Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Fodder to Chew Over for US Election Day

As we all struggle with our emotions about the campaign and the potential outcome of this 2016 US election day, here is some food for thought from posts during the past couple of years about US voting and elections.

1) "Ray Fair: The Economy is Tilting Republican" (May 19, 2016)

Fair is a prominent macroeconomist who, every four years, looks at data on the economy and political outcomes. His analysis is that the relatively slow growth of the US economy should be tending to favor Republicans this year. Fair's most recent predictions are here. Of course, looking only at how past economic performance affect election outcomes means that all other factors about the personalities, performance, and policies of the candidates are not included--and those other factors probably matter a lot in the 2016 presidential election.

2) "Sketching State Laws on Administration of Elections" (September 26, 2016)

A US national election is actually 50 state elections, where the rules can vary along a number of dimensions like requirements for voter ID, what is allowed in terms of absentee or early voting, what determines recounts, and more.

3) "Investigating Why People Vote" (March 8, 2014)

One of classic questions in political economy is why anyone should bother to vote, given that the chance of your vote determining the outcome is so small. This clever experiment mixed together data on interviewing people about why they voted or not voted, and then comparing what people said to the actual data on whether they had voted. Thus, the authors can draw conclusions like "Voters do not feel pride from saying they voted, but non-voters do feel shame" and "Non-voters lie and claim they voted half the time, while voters tell the truth."

4) "What is Discouraging the Registered Voters Who Don't Vote?" (July 28, 2015)

One of the surveys done by the US Census Bureau investigates this question. The answers are somewhat predictable, like "too busy," "out of town," "ill," "did not like candidates or campaign issues" and others.

5) "Should Voting Be Compulsory?" (November 6, 2012)

I don't think so, but many countries disagree. Here's some evidence on compulsory voting, and links to arguments by modern political philosophers on both sides.

6) "Ticket Splitting in US Elections" (June 21, 2016)

The practice of voting for a presidential candidate of one party while voting for a House of Representatives candidate of the other party seems to been lower in the last few elections than it used to be.

7) "The Rise in Political Polarization: Both Real and Exaggerated?" (May 10, 2016)

Political polarization seems to be rising in the US, but people's perceptions of how much political polarization has risen seem to be exaggerated.

8) "Political Polarization and Confirmation Bias" (October 27, 2014)

Confirmation bias is the well-researched psychological insight that when people get new information, they tend to interpret that information in a way that confirms and strengthen their preexisting beliefs. Indeed, when two groups of people have opposite beliefs on an issue like, say, capital punishment, getting the same information causes both groups to be strengthened in the belief that they are correct! In this short essay, I discuss my concern that strong political partisanship is often interrelated with confirmation bias.