Here you will find information about my working papers. All working papers ready for circulation are provided in PDF format and may be read and printed using the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Make sure that you change the PDF files to an appropriate format if you want to print out one of the papers. I appreciate any comment, critic or questions. Please click here to send me an email.
Coalition Policy Perceptions
Bowler, Shaun, Thomas Gschwend, and Indridi H. Indridason (PDF, version 12/2018)
How do voters form expectations about the policy positions of coalition governments? The literature to date generally assumes that voters hold beliefs consistent with Gamson's Law when making inferences about how the policy preferences of coalition parties affect government policy. Yet, little is known about whether voters actually form expectations that way. In this paper we leverage data sets from Austria, Germany, and Sweden and find that when it comes to citizens Gamson is wrong. While voters take account of the coalition parties' bargaining strength, perceiving that smaller coalition parties have disproportional influence on coalition policy. In other words, voters who live under and vote for coalition governments have a somewhat different sense of policy outcomes than the literature currently suggests.
Who reaches the Bench? Evaluation of Judicial Nominees for Constitutional Courts
Engst, Benjamin G., Thomas Gschwend, and Sebastian Sternberg (PDF, version 11/2018)
do citizens evaluate judicial nominees for highest courts? Previous
research solely based on the US Supreme Court points at two dimensions:
judiciousness and the nominee's political leaning. While these
dimensions arenot likely to be independent from one another the
identification strategies previously applied are not suitable to
untangle the independent effect of each dimension. We employ a
discrete-choice experiment using panel data from a random sample of
German citizens to estimate the weights the public places on ech
dimension. We finde that the public has a strong preference for
political independent nominees. Moreover, our results clarify the
conditions under which a judicial nominee's perceived lack of political
independence can be compensated by a higher degree of judiciousness.
Finally, we put our findings about the public's perception of judicial
nominees in a comparative perspective.
Ein neuronales Netzwerk zur Vorhersage von Erststimmenergebnissen bei Bundestagswahlen
Forecasting Elections in Multi-party Systems: A Backwards Random-walk Approch
Stoetzer, Lukas F., Simon Munzert, Thomas Gschwend, Marcel Neunhoeffer, and Sebastian Sternberg (PDF, version 10/2018)
offer a dynamic Bayesian forecasting model for multi-party elections.
It combines data from published pre-election public opinion polls with
information from fundamentals-based forecasting models. The model takes
care of the multi-party nature of the setting and allows making
statements about the probability of other quantities of interest, such
as the probability of a plurality of votes for a party or the majority
for certain coalitions in parliament. We present results from two ex
ante forecasts of elections that took place in 2017 and are able to show
that the model outperforms fundamentals-based forecasting models in
terms of accuracy and the calibration of uncertainty. Provided that
historical and current polling data are available, the model can be
applied to any multi-party setting.
The Wisdom of Crowds Design for Sensitive Survey Questions
Understanding People's Choice When They Have Two Votes
Rheault, Ludovic, André Blais, John Aldrich, and Thomas Gschwend (PDF, version 03/2018)
paper introduces a model of vote choice in mixed electoral systems
where electors cast two votes. We propose a new approach to account for
contamination effects, a phenomenon that we define as a causal influence
making choices more similar across the vote decisions. Since causality
entails a time-ordering, we argue that contamination arises only when
voters choose sequentially. By making use of new survey questions asking
respondents about the timing of vote decisions, we can estimate the
magnitude of these contamination effects directly. The model is tested
using Bayesian multinomial probit models and survey data collected at
the time of the 2013 federal election in Germany. Our findings suggest
that contamination effects are present only among voters with lower
levels of education, and operate mostly from the list vote to the
candidate vote. We also test a number of predictions about the
determinants of the two vote choices in mixed systems.
It's Not Only What youSay, It's Also How You Say It: The Strategic Use of Campaign Sentiment
Crabtree, Charles, Matt Golder, Thomas Gschwend, and Indridi H. Indridason (PDF, version 12/2017)
explains the type of electoral campaign run by political parties? We provide a new perspective on campaigns that focuses on the strategic use of emotive language. We argue that the level of positive sentiment parties adopt in their campaigns depends on their incumbency
status, their policy position, and objective economic conditions. We
test these claims with a novel dataset that captures the emotive language used in over 400 party manifestos across eight European countries. As predicted, we find that incumbent
parties, particularly incumbent prime ministerial parties, use more
positive sentiment than opposition parties. We find that ideologically
moderate parties employ higher levels of positive sentiment than
extremist parties. And we find that all parties exhibit lower levels of
positive sentiment when the economy is performing poorly but that this
negative effect is weaker for incumbents. Our analysis has important
implications for research on campaign strategies and retrospective
Why don't you talk about policy? Valence campaigning in the 2008 US Congressional elections
Gschwend, Thomas, Lukas Stötzer, and Steffen Zittlau (PDF, version 06/2014)
Liberal democratic theory conceptualizes elections as competitions over policy, in which candidates promote clearly formulated policy platforms. Yet many campaigns in modern democracies lack a strong policy focus. Instead, some candidates spent notable time and effort to advertise valence issues, such as their personal characteristics and abilities. So far we have no good explanation why some politicians do it and others don’t. This paper presents a formal model of when we should expect candidates to run a valence campaign and when not. Based on Riker’s idea of herethetics, our model produces predictions in line with the dominance principle: Candidates who have a valence advantage should run a campaign that focuses on valence, rather than on policy. The model’s predictions are tested in the 2008 US Congressional Elections. Valence advantage is empirically quantified from a voter model that is based on survey data. We find that candidates tend to broadcast fewer policy-related TV ads if they have a valence advantage over their opponent.
Courts as Veto Players - A Game-Theoretic Model
Engst, Benjamin G., Caroline E. Wittig, Christoph Hönnige, and Thomas Gschwend (PDF, version 03/2013)
Moving research on judicial politics beyond mere case studies stemming from the US judicial system, we develop a judicial policy game to make transparent the policy influence of the Kelsenian court, the predominant court type in Europe, within
the constitutional policy-making process. This court type focuses exclusively on the constitutionality of a law and has particular features at its disposal (admissibility, justi fication, directives) that can be employed strategically. It is therefore
a strong assumption to model constitutional courts as probabilistic black-boxes (Vanberg 1998). Instead, one contribution of our judicial policy game is to relax this rather restrictive assumption and to model constitutional courts within the
judicial policy game as strategic utility-maximizer. Based on our model we derive predictions that stay in stark contrast to the current literature. One implication of our model is, contrary to Stone Sweet's (1998), that the parliamentary opposition
should not always refer legislation to the court. Another implication of our model is, contrary to Tsebelis's (2002, Chapter 10), that constitutional courts are not absorbed but rather become a veto player if activated by a plaintiff referring legislation to the court. While in most spatial settings the plaintiff is disadvantaged compared to the government's and the constitutional court's influence on policy, the influence of the court on policy is larger than previously thought. As long as
there is an active plaintiff - and empirically constitutional courts are overwhelmed by constitutional complaints - the court is influential by moving policy closer to its ideal point.
Coalition Preferences in Multiparty Systems
Meffert, Michael F., and Thomas Gschwend. (PDF, version 06/2012)
Coalition preferences in multiparty systems have received increasing attention in recent years, both as an additional political preference that can explain vote decisions above and beyond party preferences, and even as a superordinate political identity. In this paper, we use survey data from the 2006 Austrian and the 2009 German election campaigns to investigate the structure and accessibility of party and coalition preferences as well as the extent to which coalition preferences can be explained by party preferences and other affective and cognitive factors such as candidates, ideology, and issue positions. The evidence suggests that coalitions are indeed more than simple averages of the member parties, but that questions about most coalitions are associated with longer response times than similar questions about parties and candidates. Coalition preferences are only partially predicted by party preferences and other political preferences, with considerable variation between existing and real coalitions on the one hand and hypothetical and abstract coalitions on the other hand. The former are retrieved faster and can be explained better with existing political preferences, something that largely fails for the latter preferences. Overall, coalition preferences emerge as a fairly independent factor in multiparty systems.
Strategic Voting in Proportional Systems: The Case of Finland
Gschwend, Thomas, and Michael Stoiber. (PDF, version 05/2012)
In this paper we make a case that strategic voting can be observed and predicted even in PR systems. Contrary to the literature we do not see weak institutional incentive structures as indicative of a hopeless endeavor for studying strategic voting. The crucial question for strategic voting is how institutional incentives constrain an individual's decision-making process. Based on expected utility maximization we put forward a micro-logic of an individual's expectation formation process as a function of situational and dispositional factors. All well-known situational incentives to vote strategically that get channeled through the district magnitude are moderated by dispositional factors in order to become relevant for voting decisions. Employing district-level data from Finland because of its electoral system a particularly hard testing ground - we find considerable evidence for predictive implications of our theory.
When Party and Issue Preferences Clash: Selective Exposure and Attitudinal Depolarization
Meffert, Michael F., and Thomas Gschwend. (PDF, version 11/2011)
Abstract: Preference-driven selective exposure does not always have to reinforce existing party and issue preferences and lead to attitudinal polarization. Because voters and parties are unlikely to agree on all issue preferences, selective exposure at the information selection stage can expose voters to counterattitudinal information. When party and issue preferences clash, voters are forced to reconcile this mismatch. Instead of polarization, existing preferences can be weakened. We test these assumptions with data from an information board experiment conducted during two real election campaigns in Germany. Participants encountered information about 5 parties and 13 issues in the form of short headlines that could be selected for further reading. The results suggest that (1) prevalent selective exposure for preferred parties and issues exists, exposing voters to a mix of consonant and dissonant information, that (2) the processing of dissonant, counterattitudinal information requires additional cognitive resources, and that (3) issue position congruency of participants and parties affects the extremity of party evaluations and the confidence in vote decisions. In short, selective exposure does not always lead to attitudinal reinforcement and polarization.
Coalition Signals as Cues for Party and Coalition Preferences
Meffert, Michael F., and Thomas Gschwend. (PDF, version 08/2010)
Abstract: Coalition signals can offer crucial information to voters during political campaigns. In multiparty systems, they reduce the number of theoretically possible coalitions to a much smaller set of plausible and likely coalitions. Strategic voters who care more about the formation of the next coalition government than supporting the preferred party might, for example, defect from the preferred party in favor of another party that might produce a more desirable coalition government. For other voters, coalition signals might merely elicit affective responses which can shift the vote. In this study, we investigate whether and how different coalition signals affect vote intentions and activate different party and coalition preferences. We report the results of a nationally representative survey experiment conducted before the 2006 Austrian General Election. Respondents encountered four vignettes with hypothetical coalitions, each followed by the standard vote intention question. The results indicate that voters are responsive to coalition signals, and especially voters with two preferred parties tend to change their vote intentions. Finally, a more detailed look at Green Party voters suggests that individual party and coalition preferences help to explain the direction of these changes.
Improving the Measurement of Policy Preferences in Surveys: Bringing the Status-Quo back in
Gschwend, Thomas, and Sven-Oliver Proksch. (PDF, version 05/2010)
Abstract: One of the fundamental uses of surveys is the measurement of policy preferences. We can ask voters how they locate themselves on policy dimensions of substantive interests, and we can ask them how they perceive the positions of political parties. Likewise, we can use surveys to get political elite to reveal their policy positions or experts to judge the positions of parties on a set of salient policy dimensions. Increasingly, such surveys present respondents with issue scales de fined as trade-o s between di erent policy goals. Surprisingly, scholars have not paid much attention to the fact that such scales are directional and include an implicit reference point: the status quo. We examine the e ffects of indicating an explicit status quo midpoint in trade-o issue questions using an experimental setup in an online survey that was part of the German National Election Study in 2009. We show that status quo labeling has three major e ffects. First, the indication of the status quo significantly reduces item non-response. Second, issue scales with status quo indication change respondents'self-placement and the perception of political parties due to the provision of an explicit reference point. Third, individually perceived ideological distances between a voter and her preferred party are smaller when a status quo is indicated. This leads to a slightly stronger predictor of ideological distance in a conditional logit model of vote choice. The findings have implications for designers and users of voter and expert surveys.
Strategic Voting under Proportional Representation and Coalition Governments: A Laboratory Experiment
Meffert, Michael, and Thomas Gschwend. (PDF, version 05/2008)
We investigate whether the theory of strategic voting can explain voting behavior in a fairly common type of political system, multi-party systems with proportional representation, minimum vote thresholds, and coalition governments. In this paper, we develop a formal (computational) strategic voting game and show in a simulation that the model produces election scenarios and outcomes with desirable characteristics as well as different opportunities for strategic voting. We then test the decision-theoretic model in a laboratory experiment, taking into account both sophisticated and heuristic decision strategies. Participants with a purely instrumental (financial) motivation voted in a series of 25 independent elections. The availability of polls and coalition signals by parties was manipulated. The results show that voters are frequently able to make optimal or strategic vote decisions, but that voters also rely on simple decision heuristics and are highly susceptible to coalition signals by parties.
Comparative Politics of Strategic Voting: A Hierarchy of Electoral Systems.
Gschwend, Thomas. (PDF, version 04/2006)
What is the impact of electoral rules on the way people make decisions in the voting booth? Institutional incentives moderate a voter’s expectation formation process and, therefore, make the frequency of strategic voters predictable across a wide range of electoral systems. I provide evidence that there is a latent dimension of propensity to cast a strategic vote following the wasted-vote logic on which various seat-allocation systems can be placed even controlling for district magnitude. Thus the variance of vote-to-seat conversion mechanisms is far more important in determining the level of strategic voting across electoral systems than previously thought.
Forecasting the Outcome of a National Election: The Influence of Expertise, Information, and Political Preferences.
Andersson, Patric, Thomas Gschwend, Michael F. Meffert, and Carsten Schmidt. (PDF, version 04/2006)
Five days in advance of the 2005 German national election, political experts, voters, and novices were asked to predict the outcome of the election. In an experimental manipulation, half of the non-expert sample was provided with additional poll information in the form of a figure with trend lines. The results show that (1) experts were marginally more accurate than non-experts but highly overconfident in their predictions, that (2) access to pre-election poll information improved the forecasting ability of novices, and that (3) partisan preferences biased the forecasts of voters to a small degree (projection effect).
Augäpfel, Murmeltiere und Bayes: Zur Auswertung stochastischer Daten aus Vollerhebungen.
Broscheid, Andreas, and Thomas Gschwend. (PDF, version 07/2003)
In diesem Papier diskutieren wir theoretisch-methodologische Grundlagen zur Analyse so genannter Vollerhebungen, also Datensätze, die Beobachtungen aller Elemente einer Population enthalten. Solche Datensätze spielen vor allem in quantitativen Makro-Analysen politischer und sozialer Systeme eine Rolle, und ihre inhärenten Probleme führen oft zu methodischer Verwirrung, die wir mit dem vorliegenden Essay verringern wollen. Da Vollerhebungen nicht das Resultat einer Zufallsstichprobe sind, ist die Anwendung frequentistischer Wahrscheinlichkeitskonzeptionen zur Begründung inferentieller statistischer Methoden nicht gegeben; außerdem kann die statistische Unabhängigkeit der Beobachtungen voneinander nicht ohne weiteres angenommen werden. Dennoch werden Vollerhebungsdaten durch stochastische Komponenten oder „Fehler“ beeinflusst. Wir argumentieren, dass die Stochastizität der Daten in die Analyse einbezogen werden muss, etwa in Form von Parameter-Varianzen, Signifikanztests, oder Konfidenzintervallen. Wir diskutieren verschiedene theoretische Strategien, mit denen Analysen der Stochastizität begründet werden können, wobei wir vor allem für die Annahme von Superpopulationen oder die Anwendung bayesianischer Ansätze plädieren.
The Politics of Opinion Assignment: A Conditional Logit Model with varying Choice Set.
Gschwend, Thomas, and Chad M. King. (PDF, version 10/2002)
This note replicates and extends Chapter 2 of Forrest Maltzman, James F. Spriggs and Paul J. Wahlbeck's (henceforth: MSW) "Crafting Law on the Supreme Court" (2000). Using a conditional logit model, the authors test the effects of both choice-specific and chooser-specific variables on majority opinion assignment on the United States Supreme Court during Chief Justice Burger's tenure. The authors find that the effect of ideology, as well as other variables, is conditioned on both case facts as well as justices' attributes. In this note, we take issue with the authors' specification of the model, specifically their failure to include choice-specific, i.e. the justices, constants. Below we argue for the statistical necessity of the inclusion of these controls and reassess the original theoretical model with the appropriate statistical specification. We first show that the failure to include these constants will yield biased estimates. We then test if the authors' substantive findings are robust to the correct specification of their original model. While we successfully replicate the original model (yielding biased estimates), we generally find that MSW's core findings, although confirmed, are diminished when correctly estimated.
Is Ticket splitting Strategic?. Evidence from the 1998 Election in Germany.
Gschwend, Thomas. (PDF, version 04/2000)
The paper is an example of how much more can be learned if we reconsider and refine our theories. I provide a first step towards a theory of strategic voting and add it to the typical ticket splitting discussion. In order to test more refined hypotheses about ticket splitting and strategic voting I use cross-sectional data from the German National Post Election Study of 1998. Empirically, the results indicate that strategic voters are different from ordinary ticket splitters. Evidence from separate MNP estimation for East and West Germany shows that identifier of the FDP or the Greens are more likely strategic voters as opposed to non-strategic ticket splitters. Non-strategic ticket splitters in East Germany do not feel close to any political party. In West Germany non-strategic ticket splitters have conflicting party preferences. Thus, it proves useful to separate out strategic voters from ordinary ticket splitters in future work.