Democracy & Governance

2020
Roy Perlis, Matthew A. Baum, and Katherine Ognyanova. 11/23/2020. “Glaring Omission from Biden's COVID-19 Task Force: Mental Health Expertise.” STAT. Publisher's Version
David Lazer, Jonathan Green, Matthew A. Baum, Alexi Quintana Mathé, Katherine Ognyanova, Adina Gitomer, James N. Druckman, Matthew Simonson, Hanyu Chwe, Roy H. Perlis, Jennifer Lin, and Mauricio Santillana. 10/21/2020. “These nine swing states will see the biggest ‘blue shift’ as ballots are counted after the election.” The Washington Post Monkey Cage. Publisher's Version
Matthew A. Baum, David Lazer, Alexi Quintana, Roy Perlis, Katherine Ognyanova, James N. Druckman, John Della Volpe, and Mauricio Santillana. 7/20/2020. “How a Public Health Crisis Becomes a Public Trust Crisis.” Real Clear Politics. Publisher's Version
Irene Pasquetto, Matthew A. Baum, Eaman Jahani, and Alla Baranovsky. 5/27/2020. Understanding Misinformation on Mobile Instant Messengers (MIMs) in Developing Countries. Shorenstein Center. Cambridge: Harvard Kennedy School, Shorenstein Center of Media, Politics and Public Policy. Publisher's Version misinfo-on-mims-shorenstein-center-may-2020.pdf
Matthew A. Baum, Dara Kay Cohen, and Susanne Schwarz. 5/6/2020. “(Sex) Crime and Punishment: How Legally Irrelevant Details Influence Crime Reporting and Sanctioning Decisions.” Political Behavior. Publisher's Version
Recent prominent rape cases have raised concerns that the US exhibits a “culture of rape,” wherein victims are often disbelieved and blamed. We present an empirical conceptualization of rape culture, outlining four key features: blaming victims, empathizing with perpetrators, assuming the victims’ consent, and questioning victims’ credibility. In a series of experimental studies, we evaluate the relative impact of different types of rape culture biases on the reporting of rape, and how it is punished. We test how participants’ exposure to legally irrelevant details related to rape culture affects their decision-making. We find that exposure to certain details—relating to the victim’s consent and credibility—significantly decreasesparticipants’ propensities to recommend a rape case be reported to police or to advocate for a severe punishment for the perpetrator. The same biases do not emerge in robbery cases, suggesting that rape is regarded differently from other violent crimes.
sexcrimeandpunishment_polbehavior.pdf
Matthew A. Baum, Katherine Ognyanova, and David Lazer. 4/29/2020. “These Three Governors are Reopening Their States Faster than Their Voters Want: That's What Our Polling Found in Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee.” The Washington Post Monkey Cage. Publisher's Version
2019
Matthew A. Baum, Dannagal G. Young, and Duncan Prettyman. 5/13/2019. “vMOBilize: Gamifying Civic Learning and Political Engagement in a Classroom Context.” Journal of Political Science Education. Publisher's Version

This study presents the results of a quasi-experiment (N= 307) conducted over the course of 10 weeks in Spring of 2016 to assess the effectiveness of a game platform designed to facilitate political engagement, attention, efficacy, knowledge, and participation among college students. Results indicate positive effects of gameplay on several key dimensions of political engagement, including voter registration, virtual political participation (following a candidate on Twitter, liking a candidate on Facebook, and watching debates), and consumption of public affairs information (including National Public Radio, non-NPR political talk radio, and online news aggregator sites). Additionally, gameplay provided significantly greater benefits to students with the lowest rates of political knowledge at baseline. Overall, participants reported high rates of game satisfaction, with 79% of participants reporting being very to somewhat pleased if they were asked to play the game again. These results are discussed in terms of the implications for civics education, pedagogy, and political engagement among young people.

vmobilize_jpe_preprint.pdf
Matthew Barreto, Chris Warshaw, Matthew A. Baum, Bryce J. Dietrich, Rebecca Goldstein, and Maya Sen. 4/22/2019. “New Research Shows Just How Badly a Citizenship Question Would Hurt the 2020 Census.” Washington Post Monkey Cage. Publisher's Version
2013
Matthew A. Baum and Tim Groeling. 2013. “Partisan News Before Fox: Newspaper Partisanship and Partisan Polarization, 1881-1972 ”. Publisher's Version
How do partisan media affect polarization and partisanship? The rise of Fox News, MSNBC, and hyper-partisan outlets online gives this question fresh salience, but in this paper, we argue that the question is actually not new: prior to the broadcast era, newspapers dominated American mass communication. Many of these were identified as supporting one party over the other in their news coverage. While scholars have studied the composition and impact of the partisan press during their 19th-century height, the political impact of the gradual decline of these partisan papers remains relatively under-examined. The unnoted vitality and endurance of partisan newspapers (which constituted a majority of American newspapers until the 1960s) represents a huge hole in our understanding of how parties communicate. As a consequence of this omission, scholars have ignored a potentially vital contributing factor to changing patterns of partisan voting. In this paper, we examine both the degree and influence of partisanship in historical newspapers. We begin by content analyzing news coverage in the Los Angeles Times from 1885-1986 and the Atlanta Constitution from 1869-1945. To avoid problems of selection bias and the absence of a neutral baseline of coverage in the coded news, we focus on a subset of partisan news for which we have access to neutral coverage of a full population of potential stories: the obituaries of U.S. Senators. By coding whether and how the papers covered the deaths of these partisans over time, we are able to systematically test for bias. We then collect information on newspaper editorial stances from Editor and Publisher’s Annual Yearbook to examine the impact of newspaper partisanship on voting patterns in presidential elections from 1932-92. Specifically, we test whether the proportion of partisan news outlets in a given media market explains changes in the rate of polarized voting.
Matthew A. Baum and Philip B. K. Potter. 2013. “Looking for Audience Costs in all the Wrong Places: Electoral Institutions, Media Access, and Democratic Constraint.” The Journal of Politics . Publisher's Version
For leaders to generate credibility through audience costs, there must be mechanisms in place that enable citizens to learn about foreign policy failures. However, scholars have paid relatively little attention to variations among democracies in the extent to which the public is able to obtain this sort of information. We argue here that electoral institutions play this role by influencing the number of major political parties in a country and, with it, the extent and depth of opposition to the executive. Opposition leads to whistle-blowing, which makes it more likely that that the public will actually hear about a leader’s foreign policy blunders. The effectiveness of this whistle-blowing, however, is conditional on the public’s access to the primary conduit for communication between leaders and citizens: the mass media. We test these expectations statistically, demonstrating that leaders in systems with these attributes fare better with respect to their threats and the reciprocation of conflicts that they initiate. These findings suggest that democracies are not automatically able to generate credibility through audience costs and that the domestic institutions and political processes that link the public and leaders must be taken seriously.
potterbaumjopsupplementalappendix.pdf potterbaumjop.pdf
2012
Matthew A. Baum. 2012. “The Iraq Coalition of the Willing and (Politically) Able: Party Systems, the Press, and Public Influence on Foreign Policy.” American Journal of Political Science . Publisher's Version
Media outlets in multiparty electoral systems tend to report on a wider range of policy issues than media in two-party systems. They thus make more competing policy frames available to citizens. This suggests that a “free press” is insufficient to hold governments accountable. Rather, we should observe more challenges to the governments’ preferred frames and more politically aware citizens in multiparty democracies. Such citizens should thus be better equipped to hold their leaders accountable, relative to their counterparts in two-party democracies. I propose a mechanism through which democratic publics can sometimes constrain their leaders in foreign policy. I test hypotheses derived from my theory with cross-national data on the content of news coverage of Iraq, on public support for the war, and on decisions to contribute troops to the Iraq “Coalition of the Willing.” I find that citizens in countries with larger numbers of parties confronted more critical and diverse coverage of Iraq, while those with more widespread access to mass media were more likely to oppose the war and their nations likely to contribute fewer troops to the Coalition.
cotwsupplemental_appendix_finalversion.pdf
2011
Matthew A. Baum. 2011. “Preaching to the Choir or Converting the Flock: Presidential Communication Strategies in the Age of Three Medias.” In iPolitics: Citizens, Elections, and Governing in the New Media Age. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press. Publisher's Version
2010
Matthew A. Baum, Ann Crigler, Marion Just, and Jesse Mills. 2010. “Emotions, the Horserace Metaphor and the 2008 Presidential Campaign”. Publisher's Version
Philip K. Potter and Matthew A. Baum. 2010. “Democratic Peace, Domestic Audience Costs, and Political Communication.” Political Communication . Publisher's Version

This article addresses a gap in the literature connecting the empirical observation of a democratic peace to a theoretical mechanism based on domestic audience costs. We argue that the link between these literatures lies in the way leaders reach he ultimate source of audience costs – the public. The audience cost argument implicitly requires a free press because, without it, the public has no way of reliably assessing the success or failure of a leader’s foreign policy. Hence leaders can credibly commit through audience costs only when the media is an effective and independent actor. The implication is that while leaders might gain at home by controlling the media, they do so at the cost of their capacity to persuade foreign leaders that their “hands are tied.”

2009
Matthew A. Baum and Tim J. Groeling. 2009. War Stories: The Causes and Consequences of Public Views of War. Paperback, Pp. 368. Princeton University Press. Publisher's Version

How does the American public formulate its opinions about U.S. foreign policy and military engagement abroad? War Stories argues that the media systematically distort the information the public vitally needs to determine whether to support such initiatives, for reasons having more to do with journalists' professional interests than the merits of the policies, and that this has significant consequences for national security. Matthew Baum and Tim Groeling develop a "strategic bias" theory that explains the foreign-policy communication process as a three-way interaction among the press, political elites, and the public, each of which has distinct interests, biases, and incentives.

Do media representations affect public support for the president and faithfully reflect events in times of diplomatic crisis and war? How do new media--especially Internet news and more partisan outlets--shape public opinion, and how will they alter future conflicts? In answering such questions, Baum and Groeling take an in-depth look at media coverage, elite rhetoric, and public opinion during the Iraq war and other U.S. conflicts abroad. They trace how traditional and new media select stories, how elites frame and sometimes even distort events, and how these dynamics shape public opinion over the course of a conflict.

Most of us learn virtually everything we know about foreign policy from media reporting of elite opinions. In War Stories, Baum and Groeling reveal precisely what this means for the future of American foreign policy.

baum_comp2_000.jpg war_stories_chapter_1.pdf
2006
Matthew A. Baum and Angela S. Jamison. 2006. “The Oprah Effect: How Soft News Helps Inattentive Citizens Vote Consistently .” The Journal of Politics. Publisher's Version

Do the news media provide voters with sufficient information to function as competent democratic citizens? Many have answered “no,” citing as evidence the proliferation of entertainment-oriented “soft news.” Yet, public affairsoriented “hard” news is often unappealing to politically inattentive individuals. We argue that news “quality” depends upon how well it enables citizens to determine which candidate best fits their own preferences. In this regard, for politically inattentive citizens, we argue that soft news is more efficient than traditional hard news. Drawing on the logic of low-information rationality, we derive a series of hypotheses, which we test using the 2000 National Election Study.We find that politically inattentive individuals who consumed daytime talk shows (a popular form of soft news) were more likely than their nonconsuming, inattentive counterparts to vote for the candidate who best represented their self-described preferences. This suggests soft news can facilitate voting “competence” among at least some citizens.

 

Slate.com editor-at-large Jack Shafer wrote an article about this study, You can find it here. "UCLA Today" also did a feature story on the study, which you can find here.

You can download this paper, in pdf format, here.

supplemental appendix for this paper, including expert survey questionnaire, NES variable definitions and coding, additional discussion of several concepts addressed in the paper, as well as a variety of robustness, reliability and validity tests, is available, in pdf format, here.

2005
Matthew A. Baum and Phil Gussin. 2005. “Issue Bias: How Issue Coverage and Media Bias Affect Voter Perceptions of Elections ”. Publisher's Version
It is virtually a truism in American politics that a focus on some issue areas during election campaigns, like national security or traditional values, redounds to the benefit of Republicans, while emphasis on other areas, like education or social security, benefits Democrats. Political scientists refer to this phenomenon as “issue ownership” (Petrocik 1996, Ansolabehere and Iyengar 1994). To the extent that one or the other party benefits disproportionately from media emphasis on particular issues during election campaigns, it is possible that, whether intended or not, media coverage may disproportionately benefit one or the other party. If so, this would appear to be an important potential form of bias. Baum and Gussin (2004) find that typical individuals use media outlet labels as a heuristic, to assess the validity of information presented by different outlets. Liberals tended to “find” a conservative bias in outlets they believed, ex ante, have a conservative slant, even if the content was actually from an outlet that they believed to have a liberal slant. The opposite was true for conservatives. We extend that research by investigating how issue ownership and the Hostile Media Outlet Phenomenon mediate, separately and in interaction, voter perceptions of media campaign coverage. We look at the effects of story selection on individuals’ perceptions concerning which party benefits more from media issue coverage. To do so, we conducted an experimental content analysis in which we asked subjects to code transcripts and articles, from eight major network and cable news broadcasts and newspapers, about the 2000 presidential campaign. We modified the transcripts and articles to create three distinct sets of treatment stimuli. One set correctly identified the source of the material. The second incorrectly identified the source and, in the third, all identifying elements were removed. We investigate whether individuals with differing political preferences are more or less likely to view certain issues as favorable to one or the other party, as well as the extent to which their propensity to do so is mediated by media outlets’ “brand names,” independent of the true sources of news coverage. We find that, except when they have strong prior beliefs about the ideological orientation of a media outlet, our subjects rely far more on issue ownership as a heuristic than on the hostile media heuristic. However, when they do have strong prior beliefs regarding outlet ideology, the opposite pattern prevails, with subjects relying on the hostile media heuristic to evaluate news content.
2003
Matthew A. Baum and David A. Lake. 2003. “The Political Economy of Growth: Democracy and Human Capital.” American Journal of Political Science. Publisher's Version

Democracy is more than just another brake or booster for the economy. We argue that there are important indirect effects of democracy on growth through public health and education. Where economists use life expectancy and education as proxies for human capital, we expect democracy will be an important determinant of the level of public services manifested in these indicators. In addition to whatever direct effect democracy may have on growth, we predict an important indirect effect through public policies that condition the level of human capital in different societies. We conduct statistical investigations into the direct and indirect effects of democracy on growth using a data set consisting of a 30-year panel of 128 countries. We find that democracy has no statistically significant direct effect on growth. Rather, we discover that the effect of democracy is largely indirect through increased life expectancy in poor countries and increased secondary education in non-poor countries.

You can download this article from JSTOR here.

A replication dataset for this article is available for download as a zipped Excel file here.

Matthew A. Baum. 2003. “Soft News and Political Knowledge: Evidence of Absence or Absence of Evidence?” Political Communication . Publisher's Version

In “Any Good News in Soft News?” Markus Prior investigates whether or not, beyond enhancing their attentiveness to select political issues, consumers also learn about politics from soft news. He presents evidence suggesting that the audience for soft news is much smaller than that for hard news, and that a self-expressed preference for soft news outlets is associated with at most sporadic gains in factual political knowledge. He concludes that the public appears to learn about politics from the soft news media at most only sporadically. In this commentary, I argue, contrary to Prior, that the audience for soft news outlets is, in fact, quite large, perhaps rivaling that for hard news. I further argue that long-term retention of factual political knowledge – the focus of Prior’s web-based survey -- is a highly restrictive definition of learning. By broadening our definition, taking into account recent insights from cognitive and social psychology concerning human information processing, it becomes possible to understand how consuming soft news might indeed be associated with learning about politics, but not necessarily with an enhanced long-term store of factual political knowledge. I present evidence that consuming soft news influences the attitudes of politically inattentive individuals and that, in at least some fairly predictable contexts, consuming soft news is also associated with enhanced factual political knowledge. I conclude that while Prior’s finding of an absence of evidence of consistent factual political knowledge effects represents a valuable contribution to our understanding of the political significance of the soft news media, it does not constitute compelling evidence of absence of any meaningful learning about politics associated with consuming soft news. Hence, as Prior acknowledges in his conclusion, it is premature to conclude that there is no good news in soft news.

You can download a pdf of this article here.

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