Experimental Politics Lab Research

We will update this section with working papers, conference presentations, and other research products which emerge as joint projects among our members.

"Reliable Sources? Correcting Misinformation in Polarized Media Environments" Presented at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the International Society for Political Psychology.

Various pressing issues at the center of today’s politics– such as immigration, climate change, or the recent coronavirus pandemic– are imbued with misinformation. A growing body of research therefore explores the potential impact of providing corrective information. However, while such interventions appear to reduce people’s factual misperceptions, they have little to no effect on their underlying attitudes. This study examines how the impact of corrective information on beliefs and attitudes is moderated by media choice. In our survey experiment, participants are asked to read a news article published by Fox News or MSNBC, each highlighting the positive economic impact of legal immigration in the United States. While the news content is held constant across sources, our treatment manipulates whether participants are allowed to freely choose a media outlet or are randomly assigned to one of them. Our results illustrate how people’s media choice moderates the effectiveness of corrective information: While factual misperceptions are easily corrected regardless of how people gained access to the information, subsequent opinion change is conditional on people’s prior willingness to seek out alternative sources. As such, encouraging people to broaden their media diet may be more effective to combat misinformation than disseminating fact-checks alone.

Additional Research By Our Members

The following publications are some of the recent research by our members. More about the research activities of our members can be found on their individual websites.

Davis, T. Forthcoming. "A Tale of Two Courts: State Courts of Last Resort and Civil Rights Adjudication" in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in America: A Reference Handbook. Michael LeMay, editor. New York: ABC-CLIO.

Heideman, A. 2020. "Race, Place, and Descriptive Representation: What Shapes Trust Toward Local Government?" Journal of Representative Democracy.

The question of how descriptive representation might affect political behaviour and attitudes is important when considering the role political attitudes play in facilitating a functioning democracy. What role, if any, does co-racial descriptive representation play in the relationship between citizens and local government? What factors underlie attitudes toward local government, generally? Employing a unique set of survey data collected across several dozen cities combined with city-level contextual data, the analysis offers a comprehensive picture of trust toward local governments. Overall, the findings support the hypothesis that descriptive representation has a positive effect on feelings of trust in local government. However, these effects are limited to mayoral representation. Increased levels of descriptive representation in less-visible city councils do not have the same effect.

Kraft, P., Y. Krupnikov, K. Milita, J. B. Ryan, and S. Soroka. 2020. "Social Media and the Changing Information Environment: Sentiment Differences in Read Versus Recirculated News Content." Public Opinion Quarterly.

There is reason to believe that an increasing proportion of the news consumers receive is not from news producers directly but is recirculated through social network sites and email by ordinary citizens. This may produce some fundamental changes in the information environment, but the data to examine this possibility have thus far been relatively limited. In the current paper, we examine the changing information environment by leveraging a body of data on the frequency of (a) views, and recirculations through (b) Twitter, (c) Facebook, and (d) email of New York Times stories. We expect that the distribution of sentiment (positive-negative) in news stories will shift in a positive direction as we move from (a) to (d), based in large part on the literatures on self-presentation and imagined audiences. Our findings support this expectation and have important implications for the information contexts increasingly shaping public opinion.

Heideman, A. 2019. "Is It All About the Money? How Campaigns Spur Participation in State Court Elections." Justice System Journal.

Competitive, vigorous campaigns have been shown to increase participation across a variety of elections, including those at the state and local level. Building on previous work that examines the impact of money in judicial elections, this study explores the impact of campaign effort on participation in state court elections. Using data from 260 state supreme court elections occurring from 1990-2004 across 18 states, I find that competitive campaigns—not just expensive ones—are important for encouraging participation in these contests. Additionally, the study uncovers differential effects of challenger and incumbent spending. Ultimately, the findings contribute to our understanding of campaign effects in judicial elections while also providing an additional test of the idea that campaigns matter, especially in low-information contests.

Kline, R., A. Bankert, L. Levitan, and P. Kraft. 2019. "Personality and Prosocial Behavior: A Multilevel Meta-Analysis." Political Science Research Methods. 7(1). pp. 125-142.

We investigate the effect of personality on prosocial behavior in a Bayesian multilevel meta-analysis (MLMA) of 15 published, interdisciplinary experimental studies. With data from the 15 studies constituting nearly 2500 individual observations, we find that the Big Five 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 operationalizations of prosociality, and they 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 monetary incentivization of participants affects prosocial tendencies. By leveraging individual observations from multiple studies and explicitly modeling the multilevel structure of the data, MLMA permits the simultaneous estimation of study- and individual-level effects. The Bayesian approach allows us to estimate study-level effects in an unbiased and efficient manner, even with a relatively small number of studies. We conclude by discussing the limitations of our study and the advantages and disadvantages of the MLMA method.

Kraft, P. 2018. "Measuring Morality in Political Attitude Expression." Journal of Politics. 80(3). pp. 1028-1033.

This study explores whether and how individuals evoke moral considerations when discussing their political beliefs. By analyzing open-ended responses in the 2012 American National Election Study using a previously validated dictionary, I find systematic ideological differences in moral reasoning, even when respondents are not explicitly asked about morality. The study proceeds to show that the reliance on moral considerations in attitude expression is amplified by the moral content of individual media environments.