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, criticism or questions. Please click here to send me an email.

A Swing Vote from the Ethnic Backstage: The German American role in Donald Trump’s 2016 victory

Dentler, Klara, Thomas Gschwend and David Hünlich (pdf, version 09/2020)

We question the growing consensus in the literature that European Americans behave as a homogenous pan-ethnic coalition of voters. Seemingly below the radar of scholarship on voting groups in American politics, we identify a group of white voters that behaves differently from others: German Americans, the largest ethnic group, regionally concentrated in the ‘Swinging Midwest’. Using voting returns at the county level and leveraging ancestry group information from the US Census and the American Community Survey (ACS) we provide evidence for patterns that are not only related to partisanship but to characteristics which are particularly evident in the case of Donald Trump. German Americans traditionally support candidates with isolationist tendencies who challenge Washington as political outsiders. Other ethnic groups are far less attracted to these traits. Our findings indicate that European American experiences of migration and integration still echo into the political arena of today, and should be taken seriously.


Attitudes on Judicial Independence - A Discrete Choice Experiment in Nine European Countries

Engst, Benjamin  and Thomas Gschwend (pdf, version of 08/2020)

To what extent are citizens willing to sacrifice a highest court’s role as a referee in a democracy in favor of political gains for a preferred government? The insurance logic on the empowerment of highest courts and recent trends in democratic backsliding lead citizens to face a trade-off: They can accept an independent judiciary who may limit governmental action but ensures long-term democratic stability or they can trade an independent judiciary in favor political gains of a preferred government. To disentangle the trade-off we ad­ministered comparable discrete choice experiments in surveys across nine European countries. Respondents were ask to choose between randomly generated reform proposals limiting judicial independence. The findings suggest that citizens reject obvious attacks on judicial independence and, remarkably, this holds also true for government supporter who could gain from a limited judiciary. Nevertheless, the rejection of courtcurbing measures by government supporters is less sharp in societies who are more polarized then societies who are less polarized. Moreover, government supporters in societies who show low levels of trust in the highest court are less willing to account for the courts’ opinions when evaluating reform proposals compared to government supporters in societies who show high levels of trust. This study has major implications for our understanding of citizens’ reactions to democratic backsliding.


Scaling Lower Court Decisions
Arnold, Christian, Benjamin Engst, and Thomas Gschwend (pdf, version 06/2020)

Not all judges necessarily take a decision in exactly the same way. Some legal decisions are quite ‘hard’, others are rather ‘soft’. To tell them apart, scholars and practitioners have an interest in measuring and comparing legal decisions within a well-defined case-space. So far, this required a close reading of each decision and hence a considerable human effort. The only area amenable to automation were courts with judges who not only vote on verdicts, but who also make these voting records available—such as for example the U.S. Supreme Court. This paper introduces a new measurement approach that does not rely to voting data, but uses the citations in written legal decisions instead. Modelling the frequency of how often a decision is citing a legal source, we estimate the latent positions of both, decisions and sources in a joint case-space. We showcase our model in the context of forum shopping and forum selling in a particularly unlikely case, Germany’s Landgerichte (lower courts). A method for easily and automatically measuring decisions in
a joint case-space is not only a mere academic exercise, but is instrumental to anyone who studies legal decision making at large scale.


Constructive and Destructive Legislative Review: The Government-Opposition Divide in Legislative Oversight
Behrens, Lion, Dominic Nyhuis, and Thomas Gschwend (pdf, version 06/2020)

Opposition activity in legislative review constitutes a puzzle. Although scrutinizing government bills is costly and hardly ever successful for opposition parties in parliamentary systems, most amendments are proposed from opposition benches with few resources. We focus on the substance of legislative review and introduce the concepts of constructive and destructive review to address opposition and coalition party behavior in legislative oversight. From collective cabinet responsibility,
we derive that coalition partners are bound by informal rules that limit them to labor-intensive redrafting of bill portions (constructive review). Contrary, opposition parties frequently take a low-cost approach proposing to delete unfavored bill passages (destructive review). We confirm our argument analyzing a newly compiled data set of hypothetical bills from a German legislature (2006-2018) that would have resulted if all amendment proposals had been successful. These results improve our understanding of opposition strategies in legislative review and control mechanisms within coalition governments.


The Constitutional Court Database
Engst, Benjamin, Thomas Gschwend, Hönnige, Christof and Caroline Wittig (pdf, version 05/2020)

To what extent is a constitutional court an integral actor in the system of checks and balances? In order to answer this question, we present the novel Constitutional Court Database (CCDB) which links (1) 2006 Senate decisions (2) combining 3284 different proceedings referred to the German Federal Constitutional Court (GFCC) between 1972 to 2010 to (3) information from the political environment and (4) to societal developments. The relational structure of the database is well suited to connect information across the four different layers in flexible and dynamic ways. This allows to take different perspectives on the GFCC as a legal, political or societal actor and as a representative case of a highest court with constitutional review powers.In order to outline the usability of the database, we present a “how-to” paper. Designingthe relational, multi-layered database a number of theoretical, conceptual and computationalchallenges had to be overcome. Presenting those challenges and details on how to computethe database will help scholars of political science and methodologists alike. Moreover,connecting the judicial and legislative domain to address the question to what extent legislative length is a predictor of a law’s referral to a constitutional court, we present a use-case to outline the power of the database. The flexible CCDB extents on existing static databases, such as the Supreme Court database. The aim of the novel data-structure is to provide a tool useful to legal scholar, scholars of political science, journalists and the public.


Judicial Positions on Political Reform
Engst, Benjamin, David Grundmanns, and Thomas Gschwend  (pdf, version 08/2019)

What are the positions of highest courts towards political reforms? In order toanswer this question scholarship on the US Supreme Court uses judicial votes but those areoften not available in cross-country comparison. We present an approach scaling judicialdecisions based on textual features other than votes. In particular, we argue that the legaloutcome and tendencies field in briefs by scalable political actors can be used to compute avote-matrix similar to roll-call data in legislative studies. With the obtained data we areable to estimate location scores employing a standard two-parameter item-response theorymodel using R STAN. Moreover, computing priors from the known manifesto positions ofpolitical actors allows as to meaningful anchor the court’s locations in relation to the politicalpositions in one common policy-space. The procedure applies independently of specificjudicial systems but to outline the feasibility, we assess 100 senate decisions by the GermanFederal Constitutional Court. Our computed spatial measures allow for assessing thejudiciary’s willingness to align or diverge from the opinion of governing parties and theirpolitical reform. Moreover, the measure helps to validate common theoretical expectations­which are based on the assumption that courts are strategic (political) actors.


Who reaches the Bench? Evaluation of Judicial Nominees for Constitutional Courts
Engst, Benjamin G., Thomas Gschwend, and Sebastian Sternberg (PDF, version 11/2018)

How do citizens evaluate judicial nominees for highest courts? Previous research solely based on the US Supreme Court points at two dimensions: judiciousness and the nominee's political leaning. While these dimensions arenot likely to be independent from one another the identification strategies previously applied are not suitable to untangle the independent effect of each dimension. We employ a discrete-choice experiment using panel data from a random sample of German citizens to estimate the weights the public places on ech dimension. We finde that the public has a strong preference for political independent nominees. Moreover, our results clarify the conditions under which a judicial nominee's perceived lack of political independence can be compensated by a higher degree of judiciousness. Finally, we put our findings about the public's perception of judicial nominees in a comparative perspective.



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)

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.


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.