Jennifer Wolak's research while affiliated with Michigan State University and other places

Publications (55)

Article
Full-text available
On average, members of Congress are significantly older than the constituents they represent, while young people remain under-represented in elected office. Is this because people prefer older politicians and fail to see young people as viable can-didates? Drawing on survey and experimental evidence, we explore how the age of a politician affects b...
Article
In a time of deeply divided political parties, how do Americans think political decisions should be made? In surveys, most Americans say that politicians should be willing to find compromises with the other side. I propose that people endorse compromise because they see it as both a political and a social norm. Conflict is inevitable in politics an...
Article
Full-text available
Why are women less likely to engage with politics as compared to men? I explore whether women avoid politics because of their lower levels of tolerance for conflict and disagreement. Men are more likely to say they enjoy a lively political argument, while women are more conflict avoidant. These differences in people’s orientations toward conflict a...
Article
What are the origins of gubernatorial popularity? Past studies debate whether governors are substantively evaluated based on their performance in office, with some arguing that the origins of approval may be idiosyncratic to particular governors. These studies typically consider gubernatorial approval in a handful of states or patterns of approval...
Article
The 2016 presidential campaign made some feel angry, while others felt anxious, embarrassed, or enthusiastic. We explore how these emotions relate to patterns of political talk within informal conversation networks. Using items from the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we link emotional reactions to rates of conversation, interest in...
Article
Why do some people blame the political system for the problems in their lives? We explore the origins of these grievances and how people assign responsibility and blame for the challenges they face. We propose that individual differences in the personality traits of locus of control and self-esteem help explain why some blame the political system f...
Article
Full-text available
Optimists hope for the best possible outcome, while pessimists plan for the worst. We investigate how people’s predispositions to be optimistic versus pessimistic shape how they approach politics. We argue that an optimistic personality is a psychological resource that contributes to the practice of good citizenship behaviors. Using responses from...
Article
The American Dream is central to the national ethos, reflecting people's optimism that all who are willing to work hard can achieve a better life than their parents. Separate from the support for the idea of the American Dream itself is whether the public believes it is attainable. We consider the origins and dynamics of the public's belief in the...
Article
Are the origins of trust in state government different from the reasons why people trust the national government? I argue that trust in state government has distinctive origins, tied to differences in how states operate within a federal system of government. Leveraging variations in the character of the states, I consider whether trust in state gov...
Article
Political knowledge is an incredible political resource for citizens, promoting informed voter decision-making and helping citizens hold their elected officials accountable. But it is a resource that is not equitably distributed in the electorate, as blacks, Latinos, and Asian-Americans are significantly less politically informed than whites. We ex...
Article
Why do young people choose to identify with a political party? While existing accounts emphasize the importance of political socialization, we propose that young people’s self-perceptions also influence the adoption of partisan identities. Using survey data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, we show that self-esteem plays an important...
Article
When women are represented on the campaign trail and in elected office, women in the electorate have been shown to report greater engagement in politics. However, most evidence of the effects of descriptive representation on women's empowerment is drawn from surveys from the 1980s and 1990s. I update these studies to consider how women candidates a...
Article
Does the public’s approval of their state legislature reflect their satisfaction with the outputs of state government? Using survey responses from the 2014 Cooperative Congressional Election Study, we consider the roots of public approval of state legislatures. We find that people are more likely to voice approval of their state legislature when it...
Article
Full-text available
What makes people feel influential in politics? While prior studies describe political efficacy as a stable and socialized trait, I argue that feelings of effectiveness in politics follow from the actions of politicians and the design of government. When state governments afford citizens opportunities for voice and deliver desired policy outcomes,...
Article
Why do some Americans feel more patriotic than others? We argue that feelings of national pride are reinforced by cues from people's political and social environments. When Americans reside in contexts that align with their values, traits, and civic orientations, they are more likely to express pride in their country. We consider both civic and eth...
Article
Why do people call for states’ rights and the devolution of national authority? Are they driven by partisan motives, where they like devolution the most when the President is of the opposing party? Or are calls to shift the balance of federal power rooted in sincere support for decentralized political authority? Using survey data from 1987 to 2012,...
Article
Political knowledge is central to the success of representative democracy. However, public policy has been shown to follow public opinion even despite low levels of political information in the electorate. Does this mean that political knowledge is irrelevant to policy representation? We consider whether knowledgeable electorates are better able to...
Article
When members of Congress neglect the needs of their districts or vote contrary to the wishes of their constituents, their public approval suffers. Does the same hold true for representatives at the state level? Using experiments, I explore whether people dole out similar rewards and penalties to state legislators and members of Congress for their s...
Article
Does the presence of descriptive representation have symbolic consequences for women’s engagement in politics? Given mixed results from prior survey-based studies, I use experiments to investigate whether there is a direct psychological effect of candidate gender on voters’ interest in political engagement. By holding the features of the campaign a...
Article
When people say that they trust local authorities, is it simply because they have generalized trust in national government? Or is trust in local government rooted in distinctive considerations, connected to the character of local communities and the balance of power across levels of government? We explore how trust in local and national government...
Article
To what degree do people distinguish the partisan divisions of national politics from the partisan battles within their state? We explore why people hold favorable views of the political parties in their state, investigating the degree to which such evaluations are simply an artifact of national considerations, or responsive to the political perfor...
Article
Do citizens have the information they need to hold state politicians accountable? We consider what people know about state politics and whether knowledge of state government is rooted in the same factors that explain knowledge of national matters. We argue that while knowledge of national politics is rooted within individual dispositions like educa...
Article
Why do people see elections as fair or unfair? In prior accounts, evaluations of the election depend on people's candidate preferences, where supporters of the winning candidate tend to call the election fair while those on the losing side feel it was unfair. I argue that perceptions of election fairness reflect not just the election outcome, but a...
Article
How do people decide whether a political process is fair or unfair? Concerned about principles of justice, people might carefully evaluate procedural fairness based on the facts of the case. Alternately, people could be guided by their prior preferences, endorsing the procedures that produce favored policy outcomes as fair and rating those that gen...
Article
Full-text available
Why do men score better than women do on tests of political knowledge? We consider the roots of the gender gap in political knowledge in late adolescence. Using a panel survey of high school seniors, we consider the differences between young men and young women in what they know about politics and how they learn over the course of a midterm electio...
Article
Are members of Congress responsive to public preferences in their decisions to seek reelection or retire, or do members simply rely on the advantages of incumbency to secure reelection? I argue that members of Congress consider their electoral vulnerability when deciding whether or not to seek reelection, informing their reelection odds with the sa...
Article
While the dynamics of trust in the national government have been shown to be responsive to political events and governmental performance, less is known about why the publics trust in U.S. state and local government rises and falls over time. We examine the trends in confidence in subnational government using an aggregate level approach. First, we c...
Article
Full-text available
Why do people practice citizenship in a partisan rather than in a deliberative fashion? We argue that they are not intractably disposed to one type of citizenship, but instead adopt one of two different modes depending on the strategic character of current circumstances. While some situations prompt partisan solidarity, other situations encourage p...
Article
What are the roots of party identification? Credit (or blame) often falls to parents, who have been shown to play a central role in development of partisan identification in adolescence. Usually in models of parental transmission of partisanship, children are seen as unquestioning recipients of partisan messages. I consider whether this is so, inve...
Article
Congressional campaigns do not occur in isolation, but concurrently with many other races. What are the effects of overlapping campaigns for how people learn about congressional candidates? On one hand, intensely fought races on the same ballot may encourage people to extend interest to contemporaneous races. Alternatively, competing campaigns may...
Article
Many have investigated who participates in politics and why they choose to do so. Here, the authors consider where people choose to participate. Using survey data from the American Citizen Participation Study, the authors investigate why people choose to participate in state politics versus local or national venues. If the decision of where to part...
Article
Although politicians prefer to communicate directly with the public, political sound bites in the nightly news are shrinking and primetime presidential press conferences are becoming increasingly uncommon. Instead, people primarily receive the messages of politicians as interpreted by journalists. What are the consequences of this interpretation fo...
Article
When will people become ambivalent about politics? One possibility is that the roots of ambivalence lie within the individual, with differences in political knowledge and attitude strength predicting whether a person internalizes the conflicts of politics. Alternately, attitudinal ambivalence could result from structural differences in the way poli...
Article
Full-text available
Emotions enable people to navigate various political environments, differentiating familiar situations where standard operating procedures are suitable from unfamiliar terrain when more attention is needed. While previous research identifies consequences of emotion, we know less about what triggers affective response. In this article, the authors i...
Article
What explains public confidence in the leadership of government institutions at the state level? The authors explore how political processes, the nature of representation, and economic and policy performance in the states translate into citizen confidence in state institutions. Using a multilevel modeling approach, the authors consider the sources...
Article
Emotions help people navigate political environments, differentiating familiar situations where standard operating procedures are suitable from unfamiliar terrain when more attention is needed. While previous research identifies consequences of emotion, we know less about what triggers affective response. In this paper, we investigate what role per...
Article
Are some people more prone to instabilities in partisanship due to the ways they rank and organize their core values? We investigate the mechanisms of partisan volatility, considering whether instabilities reflect value conflict and ambivalence. Our expectation is that when the basic values of the American ethos come into conflict in elite discours...
Article
How consequential is residence in a presidential battleground state for how people engage in politics? I explore the effects of battleground strategies for campaign exposure, voter interest, political discussion, learning, and participation in the presidential campaign. I also consider the sources of battleground influence, including the campaign e...
Article
Variations in the effectiveness of media priming are traditionally attributed to individual differences in political sophistication and news exposure. We contribute to this literature by considering the degree to which the content of an issue prime drives its use in presidential approval. Using a macro level approach, we combine public opinion data...
Chapter
Full-text available
Emotion, after a modest hiatus during the “cognitive revolution,” has reemerged of late to become a subject of significant attention in political science.1 The other contributions in this volume give ample evidence of the added understanding we gain by including emotion into the theoretical and empirical mix. Our entry in this volume turns to a que...
Article
Despite its widespread use since the concept was introduced by David Truman (1951. The Governmental Process. New York: Alfred A. Knopf), counter-mobilization by organized interests has remained theoretically ambiguous and rarely studied empirically. We more fully develop the concept of short-term counter-mobilization, distinguish it from long-term...
Article
While scholars devote a significant amount of attention to opinion-policy linkages at the national and state levels, we know little about ideological representation in local governments. I address this oversight, examining two lines of inquiry. First, do local governments respond to public opinion? I explore whether ideological representation occur...
Article
Full-text available
Are some people more prone to instabilities in partisanship due to the ways they rank and organize their core values? We investigate the mechanisms of parti-san volatility, considering whether instabilities reflect value-driven ambivalence in party identification. Our expectation is that when the basic values of the Amer-ican ethos come into confli...
Article
Two of the most notable changes in political interest communities in recent decades have been the rise of direct lobbying by institutions and the decline of collective lobbying via associations. These trends may be related to each other, since institutions can choose to lobby through either or both approaches. The shifting balance between direct an...
Article
Abstract We explore the nationalization of state lobbying communities by examining all lobbying registrations held by organizations in the 50 states in 1997, with special attention given to the frequency of multi-state registrations. Following discussion of the meanings and sources of nationalization among state interest communities, we develop and...
Article
Existing theories of congressional retirement have developed in the con- text of the House of Representatives'and thus do not consider important differences between the Senate and the House. Our empirical analysis of Senate retirement from 1962 to 2000 demonstrates that retirement deci- sions of Senators are not affected by the same things that aff...
Article
Cross-sectional analyses of American state data testing models in which state size is a meaningful predictor face a nonobvious problem of limited observations. Quite simply, the limited number of large states, and especially the presence of the uniquely large state of California, provides few observations to anchor regression estimates. We explore...
Article
What are the roots of party identification? Credit (or blame) often falls to parents, who have been shown to play a central role in development of partisan identification in adolescence. Usually in these models of parental transmission of partisanship, children are seen as unquestioning recipients of partisan messages. I consider whether this is so...

Citations

... Another branch of research in personalities and politics investigates how some traits of personalities can affect the relationship between voters and the political system. Very recent research (Baird, Wolak 2021) based on the responses from a module of the 2016 Cooperative Congressional Election Study found that electors with low selfesteem and a weaker sense of control over their fates are more likely to blame the political system for the challenges they face in their lives. In our questionnaire, we asked almost 7000 interviewees how they consider their life (dull/ gratifying and hard/easy) looking for a possible relationship with their political choices. ...
... First, as we use cross-sectional data, strictly speaking, we cannot make causal claims. It has to be noted, however, that the genetic anchoring of personality and its high stability over the life course, both proven by previous research, support the causal link of the relationship that we have assumed (McCrae & Costa, 2008;Mondak, 2010;Stapleton et al., 2021). Furthermore, next to some crossnationally robust relationships, we also report variable personality effects on Covid-19-relevant outcomes. ...
... Evidence we do have is sometimes contradictory and rarely drawn from comparative studies (see Henderson et al. 2014 for an exception). What we know so far about attitudes to decentralisation is that they are not always rational in a purely economic sense (Jedwab and Kincaid 2018;Brown 2013). Affective ties can encourage citizens to prefer decision-making at territorial scales that are, from an economies of scale point of view, inefficient. ...
... However, men and women do not react to conflict equally; men are more likely to embrace political conflict, while women tend to find political conflict distasteful (Atkeson & Rapoport, 2003). Leveraging this gendered political conflict gap, Wolak (2020) shows that men are more likely to participate in politics when the political environment is conflictual. As Wolak (2020: 14) notes, "… men's greater enthusiasm for conflict increases their participation, relative to women." ...
... Regarding inequities in pay and policies that could reduce such equities, roughly two-thirds of Americans have indicated that executives are overpaid and unskilled workers are underpaid since the late 1980s (Osberg and Smeeding, 2006;McCall, 2013; see also Burak, 2013), and support for the minimum wage is large and longstanding (Bartels, 2008;Newman and Hayes, 2019;Simonovits et al., 2019), along with support for employerprovided benefits and other high-road practices (Freeman and Rogers, 1999;Kochan et al., 2019). Even when it comes to beliefs about economic opportunity, evidence is building that the opportunity structure of society is not always perceived as the level playing field routinely touted by American dream ideology (Larsen, 2013;McCall, 2013;Cheng and Wen, 2019;Wolak and Peterson, 2020); consequently, market institutions may be seen as in need of reforms that lead to greater equality of both opportunity and outcomes (McCall et al., 2017). ...
... Citizens exhibit stronger trust when they have positive subjective evaluations of the economy (C ordova & Layton, 2016;Hutchison & Johnson, 2017;Park, 2017;Uslaner, 2014;Zmerli & Castillo, 2015). In addition, Wolak (2020) finds that individuals are more likely to trust the state government if they witness improvement in their economic situation. ...
... For example, early work theorizes that descriptive representation leads to increased communication between voters and elected officials and fosters more productive policy deliberation between same-race representatives (Mansbridge 1999). Recent research demonstrates that elected officials who share the same race as their constituents are known to enjoy more electoral support (Harris 2012), engage more regularly in substantive representation (Grose 2011;Clark 2019), and improve political efficacy and trust in the government among their constituents (Merolla et al. 2013;Fowler et al. 2014), and embolden citizens to learn about politics (Wolak and Juenke 2021) and to participate in the electoral process (Barreto 2010;Tate 2001;Grumbach and Sahn 2020;Bobo and Gilliam 1990). However, shared racial heritage alone is often not sufficient for reaping the benefits of descriptive representation among people of color. ...
... These cues might be discounted if one perceives oneself to be more credible than others. A strong "sense of self," in this case manifested through over-placement, can lead individuals to rapidly strengthen their beliefs and commitments after gaining only a cursory amount of information about a political topic (Wolak and Stapleton 2019). 5 The result is a kind of path dependency, in which new information is supported if it accords with one's priors, and is resisted if it conflicts. ...
... There is ample evidence from elections that gender shapes behavior less often that assumed -women and men candidates campaign in similar ways (Dolan, 2014;Hayes & Lawless, 2016), voters approach women from less stereotyped perspectives (Brooks, 2013;Dolan, 2014;Dolan & Hansen, 2018), relying on more traditional influences on vote choice like incumbency and partisanship when they are faced with women candidates (Dolan, 2014;Hayes, 2011;Huddy & Capelos, 2002). More directly related to the investigation here, recent research also challenges the assumption that women voters are mobilized to take part in elections by gendered considerations, namely the opportunity to seek representation by voting for women candidates (Broockman, 2014;Dolan, 2006;Wolak, 2015Wolak, , 2019. This growing body of work that finds a weaker influence for gender-salient considerations, taken in concert with the strong evidence that partisan polarization is on the rise, should point future research in the direction of refining our assumptions about the role of gender in contemporary American elections for both women and men. ...
... Studies on political campaigns have been carried out, for example, studies on political campaigns of Social Democratic Parties in Sweden in the 1994 and 1998 elections [2], Election Surveys in Australia 2016 regarding the economic impact of voters and party choice [3]. Another study that directly focuses on policy outcomes that correspond to the interests of voters [4], then the study of Political Branding of the Australian Federal Party by examining words and phrases that represent each party [5]. This article aims to examine the statement and message of the campaign attribute for Ternate legislators on the period 2019-2024. ...