Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

Alexa Bankert, and Helmut Norpoth (2013). “Guns N Jobs -The FDR Legacy.” Electoral Studies, 32(3): 551 - 556. 

The intrusion of war is likely to alter the standard economic voting calculus. A wartime economy is not expected to deliver the same political benefits or costs, in terms of presidential approval or votes in an election, as does a peacetime economy. The Roosevelt presidency presents a perfect target to examine economic voting in wartime. Using monthly polling data on presidential approval from late 1937 to 1945, we demonstrate that the American public suspended standard economic-voting logic during World War II. One explanation for this suspension is the enormous size of U.S. military spending. Using data on government spending from 1929 to 1950, we show that military spending had a huge effect on unemployment while the effect of non-military spending proves negligible and non-significant. It was military spending triggered by war, not the New Deal, that vanquished the Great Depression. (PDF)

Benjamin J. Newman, Yamil Velez, Todd K. Hartman, and Alexa Bankert (2015).
“Are Citizens Receiving the Treatment? Assessing a Key Link in Contextual Theories of Public Opinion and Political Behavior.” Political Psychology, 36: 123-131.

The theorization and empirical exploration of contextual effects is a long-standing feature of public opinion and political behavior research. At present, however, there is little to no evidence that citizens actually perceive the local contextual factors theorized to influence their attitudes and behaviors. In this article, we focus on two of the most prevalent contextual factors appearing in theories—racial/ethnic and economic context—to investigate whether citizens' perceptions of their local ethnic and economic contexts map onto variation in the actual ethnic composition and economic health of these environments. Using national survey data combined with Census data, and focusing on the popular topics of immigration and unemployment, we find that objective measures of the size of the immigrant population and unemployment rate in respondents' county and zip code strongly predict perceived levels of local immigration and assessments of the health of one's local job market. In addition to demonstrating that citizens are “receiving the treatment,” we show that perceptions of one's context overwhelmingly mediate the effect of these objective contextual factors on relevant economic and immigration attitudes. The results from our analyses provide scholars with unprecedented evidence that a key perceptual process presumed in various contextual theories of political attitudes and behavior is, in fact, valid. (PDF)

Alexa Bankert, Leonie Huddy, and Martin Rosema. “Measuring Partisanship as a Social Identity in Multi-Party Systems.” Political Behavior: 1-30. (Blog article about the paper here)

There is no doubt that partisanship is a powerful influence on democratic political behavior. But there is also a lively debate on its nature and origins: Is it largely instrumental in nature and shaped by party performance and issues stances? Or is it basically a long-standing expressive identity reinforced by motivated reasoning and strong emotion? We assess the nature of partisanship in the European context, examining the measurement properties and predictive validity of a multi-item partisan identity scale included in national surveys conducted in the Netherlands, Sweden, and the U.K. Using a latent variable model, we show that an eight-item partisan identity scale provides greater information about partisan intensity than a standard single-item and has the same measurement properties across the three countries. In addition, the identity scale better predicts in-party voting and political participation than a measure of ideological intensity (based on both left-right self-placement and agreement with the party on key issues), providing support for an expressive approach to partisanship in several European democracies. (PDF)

Manuscripts Under Review


Reuben Kline, Alexa Bankert, Lindsey Levitan and Patrick Kraft. "Introducing Multilevel Meta-Analysis to Political Science: An Application to Personality and Prosocial Behavior."

We introduce the multilevel meta-analysis (MLMA) framework to Political Science. By leveraging individual observations from all studies and explicitly modeling the multilevel structure of the data, MLMA permits the simultaneous estimation of study and individual-level effects. MLMA also produces more efficient parameter estimates than conventional meta-analysis using fixed or random effects. To demonstrate the utility of MLMA we investigate the effect of personality on prosocial behavior using Bayesian methods. The Bayesian approach allows us to estimate study-level effects in an unbiased and efficient manner, even with a relatively small number of studies. With data from 15 studies constituting more than 2,800 individual observations, we find that the Big-5 traits of Agreeableness and Openness are significantly and positively associated with prosocial behavior, while none of the other three traits are. These results are robust to a number of different model specifications, and greatly clarify the contradictory findings in the literature on the relationship between personality and prosocial behavior. Though previous research has indicated that incentivized experiments result in reduced prosocial behavior, we find no evidence that the method of participant incentivization affects prosocial tendencies. We conclude by discussing the advantages of the MLMA method for political science more broadly. (PDF) (Appendix)


"My Kind of Partisan - The Role of Party Leaders in Shaping Partisanship"
Committee Members: Leonie Huddy (Advisor), Stanley Feldman, and Matthew Lebo

Party identification is a key variable within political behavior research in the U.S. and beyond. It predicts vote choice, political attitudes, and leader evaluations. The effects of partisan identification are thus well known. A key finding to emerge from recent research is that strong partisan identifiers not only vote for their party, they are also especially engaged in politics. In that sense partisanship provides a key democratic link between citizens and elections. But the origins of partisan identification and variations in its strength remain relatively unexplored. My dissertation attempts to help fill this gap in knowledge by examining the effects of extra-political signals - such as party leaders’ social attributes - on the strength of party attachments. I base my predictions on Social Identity Theory according to which members of the electorate use party leaders’ attributes to estimate how well they fit in with the party. In a series of experiments on broad-based American populations, I examine the influence of social similarity, based on gender and age, to a typical party leader. I find that such similarity does strengthen party identification. A key qualifying condition is that the definition of what constitutes a typical party leader needs to be consensual among party supporters. This may have negative implications for parties that are diverse, not just with regards to policies but also relating to sociodemographic characteristics of party members. Overall, my research adds to the literature regarding the role of party leaders in promoting party attachments but also contributes to a less established research area that focuses on intra-party processes and their consequences for political opinion formation and political participation

Projects Underway

"Expressive Partisanship in European Multi-Party Systems." With Leonie Huddy and Martin Rosema.

Drawing on Social Identity Theory, we develop and test an expressive model of partisanship in the U.K., Sweden, the Netherlands, and Italy using data from each country’s national election study as well as a survey experiment conducted in Sweden. This expressive model argues that identification with a political party motivates partisans to protect and advance the party’s positive status and secure its electoral victory. Based on this conceptualization of partisanship, we derive hypotheses that are distinct from the ones we would draw from an instrumental model that stresses the primacy of political issue preferences and ideology in shaping partisan attachments. We compare and contrast the predictive power of both the expressive and instrumental model in predicting vote choice and political participation in these four European countries demonstrating that partisan identity is a stronger predictor of political behavior than issue preferences or ideological intensity. We further corroborate these findings with experimental evidence from Sweden which suggests that threatening and/or reassuring the in-party's status promotes emotional reactions such as fear and enthusiasm. These emotions, in turn, are linked to higher levels of political engagement.

"Coalitional Identities - Experimental Evidence from Sweden." With Leonie Huddy and Martin Rosema.

In this project, we examine the impact of coalition governments on political behavior – a major institutional difference between the U.S. and European multi-party systems. An underlying assumption of many models of opinion formation is that citizens develop attachments to only one party. In parliamentary democracies, however, that may not always be the case given that parties tend to govern in coalitions with other parties rather than single-handedly. This collaborative work uses experimental data on the formation of coalitional identities in Sweden which allows us to look at the effect of threat and reassurance of the coalition's and the coalition partners' status on action- oriented emotions such as anger and enthusiasm. 

"The Effect of Incentivization on Prosocial Behavior in Laboratory and Online Experiments." With Reuben Kline.

First, we compare and contrast the the effect of performance-based incentives and extra credit incentives on prosocial outcomes in economic games in the laboratory. Manipulating the type of incentives while holding the type and number of games as well as the lab environment constant, we find that effects vary based on the type of game participants play. In particular, the difference in outcomes across the two types of incentives is significant for distributional games rather than for cooperative games. The former implies a zero-sum game in which one player deliberately gives up a share of his/her resources for the benefit of the other player whereas the latter suggests that cooperation between two players lead to more beneficial outcomes than unilateral action by each player. We re-run the experiment with MTurkers to examine whether these results vary across experimental modes.