Universität Mannheim / Sowi / Methods / Working Papers

Working Papers

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.

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 09/2017)

This paper presents a dynamic Bayesian forecasting model for multi-party elections. Our modeling approach 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 probasbility of certain events, such as the plurality of votes for a party or the majority for coalition options in parliament. We apply this model to forecast the German Federal election 2017. The forecasts of our model are continuously being updated on the platform zweitstimme.org. The value of our approach goes beyond the realms of academia: We equip journalists, political pundits, and ordinary citizens with information that can help to make sense of the parties' latent support and ultimately making better informed voting decisions.

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 09/2017)

What explains the type of electoral campaign run by political parties? In this article, wo focus on the strategic unse of emotive language in campaign messages. We argue that the level of positive sentiment that parties adopt in their campaign messages depends on their incumbency status, their policy position, and objective economic conditions. We test these claims with a novel dataset containing information on the emotive language used in over 400 party manifestos across eight European countries from 1980 to 2012. As predicted, we find that incumbent parties, and incumbent prime ministerial parties in particular, use more positive sentiment than opposition parties. We find that ideologically moderate parties employ higher levels of positive sentiment than extremist ones. 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 economic voting.

Public Support for Judicial Nominations: Evidence from a Discrete-Choice Experiment

Engst, Benjamin G., Thomas Gschwend, and Sebastian Sternberg (PDF, version 06/2017)

How do citizens evaluate potential constitutional court candidates? In our study, we seek to disentangle the quality and the ideological dimensions, and evaluate their relative importance for gaining public support of a judicial nominee and identifying the type of nominee the public prefers. Furthermore, we are able to identify the relative weight people place on the quality of a nominee vice versa the political dimension when evaluating constitutional court candidates. To do so, we administered a discrete-choice experiment to a random sample of German citizens. We repeatedly present respondents pairs of profiles of judicial nominees that depend on personal characteristics, characteristics of who nominated them, and the nominees' political leanings - all of whom were fully randomly generated. We evaluate public ratings of those profiles and which profiles gain the most public support. We find that the perceived quality of a candidate can compensate to some degree for potentially missing political independence. Moreover, studying the public's ideal judge has major implications for understanding the mechanisms that explain legitimacy attributions regarding the judiciary as non-majoritarian institution.

Coalition Policy Perceptions

Bowler, Shaun, Thomas Gschwend, and Indridi H. Indridason (PDF, version 09/2016)

How do voters form expectations about the policies of coalition governments? The literature 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, or how, voters actually form expectations that way. In this paper we leverage a unique data set and find in contrast to what is commonly assumed that voters neither accord coalition parties equal influence nor influence proportional to party size, as suggested by Gamson's Law. While voters take account of the coalition parties' sizes and their bargaining strength, voters also seem to perceive 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 brings home the pork? Parties and the role of  localness in committee assignments in mixed-member proportional systems

Gschwend, Thomas, and Thomas Zittel (PDF, version 08/2016)

The assignment of seats to specialized standing committees is a most consequential choice in legislative contexts.Distributive theories of legislative organization suggest that electoral incentives to cultivate personal votes explain the assignments of legislators to constituency committees best suited to please geographic constituents and to thus secure re-election. However, these theories discard the partisan basis of European legislative politics and therefore are hardly able to adequately assess the politics of personal vote seeking in partisan assemblies. This paper approaches this task for the German case on the basis of a new and rich data set including statistical data for five legislative terms (1983, 1987, 1998, 2005, 2009). It argues that in partisan assemblies political parties themselves might facilitate personal vote seeking efforts contingent  upon electoral incentives and available individual-level talent. Particularly, we argue thatGermany's mixed proportional system provides incentives to parties to assign legislators with local roots to district committees best suited to please geopgraphic constituents.

Understanding People's Choice When They Have Two votes

Rheault, Ludovic, André Blais, John Aldrich, and Thomas Gschwend (PDF, version 08/2015)

This paper introduces a model of vote choice in mixed electoral systems where electors cast two votes. The model is tested using survey data collected at the time of the 2013 federal election in Germany. We start by studying a general problem of vote choice where parties are running in multiple elections currently. We propose a new approach to account for contamination, a phenomenon that we define as a causal influecnce across the vote decisions. Since causality entails a time-ordering, we argue that contamination arises only when voters choose sequentially. By making use of information on the timing of vote decisions, we are then able to estimate the magnitude of those contamination effects in the German case. We show that such effects are present only among voters with lower levels of education. Moreover, the magnitude of the contamination effect from the list vote toward the candidate vote appears greater than the other way around. We also test a number of predictions about the determinants of the two vote choices in mixed systems. Our findings suggest that local chances of winning and local candidate ratings affect mostly the candidate vote, whereas party, leader and coalition ratings influence more strongly the list vote.

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.

Assigning Committee Seats in Mixed-Member Systems - How Important is “Localness” compared to the Mode of Election?

Gschwend, Thomas, Matthew S. Shugart, and Thomas Zittel. (PDF, version 09/2009)

Abstract: Committees are important features in legislative decision making. The question of who serves on what committee is thus an important one. This paper asks about how mixed electoral systems affect the way committee seats are allocated.Stratmann and Baur (2002) argue that German parties strategically assign nominally elected legislators to those committees that allow them to please their local constituents. Our paper questions this argument in light of the functioning of the German mixed-member system and the individual motivations of German MPs. We argue that the motivations of German legislators do not necessarily mirror their mode of election, and that German parties do not necessarily perceive winning nominal votes as a predominant goal. We hypothesize that German parties aim to increase their vote share on the list-vote (Zweitstimme) by supporting legislators with a strong local focus independent of their mode of election. We will test this argument empirically drawing from the German Candidate Study 2005 and from statistical data on committee membership for the 16th German Bundestag (2005-2009).

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.