight the concerns of the individual (whether someone is harmed and/or treated fairly), while conservatives instinctually place comparably more weight on group concerns such as loyalty, authority, and deference to group norms or taboos.

However, a recent AJPS article co-authored by two of us raised questions about MFT’s explanation of individual-level political orientations. Using survey data from Moral Foundations Questionnaires (MFQs), we found, to our own considerable surprise, that moral foundations are less temporally stable than political attitudes and show little evidence of genetic influence. This contradicts MFT’s description of moral foundations – the psychological modules held to underpin instinctual right/wrong evaluations – as stable, dispositional traits that are products of Darwinian selection pressures. Our study also provided some evidence that moral decisions may be more a product of political beliefs than vice versa. This raised, but did not directly test, the possibility that political beliefs are at least in part justifying judgments of right and wrong.

In our current study we sought to directly address this key causal question while also accounting for the measurement and methods concerns that were raised in response to the earlier paper. Using survey data from three panel data sets taken from samples in two different countries, we find no support for the argument that instrumentation issues explain the results of the earlier study. More importantly, we find consistent evidence that political attitudes are temporally stable and some evidence that they are a better predictor of moral foundations than vice versa.

The key takeaway of the current study, then, is that political beliefs and loyalties might drive moral evaluations (at least as measured by MFQs), rather than vice versa. While this upends the causal story of MFT, it increases rather than decreases the importance of the study of moral decision making to political science.  A good deal of research already suggests that it is ideology that has the key characteristics ascribed to moral foundations – i.e. that political judgments are intuitive, products of implicit, emotionally anchored and genetically influenced psychological mechanisms. If that is indeed the case, the psychological mechanisms underpinning ideology may drive not just individual-level policy preferences but individual-level moral choices that have little direct connection to politics.

About the Authors: Peter K. Hatemi is Distinguished Professor of Political Science in the Department of Political Science at The Pennsylvania State University, Charles Crabtree is Visiting Scholar in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College and Senior Data Scientist at the Tokyo Foundation for Policy Research, and Kevin B. Smith is Leland J. and Dorothy H. Chair of Political Science at the Department of Political Science of University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Their researchIdeology Justifies Morality: Political Beliefs Predict Moral Foundations” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Politics Science.

How Conditioning on Posttreatment Variables Can Ruin Your Experiment and What to Do about It

The AJPS Workshop article “How Conditioning on Posttreatment Variables Can Ruin Your Experiment and What to Do about It” ( by Jacob Montgomery, Brendan Nyhan, and Michelle Torres is summarized by the authors below. 

AJPS Workshop - How Conditioning on Posttreatment Variables Can Ruin Your Experiment and What to Do about It


Identifying the causal effect of a treatment on an outcome is not a trivial task. It requires knowledge and measurement of all the factors that cause both the treatment and the outcome, which are known as confounders. Political scientists increasingly rely on experimental studies because they allow researchers to obtain unbiased estimates of causal effects without having to identify all such confounders or engaging in complex statistical modeling.

The key characteristic of experiments is that treatment status is randomly assigned. When this is true, the difference between the average outcomes of observations that received a treatment and those that did not is an unbiased estimate of its causal effect.

Of course, this description of experiments is idealized. In the real world, things get messy. Some participants ignore stimuli or fail to receive their assigned treatment. Researchers may also wish to understand the mechanism that produced an experimental effect or to rule out alternative explanations.

Unfortunately, researchers seeking to address these types of concerns often resort to common but problematic practices including dropping participants who fail manipulation checks; controlling for variables measured after the treatment such as potential mediators; or subsetting samples based on variables measured after the treatment is applied, which are known as post-treatment variables. Many applied scholars seem unaware that these post-treatment conditioning practices can ruin experiments and that we should not engage in them.

Though the dangers of post-treatment bias have long been recognized in the fields of statistics, econometrics, and political methodology, there is still significant confusion in the wider discipline about its sources and consequences. In fact, we find that 46.7% of the experimental articles published between 2012 and 2014 in the American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, or Journal of Politics engage in post-treatment conditioning.

As we show in our article, these practices contaminate experimental analyses and distort treatment effect estimates. Post-treatment bias can affect our estimates in any direction and can be of any size. Moreover, there is often no way to provide finite bounds or eliminate it absent strong assumptions that are unlikely to hold in real-world settings. We therefore provide guidance on how to address practical challenges in experimental research without inducing post-treatment bias. Changing our research practices to avoid conditioning on post-treatment variables is one of the most important ways we can improve experimental practice in political science.

About the Authors: Jacob M. Montgomery  is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis., Brendan Nyhan is a Professor in the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and Michelle Torres is an incoming Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Rice University. Their research “How Conditioning on Posttreatment Variables Can Ruin Your Experiment and What to Do about It” ( appeared in the July 2018 issue of the American Journal of Political Science and is currently available with Free Access.


When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions

The forthcoming article “ When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions” ( by Wiebke Marie Junk is summarized by the author below.

AJPS Author Summary: When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions

Teaming up with unlike coalition partners in a lobbying campaign comes with collective action costs and reputational risks. At the same time, coalitions between ‘strange bedfellows’, such as business associations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), can signal to policymakers that different socio-economic interests have found consensus. So, such diverse coalitions might pay off despite their costs and, at the same time, play an important role in interest mediation in democratic politics. Both from a normative and practical perspective, it is therefore important to ask whether and when policymakers are actually responsive to diverse coalitions that signal a broad support base, instead of allowing policy capture by a single type of interest.

In this article, I speak to these questions by probing the conditions for the success of lobbying coalitions in attaining their policy preferences on a diverse set of 50 political issues in five European countries (Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom). I propose the theory that the appeal of a coalition to policymakers depends on the composition of the coalition, especially the societal and economic interests represented by it. In addition, I expect that the responsiveness by policymakers to coalition diversity, as well as contributions of coalition participants to the common effort, vary depending on the policy issue at stake. I argue that advocacy salience is a crucial conditioning factor in these regards: when an issue is salient in the lobbying community, policymakers will be more weary of political repercussions of policy outcomes that lack broad support. Furthermore, when outside pressures are high, because many advocates compete on an issue, there are higher incentives for members inside the diverse coalition to overcome cooperation problems and lobby together more efficiently.

The results based on analysing a set of 122 distinct coalitions in the five countries support these expectations: On salient issues, more diverse coalitions have significantly higher lobbying success than less diverse coalitions. On issues with low salience, however, coalition diversity is related negatively to lobbying success. These findings show that diversity in the types of interests united in a coalition for a common cause is no panacea, but that it is highly context dependent whether diverse coalitions attract higher costs or benefits compared to homogenous coalitions.

This pattern is highly consequential for understanding decisions in democratic politics, which might primarily be responsive to signals of diverse support when there are high levels of mobilization on an issue, but, perhaps worryingly, not on issues that attract less attention. By focus\sing on active lobbying coalitions on specific issues, the article addresses long-standing questions on the responsiveness of policymakers to different types of interests in a novel way. It is relevant for scholars of policy processes, interest representation and lobbying success, as well as the general public interested in the effect of lobbying on policymaking. Crucially, the findings provide evidence that policymakers reward diversity in mobilization, yet that differences between issues strongly affect the costs and benefits associated with uniting support from different types of societal groups.

About the Author: Wiebke Marie Junk is a Postdoc in the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen. Her research ““ When Diversity Works: The Effects of Coalition Composition on the Success of Lobbying Coalitions” ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Does Direct Democracy Hurt Immigrant Minorities? Evidence from Naturalization Decisions in Switzerland

The forthcoming article “Does Direct Democracy Hurt Immigrant Minorities? Evidence from Naturalization Decisions in Switzerland” ( by Jens Hainmueller and Dominik Hangartner is summarized by the authors below.

AJPS Author Summary: Does Direct Democracy Hurt Immigrant Minorities?

What happens to ethnic minorities when policy is decided by a majority of voters rather than elected politicians? Do minorities fare worse under direct democracy than under representative democracy? 

We examine this longstanding question in the context of naturalization applications in Switzerland. Immigrants who seek Swiss citizenship must apply at the municipality in which they reside, and municipalities use different institutions to evaluate the naturalization applications. In the early 1990s, over 80% of municipalities used some form of direct democracy. However, in the early 2000s, following a series of landmark rulings by the Swiss Federal Court, most municipalities switched to representative democracy and delegated naturalization decisions to the elected municipality council.

Using panel data from about 1,400 municipalities for the 1991–2009 period, we found that naturalization rates were about the same under both systems during the four years prior to the switch. After municipalities moved from direct to representative democracy, naturalization rates increased by about 50% in the first year, and by more than 100% in the following years. These results demonstrate that, on average, immigrants fare much better if their naturalization requests are decided by elected officials in the municipality council instead of voters in referendums.

What might explain this institutional effect? Voters in referendums face no cost when they arbitrarily reject qualified applicants based on discriminatory preferences. Politicians in the council, by contrast, must formally justify rejections and may be held accountable by judicial review. Consistent with this mechanism, we see that the switch brings a much greater increase in naturalization rates among more marginalized immigrant groups. The switch is also more influential in areas where voters are more xenophobic or where judicial review is more salient.

More broadly, our study provides evidence that, when taking up exactly the same kind of decision, direct democracy harms minorities more often than representative democracy.

About the Authors: Jens Hainmueller is a Professor in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University and  Dominik Hangartner is an Associate Professor of Public Policy at ETH Zurich and in the Department of Government at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Their research “Does Direct Democracy Hurt Immigrant Minorities? Evidence from Naturalization Decisions in Switzerland is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

AJPS Author Summary: “Non‐Governmental Monitoring of Local Governments Increases Compliance with Central Mandates: A National‐Scale Field Experiment in China”

The following AJPS Author Summary of “Non‐Governmental Monitoring of Local Governments Increases Compliance with Central Mandates: A National‐Scale Field Experiment in China” has been provided by Mark Buntaine:

Non‐Governmental Monitoring of Local Governments Increases Compliance with Central Mandates: A National‐Scale Field Experiment in China

One of the most challenging aspects of governance in China is that policy is made centrally, but implementation is the responsibility of local governments. For the management of pollution — a national priority in recent years — the “implementation gap” that arises when local governments fail to oversee industry and other high-polluting activities has caused a public health crisis of global proportions.

Non-governmental organizations might usefully monitor and reveal the performance of local governments, thereby extending the ability of the center to oversee local governments. Although NGOs face many restrictions about what activities they can pursue, particularly those are critical of the state, more recently NGOs have been encouraged by the central government to engage in monitoring local governments to improve environmental performance.

In a national-scale field experiment that involved monitoring fifty municipal governments for their compliance with rules to make information about the management of pollution available to the public, we show that NGOs can play an important role in increasing the compliance of local governments with national mandates. When the Institute of Public and Environmental affairs publicly disclosed a rating about the compliance of 25 treated municipalities with rules to be transparent, these local governments increased mandated disclosures over two years, as compared to a group of 25 municipalities not assigned to the publication of their rating. However, the same rating did not increase public discussions of pollution in treated municipalities, as compared to control municipalities.

This result highlights that NGOs can play an important role in improving authoritarian governance by disclosing the non-compliance of local governments in ways that helps the center with oversight. They can play this role as long as they do not increase public discontent. We explain how this is an emerging mode of governance in several authoritarian political systems, where NGOs are helping to improve governance by addressing the information needs of the central state for oversight of local governments.

About the Authors of the Research: Sarah E. Anderson is Associate Professor of Environmental Politics at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Mark T. Buntaine is Assistant Professor of Environmental Institutions and Governance at the University of California, Santa Barbara; Mengdi Liu is a PhD Candidate at Nanjing University; Bing Zhang is Associate Professor at Nanjing University. Their research, “Non‐Governmental Monitoring of Local Governments Increases Compliance with Central Mandates: A National‐Scale Field Experiment in China” (, is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Our Experience with the AJPS Transparency and Verification Process for Qualitative Research

“As the editorial term ends, I’m both looking back and looking forward . . . so, as promised, here’s a post by Allison Carnegie and Austin Carson describing their recent experience with qualitative verification at AJPS . . . and within the next week I’ll be posting an important update to the AJPS “Replication/Verification Policy,” one that will endure past the end of the term on June 1.”
– Jan Leighley, AJPS Interim Editor

Our Experience with the AJPS Transparency and Verification Process for Qualitative Research

By Allison Carnegie of Columbia University and Austin Carson of the University of Chicago

The need for increased transparency for qualitative data has been recognized by political scientists for some time, sparking a lively debate about different ways to accomplish this goal (e.g., Elman, Kapiszewski and Lupia 2018; Moravcsik 2014. As a result of the Data Access and Research Transparency (DA-RT) initiative and the final report of the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations,  many leading journals including the AJPS adopted such policies. (Follow this link for a critical view of DA-RT.) While the AJPS has had such a policy in place since 2016, ours was the first article to undergo the formal qualitative verification process. We had a very positive experience with this procedure, and want to share how it worked with other scholars who may by considering using qualitative methods as well.

In our paper, “The Disclosure Dilemma: Nuclear Intelligence and International Organizations (,” we argue that states often wish to disclose intelligence about other states’ violations of international rules and laws, but are deterred by concerns about revealing the sources and methods used to collect it. However, we theorize that properly equipped international organizations can mitigate these dilemmas by analyzing and acting on sensitive information while protecting it from wide dissemination. We focus on the case of nuclear proliferation and the IAEA in particular. To  evaluate  our claims, we couple a formal model with a qualitative analysis using each case of nuclear proliferation, finding that strengthening the IAEA’s intelligence protection capabilities led to greater intelligence sharing and fewer suspected nuclear facilities. This analysis required a variety of qualitative materials including archival documents, expert interviews, and other primary and secondary sources.

To facilitate the verification of the claims we made using these qualitative methods, we first gathered the raw archival material that we used, along with the relevant excerpts from our inter- views, and posted them to a dataverse location. The AJPS next sent our materials to the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR) at Syracuse University, which reviewed our Readme file, verified the frequency counts in our tables, and reviewed each of our evidence-based arguments related to our theory’s mechanisms (though it did not review the cases in our Supplemental  Appendix). (More details for this process can be found in the AJPS Verification and Replication policy, along with its Qualitative Checklist.) QDR then generated a report which identified statements that it deemed were “supported,” “partially supported,” or “not documented/referenced.” For the third type of statement, we were asked to do one of the following: provide a different source, revise the statement, or clarify whether we felt that QDR misunderstood our claim. We were free to address the other two types of statements as we saw fit. While some have questioned the feasibility of this process, in our case it took roughly the same amount of time that verification processes of quantitative data typically do, so it did not delay the publication of our article.

We found the report to be thorough, accurate, and helpful. While we had endeavored to support our claims fully in the original manuscript, we fell short of this goal on several counts, and fol- lowed each of QDR’s excellent recommendations. Occasionally, this involved a bit more research, but typically this resulted in us clarifying statements, adding details, or otherwise improving our descriptions of, say, our coding decisions. For example, QDR noted instances in which we made a compound claim but the referenced source only supported one of the claims. In such a case, we added a citation for the other claim as well. We then drafted a memo detailing each change that we made, which QDR then reviewed and responded to within a few days.

Overall, we were very pleased with this process. This was in no small part due to the AJPS editorial team, whose patience and guidance in shepherding us through this procedure were greatly appreciated. As a result, we believe that the verification both improved the quality of evidence and better aligned our claims with our evidence. Moreover, it increased our confidence that we had clearly and accurately communicated with readers. Finally, archiving our data will allow other scholars to access our sources and evaluate our claims for themselves, as well as potentially use these materials for future research. We thus came away with the view that qualitative transparency is achievable in a way that is friendly to researchers and can improve the quality of the work.

About the Authors: Allison Carnegie is Assistant Professor of Columbia University and Austin Carson is Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. Their research, “The Disclosure Dilemma: Nuclear Intelligence and International Organizations (,” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. Carnegie can be found on Twitter at
@alliecarnegie and Carson at @carsonaust.


Elman, Colin, Diana Kapiszewski and Arthur Lupia. 2018. “Transparent Social Inquiry: Implica- tions for Political Science.” Annual Review of Political Science 21:29–47.

Moravcsik, Andrew. 2014. “Transparency: The Revolution in Qualitative Research.” PS: Political Science & Politics 47(1):48–53.

AJPS Author Summary: How Getting the Facts Right Can Fuel Partisan Motivated Reasoning

AJPS Author Summary of “How Getting the Facts Right Can Fuel Partisan Motivated Reasoning” by Martin Bisgaard

Are citizens able to get the facts right? Ideally, we want them to. If citizens are to punish or reward incumbent politicians for how real-world conditions have changed, citizens need to know whether these conditions have changed for better or for worse. If economic growth stalls, crime rates plummet or unemployment soars, citizens should take due notice and change their perceptions of reality accordingly. But are citizens able—or willing—to do so?

Considerable scholarly discussion revolves around this question. Decades of research suggest that citizens often bend the same facts in ways that are favorable to their own party. In one of the most discussed examples, citizens identifying with the incumbent party tend to view economic conditions much more favorably than citizens identifying with the opposition do. However, more recent work suggests that citizens are not always oblivious to a changing reality. Across both experimental and observational work, researchers have found that partisans sometimes react “in a similar way to changes in the real economy” (De Vries, Hobolt and Tilley 2017, 115); that they “learn slowly toward common truth” (Hill 2017, 1404); and that they “heed the facts, even when doing so forces them to separate from their ideological attachments” (Wood and Porter 2016, 3). Sometimes, even committed partisans can get the facts right.

In my article, however, I develop and test an argument that is overlooked in current discussion. Although citizens of different partisan groups may sometimes accept the same facts, they may just find other ways of making reality fit with what they want to believe. One such way, I demonstrate, is through the selective allocation of credit and blame. 

I conducted four randomized experiments in the United States and Denmark, exposing participants to either negative or positive news about economic growth. Across these experiments, I found that while partisans updated their perceptions of the national economy in the same way, they attributed responsibility in a highly selective fashion, crediting their own party for success and blaming other actors for failure. Furthermore, I exposed citizens to credible arguments about why (not) the incumbent was responsible, yet it did little to temper partisan motivated reasoning. Rather, respondents dramatically shifted how they viewed the persuasiveness of the same arguments depending on whether macroeconomic circumstances were portrayed as good or bad. Lastly and using open-ended questions where respondents were not explicitly prompted to consider the responsibility of the President or government, I found that citizens spontaneously mustered up attributional arguments that fit their preferred conclusion. These findings have important implications for the current discussion on fake news and misinformation: Correcting people’s factual beliefs may just lead them to find other ways of rationalizing reality.

About the Author: Martin Bisgaard is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Aarhus University. Bisgaard’s research “How Getting the Facts Right Can Fuel Partisan Motivated Reasoning ( is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Works cited:

De Vries, Catherine E., Sara B. Hobolt, and James Tilley. 2017. “Facing up to the facts.”

Electoral Studies 51: 115–22.

Hill, Seth J. 2017. “Learning Together Slowly.” Journal of Politics 79(4): 1403–18.

Wood, Thomas, and Ethan Porter. Forthcoming. “The Elusive Backfire Effect.” Political Behavior.


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