Measuring Attitudes towards Public Spending using a Multivariate Tax Summary Experiment Abstract Paper

with Lucy Barnes and Benjamin E Lauderdale

American Journal of Political Science, Forthcoming, 2021

It is difficult to measure public views on tradeoffs between spending priorities because public understanding of existing government spending is limited and the budgetary problem is complicated. We present a new measurement strategy using UK taxpayer summaries as the baseline for a continuous treatment, multivariate choice experiment. The experiment proposes deficit neutral bundles of changes in spending and taxation, allowing us to investigate attitudes towards modifications to the existing budget. We then use a structural choice model to estimate public preferences over 13 spending categories and the taxation level, on average and as a function of respondent attributes. We find that the UK public favours paying more in tax to finance large spending increases across major budget categories; that spending preferences are multidimensional; and that younger people prefer lower levels of taxation and spending than older people. Finally, we report a pre-registered out-of-sample validation of the estimates from the experiment.

Online Activism and Dyadic Representation: Evidence from the UK E-Petition System Abstract Paper

Legislative Studies Quarterly, Forthcoming, 2020

By making it easier for citizens to communicate their preferences, online forms of political participation have the potential to strengthen the representational link between politicians and voters. However, we know little about the effects of online advocacy on politicians’ behaviour. Using new data from an e-petition system in the UK, I show that support for a petition amongst a Member of Parliament’s constituents substantially increases the probability that the MP advocates for the petition in parliamentary debate, even when compared to their behaviour in counterfactual non-petition debates which focus on the same policy issues. However, MP responsiveness is conditioned both by party discipline and electoral competition. These findings have important implications for our understanding of dyadic representation in parliamentary systems.

Parliamentary Debate in the UK House of Commons Abstract

with Roberta Damiani

Chapter in The Politics of Legislative Debate (eds. Hanna Bäck, Marc Debus, and Jorge M. Fernandes, Forthcoming, 2020)

We describe the institutional setting of parliamentary debate in the UK House of Commons and assess the determinants of participation in Commons’ debates using data on more than two million speeches from 1979 to 2019. We show that the main determinant of participation in parliamentary debate in the UK is whether an MP holds an institutionally powerful position in either the government or opposition parties. In addition, we describe two patterns in the evolution of debate behaviour in the Commons over time. First, although MPs in government and opposition leadership positions give more speeches than backbench MPs in all periods that we study, the speech-making “bonus” these actors enjoy has decreased over time. Second, MPs have increasingly employed constituency-oriented language in their parliamentary speeches over the past 40 years; a finding we link to theoretical accounts of legislative competition in personal-vote-seeking electoral systems.

The Effects of Female Leadership on Women’s Voice in Political Debate Abstract Paper

British Journal of Political Science (Forthcoming)

Do female leaders amplify the voices of other women in politics? I address this question by examining parliamentary debates in the UK House of Commons. In the context of a difference-in-differences design which makes use of over-time variation in the gender of cabinet ministers, I demonstrate that female ministers substantially increase the participation of other female MPs in relevant debates, compared to when the minister is male. Further, using a measure of debate influence based on the degree to which words used by one legislator are adopted by other members, I show that female ministers also increase the influence of female backbenchers. To explore the mechanisms behind these results, I introduce a new metric of ministerial responsiveness and show that female ministers are significantly more responsive to the speeches of female backbenchers than are male ministers.

Model-Based Pre-Election Polling for National and Sub-National Outcomes in the US and UK Abstract Paper

with Benjamin E Lauderdale, Delia Bailey and Douglas Rivers

International Forecasting Journal (Forthcoming)

We describe a strategy for applying multilevel regression and post-stratication (MRP) methods to pre-election polling. Using a combination of contemporaneous polling, census data, past election polling, past election results, as well as other sources of information, we are able to construct probabilistic, internally consistent estimates of national vote and the sub-national electoral districts that determine seats or electoral votes in many electoral systems. We report on the performance of three applications of the general framework conducted and publicly released in advance of the 2016 UK Referendum on EU Membership, the 2016 US Presidential Election, and the 2017 UK General Election.

Never Let a Good Crisis Go to Waste: Agenda Setting and Legislative Voting in Response to the EU Crisis Abstract Paper

with Benjamin E Lauderdale

Journal of Politics (2017)

When exogenous shocks make status quo policies less attractive, legislators become more tolerant to proposed alternatives that are further from their ideal in general political dimensions. This increases the discretion of legislative agenda-setters, and allows them to pass policy that would have been impossible in the absence of a crisis. We argue that this dynamic explains changes in voting patterns of the European Parliament during the period of the financial crisis, given control of the agenda-setting process by pro-integration actors. We observe voting coalitions increasingly dividing legislators along the pro-anti integration dimension of disagreement, but only in policy areas related to the crisis. In line with more qualitative assessments of the content of passed legislation, the implication is that pro-integration actors were able to shift policy further towards integration than they could have without the crisis.

Open/Closed List and Party Choice: Experimental Evidence from the UK Abstract Paper

with Andrew C. Eggers, Dominik Hangartner & Simon Hix

British Journal of Political Science (2016)

Which parties benefit from open-list (as opposed to closed-list) proportional representation elections? This article shows that a move from closed-list to open-list competition is likely to be more favorable to parties with more internal disagreement on salient issues; this is because voters who might have voted for a unified party under closed lists may be drawn to specific candidates within internally divided parties under open lists. The study provides experimental evidence of this phenomenon in a hypothetical European Parliament election in the UK, in which using an open-list ballot would shift support from UKIP (the Eurosceptic party) to Eurosceptic candidates of the Conservative Party. The findings suggest that open-list ballots could restrict support for parties that primarily mobilize on a single issue.

Under review

The Variable Persuasiveness of Political Rhetoric Abstract Paper

with Benjamin E Lauderdale

Revise and Resubmit (2020)

Which types of political rhetoric are most persuasive? Politicians make arguments that share common rhetorical elements, including metaphor, ad hominem attacks, appeals to expertise, moral appeals, and many others. However, political arguments are also highly multidimensional, making it difficult to assess the relative persuasive power of these elements. We report on a novel experimental design which assesses the relative per- suasiveness of a large number of arguments that deploy a set of rhetorical elements to argue for and against proposals across a range of UK political issues. We find modest dif- ferences in the average effectiveness of rhetorical elements shared by many arguments, but also large variation in the persuasiveness of arguments of the same rhetorical type across issues. In addition to revealing that some argument-types are more effective than others in shaping public opinion, these results have important implications for the interpretation of survey-experimental studies in the field of political communication.

The Declining Importance of Gender Stereotypes for Politicians’ Style in the UK Abstract Paper

with Lotte Hargrave

Revise and Resubmit (2021)

Research on political style suggests that where women make arguments that are more emotional, empathetic, and positive, men use language that is more analytical, aggressive, and complex. However, existing work does not consider how gendered patterns of style vary over time. Focusing on the UK, we argue that pressures for female politicians to conform to stereotypically ‘feminine’ behavioural styles have diminished in recent years. To test this argument, we describe novel quantitative text analysis approaches for measuring a diverse set of styles at scale in political speech data. Analysing UK parliamentary debates between 1997 and 2019, we document a sharp convergence between men and women for many styles over time. For other styles, we show increasing divergences between genders that run counter to existing stereotypes. An important implication of our findings is that prominent gender-based stereotypes of politicians’ behaviour are significantly further from empirical reality now than in the past.