Ideas

Brainiac

Getting to know your opponent

FILE — President Donald Trump at a campaign stop for Rick Saccone, a Republican who was running for Congress, in Pittsburgh, March 10, 2018. Saccone ended up losing the special election to the Democrat, and now Republican leaders in Washington are trying to impress upon Trump how vital his words and actions can be in the midterm elections. (Tom Brenner/The New York Times)
Tom Brenner/The New York Times

Asking Americans to estimate the demographic makeup of the two political parties revealed a big gap relative to accurate estimates. “Respondents thought that 39.3 percent of Democrats belonged to a labor union — only 10.5 percent do,” researchers wrote. “Even more egregiously, they estimated that 38.2 percent of Republicans earned over $250,000 per year when just 2.2 percent of GOP supporters do. . . [and] respondents thought that the share of Democrats who are gay, lesbian, or bisexual was roughly five times greater than it actually is (31.7 percent vs. 6.3 percent).”

Although partisans gave worse estimates for the composition of the opposing party, estimates by co-partisans were still pretty bad, and people who said they followed the news most closely had the worst estimates. These stereotypes about party composition were not eliminated by offering incentives or help in estimation, and they strongly contributed to overall partisan stereotyping and hostility.

Ahler, D. & Sood, G., “The Parties in Our Heads: Misperceptions about Party Composition and Their Consequences,” Journal of Politics (forthcoming).

This jury sponsored by. . .

A study found that companies involved in lawsuits significantly increased advertising in the location where the trial would take place — and from where jurors would be selected. This pattern was stronger in smaller, more easily influenced markets, and was only present for jury trials. For example, Samsung is the most frequently sued firm in the Eastern District of Texas federal court in Marshall, Texas. Researchers note that “each year Marshall, Texas, holds a locally famous Winter Festival (the Marshall Winter Festival). Following generous Samsung sponsorship, that festival began with the Samsung Holiday Celebration Show. . . Samsung paid for the construction of the Samsung Ice Skating Rink. . . located directly outside the front of door of the District Courthouse. . . Samsung sponsored numerous High School Scholarships” for area residents. And the evidence suggests that such advertising does indeed increase trial win rates.

Cohen, L. & Gurun, U., “Buying the Verdict,” National Bureau of Economic Research (April 2018).

Not your mother’s business

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A study compared patriarchal and matrilineal tribes in Bangladesh with respect to entrepreneurship. In the patriarchal tribes, men were more likely to report being in the process of starting a business, even controlling for age, education, and household size and resources. This was also true in a new-business investment game: Men invested more. However, the situation was completely reversed — with women being more entrepreneurial — in the matrilineal tribes.

Shahriar, A., “Gender Differences in Entrepreneurial Propensity: Evidence from Matrilineal and Patriarchal Societies,” Journal of Business Venturing (forthcoming).

Inclusive whiteness has its advantages

A nationwide sample of whites was randomly assigned to read one of three simulated news stories about projected demographic changes in the country. One story simply projected increasing racial diversity. Another story projected that (non-mixed-race) whites will lose their majority status. The third story projected a continuing white majority, counting mixed-race people who also identify as white.

Most Republicans (and many Democrats) reported being anxious or angry after reading the losing-the-majority story, but most Republicans (even somewhat more than Democrats) reported being hopeful after reading the story about an inclusive white majority. The inclusive story also made people more likely to say that Asians and Hispanics faced racism, and reduced opposition to immigration and public school funding.

Myers, D. & Levy, M., “Racial Population Projections and Reactions to Alternative News Accounts of Growing Diversity,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science (May 2018).

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State of being

Jewish Israeli college students were asked to indicate their support for various concessions in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For some students, the concessions were presented in noun form (e.g., “I am for the division of Jerusalem within a permanent status agreement”), while for other students, the concessions were presented in verb form (e.g., “I am for dividing Jerusalem within a permanent status agreement”). Students who read the noun version became more supportive of concessions and less supportive of retaliatory policies.

Idan, O. et al., “A Rose by Any Other Name? A Subtle Linguistic Cue Impacts Anger and Corresponding Policy Support in Intractable Conflict,” Psychological Science (forthcoming).

Kevin Lewis is an Ideas columnist. He can be reached at kevin.lewis.ideas@gmail.com.