SPID: A New Database for Inferring Public Policy Innovativeness and Diffusion Networks

Despite its rich tradition, there are key limitations to researchers’ ability to make generalizable inferences about state policy innovation and diffusion. This paper introduces new data and methods to move from empirical analyses of single policies to the analysis of comprehensive populations of policies and rigorously inferred diffusion networks. We have gathered policy adoption data appropriate for estimating policy innovativeness and tracing diffusion ties in a targeted manner (e.g., by policy domain, time period, or policy type) and extended the development of methods necessary to accurately and efficiently infer those ties. Our state policy innovation and diffusion (SPID) database includes 728 different policies coded by topic area. We provide an overview of this new dataset and illustrate two key uses: (i) static and dynamic innovativeness measures and (ii) latent diffusion networks that capture common pathways of diffusion between states across policies. The scope of the data allows us to compare patterns in both across policy topic areas. We conclude that these new resources will enable researchers to empirically investigate classes of questions that were difficult or impossible to study previously, but whose roots go back to the origins of the political science policy innovation and diffusion literature.

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The Effects of Polarization on Ideological Certainty: An Application to Executive Order Issuance

Many standard models of political institutions frame outcomes as a function of the preferences of key decision makers. However, these models, and the empirical analyses they inspire, typically assume decision makers can infer the identities and ideological locations of other decision makers without error. Here, we reveal the substantive importance of this assumption. We show that partisan sorting, a common cause of polarization, can result in reduced uncertainty about the ideologies of key decision makers and the identities of key pivots. When we incorporate estimates of pivot uncertainty into empirical models of executive order issuance, we find lower levels of uncertainty are associated with higher rates of policy-relevant executive order issuance. These results have implications for the study of polarization and the use of models of institutions in political science.

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Well-Being and the Democratic State: How the Public Sector Promotes Human Happiness

While a growing literature within the study of subjective well-being demonstrates the impact of socio-political factors on subjective well-being, scholars have conspicuously failed to consider the role of the size and scope of government as determinants of well-being. In this study, we examine the size of the public sector as a determinant of cross-national variation in life satisfaction across the industrial democracies. At the individual-level, we find that public employees are happier and exhibit greater life satisfaction than otherwise similar others. At the aggregate level, the data strongly suggest that the subjective well-being varies positively with the size of the public sector. The implications for the study of life satisfaction are discussed.

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Parlez-vous français? Language and agricultural aid allocation strategies in northern Mali with Emily Maiden

In January 2012, insurgent groups in northern Mali began a violent campaign against the central government. By March 2012, then-President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) was ousted in a successful coup. The ongoing unrest has drastically shifted the strategies foreign donors are using to allocate aid, particularly to northern Mali. While bilateral donors have drastically scaled back all programmatic aid, NGOs including Oxfam International and the Red Cross have stepped in to provide humanitarian aid. This shift from programmatic to humanitarian aid has left the agricultural sector particularly vulnerable. Since most of the food grown in Mali is grown in the northern region, such a drastic decrease in agricultural aid will have catastrophic effects in terms of projected food shortages. Furthermore, using evidence from new World Bank survey data gathered in northern Mali in 2015, we find that the agricultural aid being distributed by NGOs is not targeting those most in need. We find that French-speaking villages are more likely to be targeted for aid compared to non-French-speaking villages. We argue that in northern Mali, under the current sociopolitical conditions, speaking French makes these villages more attractive to aid organizations, regardless of their actual need for assistance. This appropriation principle means that aid is not going to the most vulnerable, but to the most politically or socially connected. We also find proof of a second layer of aid misappropriation. While Sonrai and Tamasheq-speaking villages receive less agricultural aid than French-speaking villages, the aid they do receive goes to those households most vulnerable to exogenous shocks. However, in French-speaking villages, the most vulnerable households are not guaranteed to receive agricultural aid. If desperately needed agricultural aid continues to be misappropriated, it could lead countries like Mali to become even more unstable.

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Home on Sunday, Home on Tuesday? Secular Political Participation in the United States

The American religious landscape is transforming due to a sharp rise in the percentage of the population that is nonreligious. Political and demographic causes have been proffered but little attention has been paid to the current and potential political impact of these “nones,” especially given the established link between religion, participation, and party politics. I argue that the political impact of nonreligious Americans lies in an unexplored subset of the nonreligious population called committed seculars. Committed seculars de-identify with religion, they adopt secular beliefs, and join organizations structured on secular beliefs. Using a unique survey of a secular organization, the American Humanist Association, I demonstrate that committed seculars are extremely partisan and participatory, and are driven to participate by their ideological extremity in relation to the Democratic Party. These results point to a long-term mobilizing dimension for Democrats and indicate the potential polarizing influence of seculars in party politics.

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Adapting Identities: Religious Conversion and Partisanship Among Asian American Immigrants

Asian Americans constitute the largest group of new immigrants and the fastest growing ethnic group in the United States. While Asian American immigrants have experienced greater economic success than other minority groups, this has not necessarily led to greater political incorporation such as identification with a political party. Political parties have made little substantive outreach to Asian Americans, leaving a void in political socialization that other institutions, such as churches, have sought to fill. Yet the U.S. religious landscape is often quite different from that of Asian immigrants’ sending countries, providing opportunities for changes in religious identity through conversion. Leveraging data from the 2012 Pew Asian American Survey, we show that conversion from Buddhism to Christianity among Asian American immigrants facilitates the development of partisan political identities. We demonstrate that conversion functions as an adaptation in identity that helps facilitate subsequent changes in identity, such as the acquisition of partisanship.


Secular voters didn’t turn out for Clinton the way white evangelicals did for Trump

November 18, 2016

One question in the tumultuous 2016 presidential campaign was whether white evangelicals would “come home” to the GOP and vote for Donald Trump, given his history of divorce, crude language and lack of familiarity with the Bible.

We now know from exit polls that they did — in droves. As shown in the graph below, Trump did better among white evangelicals (81 percent) than Mitt Romney in 2012 (78 percent) or even George W. Bush in 2004 (78 percent), and far better than John McCain in 2008 (74 percent). This is a critical constituency, as white evangelicals made up 26 percent of the electorate in 2016.

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