American Politics Workshop with Michael Tomz
DateApril 13, 2015
4357 Bunche Hall
Belinda SunnuPhone firstname.lastname@example.org
Presenter:Michael Tomz, Stanford UniversityTitle: “Political Repositioning: A Conjoint Analysis”Abstract: A persistent puzzle in contemporary American politics is the polarization of political officeholders. One possible cause is the two-stage electoral process in the United States, which requires candidates to secure a nomination from their party prior to contesting a general election. We offer a theory of the costs that candidates incur when they change their positions on policy issues over time, and consider how these costs will influence the strategic choices of candidates who enter the second stage of a two-stage election with divergent policy positions. We test our theory using a conjoint experimental design that presents subjects with a choice between two candidates who have a set of randomly assigned characteristics. These characteristics include the positions the candidates take on a policy issue in the current day and the positions that they took a year prior, their party affiliations, and a range of other electorally salient attributes. We administer our experiments on a national sample of 4,200 adults. We find that repositioning brings substantial electoral costs across a range of policy issues. As a result of these costs, public opinion must be running nearly 70-30 in favor of one side of an issue before politicians who previously took the other side of the issue will find it electorally optimal to switch their positions. Thus, we conclude, the electorate itself provides strong disincentives for politicians who enter a general election with divergent positions to moderate their stances and represent the views of the median voter.About the Speaker:Michael Tomz (Ph.D. 2001, Harvard Univ.) is Professor in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University and a senior fellow at its Institute for Economic Policy Research as well as at the Stanford Center for International Development. His research interests include political economy, elections, political opinion, international relations, and methodology. His most recent book, Reputation and International Cooperation: Sovereign Debt across Three Centuries was published by Princeton Univ. Press in 2007. Another book, on Political Repositioning (co-authored with Robert Van Houweling of UC Berkeley), is under contract, also with Princeton.
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