Nicholas Goedert

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Does Descriptive Representation Facilitate Women’s Distinctive Voice? (with Tali Mendelberg and Chris Karpowitz)

Abstract: Does low descriptive representation inhibit substantive representation for women in deliberative democracy? We address this question, but expand it to ask if the effects of descriptive representation depend on the deliberating group’s decision rule. We conducted an experiment on distributive decisions that randomized assignment to the group’s gender composition and decision rule, including many groups and linking individuals’ pre-deliberation attitudes to their speech and to post-deliberation outcomes. We find that low descriptive representation does produce low substantive representation, but only under majority rule. Under those conditions, women are less likely to voice women’s distinctive concerns about children, family, the poor and the needy, and more likely to voice men’s distinctive concerns, and men’s references shift similarly. Unanimous rule protects women in the numerical minority, mitigating the negative effects of low descriptive representation. Descriptive representation matters for substantive representation, but in interaction with the decision rule.

Gerrymandering or Geography?: How Democrats Won the Popular Vote but Lost the Congress in 2012

Abstract: This article attempts to untie whether the antimajoritarian outcome in the 2012 U.S congressional elections was due more to deliberate partisan gerrymandering or asymmetric geographic distribution of partisans. The note first estimates an expected seats-votes slope by fitting past election results to a probit curve, and then measures how well parties performed in 2012 compared to this expectation in each state under various redistricting institutions. I find that while both parties exceeded expectations when controlling the redistricting process, a persistent pro-Republican bias in is also present even when maps are drawn by courts or bipartisan agreement. On net, it appears that this persistent bias is a greater factor in the nationwide disparity between seats and votes than intentional gerrymandering.

Gerrymandering or Geography Supplemental Tables


Conference Papers and Papers Under Review:

Redistricting Institutions, Partisan Tides, and Congressional Competition (Dissertation Excerpt)

Abstract: The paper uses a simulation model and empirical evidence from four decades of congressional elections to generate insight into how redistricting institutions influence congressional seat competition under uncertain electoral conditions. The electoral model, which incorporates gerrymandering and partisan tides parameters, predicts that partisan gerrymanders will “backfire” when partisan tides are sufficiently strong, and predicts increased competition for all electoral conditions under nonpartisan commissions. Drawing evidence from a data set of congressional election results since 1972, I find support for these predictions. I also use these results to explain the “pseudo-paradox” that less competition in the national congressional popular vote historically predicts greater competition in individual local races.

Southern Redistricting under the VRA: A Model of Partisan Tides (Dissertation Excerpt)

Abstract: This paper evaluates the effects of the 1982 Voting Rights Act amendments, mandating the creation of majority-minority districts, on the partisan composition of congressional delegations in southern states, concluding that these amendments were advantageous to Republicans in states in the Deep South only under closely balanced national partisan tides. The argument follows in three steps. First, the paper measures changes in racial segregation across congressional districts over four decades to determine where the VRA was most constraining. Second, the model from the previous chapter is adapted to predict the partisan effects on those heavily constrained maps. And third, these predictions are tested through an empirical data set of Southern congressional elections, and short case studies from the previous decade.

The Pseudo-Paradox of Partisan Mapmaking and Congressional Competition

Abstract: This paper uses empirical evidence from four decades of congressional elections to examine how redistricting institutions influence congressional seat competition under changing partisan tides. In particular, the paper finds that partisan gerrymanders induce greater competitiveness as national tides increases, largely due to unanticipated consequences of waves adverse to the map-drawing party. These results explain the “pseudo-paradox” that less competition in the national congressional popular vote historically predicts greater competition in individual local races. In contrast, bipartisan maps are shown to induce lower competition, and nonpartisan maps higher competition, under all electoral conditions and competitiveness measures.

Political Scandal and Bias in Survey Responses

Abstract: This note provides evidence for bias in the polling of American political candidates accused of personal or financial scandal, whereby the support of the accused candidate is understated. Evidence for this phenomenon is found in analysis of a data set of district-level polls of House elections during the 2002-2012 election cycles. This bias helps explain several unanticipated outcomes in recent American legislative elections, in which scandal-tarred incumbents were unexpectedly reelected, or defeated by surprisingly narrow margins. The note also finds evidence of a smaller bias, previously observed by practitioners, whereby support is overstated for incumbents not accused of scandal.

Democratic Incumbent Resilience in the Post-1980 Senate: A Theory of Partisan Issue Competence

Abstract: This paper demonstrates how systematically asymmetric results in Senate elections can be explained by voter perceptions of party issue strengths. The paper employs Senate election results from 1984-2012, supplemented with data from the ANES Senate Study and CCES to account for the steeply divergent reelection rates of Democrats and Republicans over the past thirty years.


Working Papers (please contact me for draft):

Gerrymandering and Competing Norms of Representation (Dissertation Excerpt)

Abstract: This paper tests several prediction of a gerrymandering simulation model with respect to the effect of redistricting institutions on different measures of voter welfare. First, a Monte Carlo simulation model is advanced for measuring the normative effects of gerrymandering on voter welfare, additionally varying parameters for national tides and partisan polarization. Voter utility effects are measured on four different conceptions of voter welfare.

The model is supported with empirical evidence from Bayesian common-space ideology scores linking legislators to constituents. Empirical voter utility is estimated by generating ideology scores for respondents to the 2008 and 2010 CCES surveys on a common scale with members of the 110th and 111th Congresses, and then rescaling these estimates to match DW-NOMINATE.

The paper finds that, supporting the predictions of the model, nonpartisan commission gerrymanders perform very well with respect to policy median representation, but poorly with respect to personal/dyadic representation. In contrast to conventional wisdom, partisan maps perform well with respect to policy median representation when national tides are extreme and the gerrymander is more aggressive. The paper also finds preliminary evidence that increased polarization hurts policy median and personal representation, but that this effect is reduced under strong tides. 

The U.S. Senate in 2040: A Coming Crisis in Hispanic Representation

Abstract: This paper uses state race and ethnicity population projections, in conjunction with congressional district demographic data and election results from 1992-2012, to estimate the racial composition of the U.S. Senate in the 2040’s, the decade during which whites are expected to no longer constitute a majority of the U.S. population. Despite comprising almost 30% of the population, the paper estimates that Hispanics will likely hold only 5 to 10 Senate seats thirty years from now.

The Impact of Geographic Constituencies on Regional Parties: Evidence from Six Nations

Abstract: This paper explores how electoral institutions influence the organization of party systems around regional and local cleavages. I hypothesize that nations without geographic districts (or for which geographic district are larger or less important) will tend to have party systems that are more polarized around regional interests. The hypothesis is supported mostly anecdotal, pairwise comparisons of somewhat similar nations with different legislative electoral institutions:Slovakia and Hungary; The Netherthands and Belgium; and Ukraine and New Zealand. Party regionalism is operationalized as the standard deviation of the party’s vote share across regions, divided by its average vote share across regions.


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