Ten Examples of Abstracts


Example One

By allowing voters to choose among candidates with competing policy orientations and by providing incentives for incumbents to shape policy in the direction the public desires, elections are thought to provide the foundation that links government policy to the preferences of the governed. In this article I examine the extent to which the preference/policy link is biased toward the preferences of high-income Americans. Using an original data set of almost two thousand survey questions on proposed policy changes between 1981 and 2002, I find a moderately strong relationship between what the public wants and what the government does, albeit with a strong bias toward the status quo. But I also find that when Americans with different income levels differ in their policy preferences, actual policy outcomes strongly reflect the preferences of the most affluent but bear virtually no relationship to the preferences of poor or middle-income Americans. The vast discrepancy I find in government responsiveness to citizens with different incomes stands in stark contrast to the ideal of political equality that Americans hold dear. Although perfect political equality is an unrealistic goal, representational biases of this magnitude call into question the very democratic character of our society.

--Martin Gilens, “Inequality and Democratic Responsiveness,” Public Opinion Quarterly 2005 69(5):778-796.


Example Two

We address the role of racial antagonism in whites’ opposition to racially-targeted policies. The data come from four surveys selected for their unusually rich measurement of both policy preferences and other racial attitudes: the 1986 and 1992 National Election Studies, the 1994 General Social Survey, and the 1995 Los Angeles County Social Survey. They indicate that such opposition is more strongly rooted in racial antagonism than in non-racial conservatism, that whites tend to respond to quite different racial policies in similar fashion, that racial attitudes affect evaluations of black and ethnocentric white presidential candidates, and that their effects are just as strong among college graduates as among those with no college education. Second, we present evidence that symbolic racism is consistently more powerful than older forms of racial antagonism, and its greater strength does not diminish with controls on non-racial ideology, partisanship, and values. The origins of symbolic racism lie partly in both anti-black antagonism and non-racial conservative attitudes and values, and so mediates their effects on policy preferences, but it explains substantial additional variance by itself, suggesting that it does represent a new form of racism independent of older racial and political attitudes. The findings are each replicated several times with different measures, in different surveys conducted at different times. We also provide new evidence in response to earlier critiques of research on symbolic racism.

--David O. Sears, Colette Van Laar, Mary Carrillo, and Rick Kosterman, “Is It Really Racism? The Origins of White Americans` Opposition to Race-Targeted Policies,” Public Opinion Quarterly, 1997; 61 (1): 15-63.



Example Three

A poorly devised exit poll question undermined meaningful analysis of voters’ concerns in the 2004 presidential election. Twenty-two percent of voters picked "moral values" from a list of "issues" describing what mattered most in their vote, more than selected any other item. Various commentators have misinterpreted this single data point to conclude that moral values are an ascendant political issue and to credit conservative Christian groups with turning George W. Bush’s popular vote defeat in 2000 into his three million–vote margin of victory in 2004. We suggest, rather, that while morals and values are critical in informing political judgments, they represent personal characteristics and ill-defined policy preferences far more than any discrete political issue. First by conflating morals and values and then by further conflating characteristics and issues, the exit poll’s "issues" list distorted our understanding of the 2004 election. In this article, we examine the flaws in the 2004 National Election Pool exit poll’s "most important issue" question and explore the presumed rising electoral importance of moral values and the conservative Christians who overwhelmingly selected this item. Using national exit poll data from 1980 through 2004 and other national surveys, we find that the moral values item on the issues list cannot properly be viewed as a discrete issue or set of closely related issues; that its importance to voters has not grown over time; and that when controlled for other variables, it ranks low on the issues list in predicting 2004 vote choices. The aggregated exit poll data also show that the voting behavior of conservative Christians is relatively stable over time, and these voters were not primarily responsible for Bush’s improvement in 2004 over 2000.

--Gary Langer and Jon Cohen, “Voters and Values in the 2004 Election,” Public Opinion Quarterly 2005 69(5):744-759


Example Four

In Racism Without Racists: Color-Blind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in the United States, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva examines how whites use color-blindness as a tool to perpetuate racial inequality without themselves sounding racist. He asserts that white America's justifications for the continued second-class status of African Americans stem from a new, post-Civil Rights racial ideology that he calls color-blind racism. Bonilla-Silva argues that color-blind racism, which is founded upon the belief that race no longer matters, is currently the dominant racial ideology in the United States. This Book Review ratifies Bonilla-Silva's argument through an examination of the recent Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action in higher education, which demonstrably undervalue the persistence of racial inequality in the United States. Through the use of a color-blind ideology, the Justices mask the seriousness of racial inequality in the United States and may be hastening an end to racial progress before its time.

Keith R. Walsh, “Color-Blind Racism in Grutter and Gratz: Racism without Racists,” 24 Boston College Third World Law Journal 443 (Spring, 2004)



Example Five

This essay explores the ethics of how the press covers presidential nomination campaigns. It considers the implications of a predictive model that demonstrates how the nomination process limits voters’ choices. Nominees may be predicted with a high degree of success before voting begins. Horse-race press coverage of the pre-primary period dramatically characterizes the process as unstable and up for grabs. By doing so, the press paradoxically contributes to the stability and, therefore, is complicit in limiting voter choice. The essay argues for telling the story of the impact of policy and governance on citizens’ lives.

--Andrew R. Cline, “Primary Instability Paradox: The Ethics of Media Coverage in Presidential Nominations,” The Forum Volume 3, Issue 4 (2006) Article 5.


Example Six

This article reports the results of several field experiments designed to measure campaign effects in partisan contests. The findings suggest incumbent campaigns failed to increase incumbent vote share, whereas the challenger campaign was effective. To understand these and other results, the incumbent’s optimal spending strategy was analyzed theoretically. The analysis reveals that if incumbents maximize their probability of victory rather than vote share, campaigns by typical incumbents are expected to produce only minimal improvement in incumbent vote share. The analysis also explains how returns to campaign spending vary with the competitiveness of the election, how incumbent spending can improve the incumbent’s probability of victory yet have only minimal effect on incumbent vote share, and why rational spending plans might decrease the sponsor’s expected vote. This article demonstrates the wide scope of application for field experiments and provides an example of how experimental findings can serve as a catalyst for generating theories.

--Alan S. Gerber, “Does Campaign Spending Work? Field Experiments Provide Evidence and Suggest New Theory,” American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 47 No. 5, January 2004 541-574


Example Seven

Analyses of the persuasive effects of media exposure outside the laboratory have generally produced negative results.  I attribute such nonfindings in part to carelessness regarding the inferential consequences of measurement error and in part to limitations of research design.  In an analysis of opinion change during the 1980 presidential campaign, adjusting for measurement error produces several strong media exposure effects, especially for network television news.  Adjusting for measurement error also makes preexisting opinions look much more stable, suggesting that the new information absorbed via media exposure must be about three times as distinctive as has generally been supposed in order to account for observed patterns of opinion change. 

--Larry M. Bartels, “Messages Received: The Political Impact of Media Exposure,” APSR 87 (June 1993) 2: 267-285.


Example Eight

There is a burgeoning literature on the aetiology, performance and consequences of violence.  Research straddles a variety of disciplines including law, sociology, psychology, anthropology, criminology, military history, and theology.  The ‘violentization theory’ of Lonnie Athens is seldom encountered in the literature, although it provides an interesting way of re-framing traditional questions about violence as a process.  This article serves as a critical introduction to violentization and draws on a range of source material not usually found in criminological research to test the limits of Athen’s approach.  

--Ian O’Donnel, “A New Paradigm for Understanding Violence? Testing the Limits of Lonnie Athen’s Theory,” Brit. J. Criminol. (2003) 43, 750-771.


Example Nine

Longitudinal studies suggest that law school has a corrosive effect on the well-being, values, and motivation of students, ostensibly because of its problematic institutional culture. In a 3-year study of two different law schools, the authors applied self-determination theory’s (SDT) dynamic process model of thriving to explain such findings. Students at both schools declined in psychological need satisfaction and well-being over the 3 years. However, student reports of greater perceived autonomy support by faculty predicted less radical declines in need satisfaction, which in turn predicted better well-being in the 3rd year and also a higher grade point average, better bar exam results, and more selfdetermined motivation for the first job after graduation. Institution-level analyses showed that although students at both schools suffered, one school was perceived as more controlling than the other, predicting greater difficulties for its students. Implications for SDT and for legal education are discussed.

--Kennon M. Sheldon and Lawrence S. Krieger, “Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students: A Longitudinal Test of Self-Determination Theory,” Pers Soc Psychol Bull 2007; 33; 883


Example Ten

Most people are caring and will exert great effort to rescue individual victims whose needy plight comes to their attention. These same good people, however, often become numbly indifferent to the plight of individuals who are “one of many” in a much greater problem. Why does this occur? The answer to this question will help us answer a related question that is the topic of this paper: Why, over the past century, have good people repeatedly ignored mass murder and genocide? Every episode of mass murder is unique and raises unique obstacles to intervention. But the repetitiveness of such atrocities, ignored by powerful people and na-tions, and by the general public, calls for explanations that may reflect some fundamental deficiency in our humanity—a deficiency that, once identified, might possibly be overcome. One fundamental mechanism that may play a role in many, if not all, episodes of mass-murder neglect involves the capacity to experience affect, the positive and negative feelings that combine with reasoned analysis to guide our judgments, decisions, and actions. I shall draw from psychological research to show how the statistics of mass murder or genocide, no matter how large the numbers, fail to convey the true meaning of such atrocities. The reported numbers of deaths represent dry statistics, “human beings with the tears dried off,” that fail to spark emotion or feeling and thus fail to motivate action. Recognizing that we cannot rely only upon our moral feelings to motivate proper action against genocide, we must look to moral argument and international law. The 1948 Genocide Convention was supposed to meet this need, but it has not been effective. It is time to examine this failure in light of the psychological deficiencies described here and design legal and institutional mechanisms that will enforce proper response to genocide and other forms of mass murder.

--Paul Slovic , “If I Look at the Mass I Will Never Act”: Psychic Numbing and Genocide,” Judgment and Decision Making, 2, 79-95.