Under Review

“The Cost of Electoral Confidence” (with Alejandro Flores and Charles H. Stewart III)

Abstract: What does it take to make American voters feel more confident in the electoral process? Recent work has explored questions along these lines, assessing voter trust as a function of information diets, endorsements of the electoral process by co-partisan elites, past experiences, modes of voting, and election outcomes. We investigate whether public opinion about the accuracy and security of elections in America are anchored by how much is spent on them. Applying this “price-quality” heuristic to the context of elections, we specifically test whether increased funding for elections increases voter confidence. Using a preregistered survey experiment fielded by YouGov on a sample of 2,000 American voters, we provide novel insights into what voters know about the sources of election funding, how they evaluate the competing fiscal demands of local governments, how they prioritize various tasks of election administration, and their support for proposals to increase elections funding. To our knowledge, this study represents the first instance in which such questions have been asked in an experimental context. The overall pattern of results suggest that voters are generally misinformed about how elections are funded; voters are divided on how election administrators can improve elections; and while voters generally view current levels of spending on election as excessive and are not motivated to broadly increase funding, spending on elections nevertheless factors into evaluations of election quality. Taken together, these findings shed light on what voters think about election administration and the capacity for money to shape attitudes about the electoral process.

“What Effect do Audits Have on Voter Confidence” (with Jacob Jaffee, Alejandro Flores, Samuel Baltz, and Charles H. Stewart III)

Abstract: Post-election audits are thought to bolster voters’ confidence in elections, but it is unclear which aspects of audits drive public trust in election results and why. In a set of survey experiments fielded by YouGov to a sample of 2,000 Americans, we used both factorial and conjoint designs to understand which attributes of election audits are most important for increasing voter confidence in legitimate election results. Overall, we find that what an audit finds is much less important than how the audit is conducted, so long as the audit does not uncover exceptionally large errors. Structural features of the audit, like who conducts it and how its results are announced, turn out to be more consequential to voter evaluations of election results than the actual number of discrepancies found. Although voters are quick to pick up partisan cues about audits, this has not produced a broader polarization around election audits, and voters rationally do not punish an election in which the winner was called correctly for a few mis-counted votes. Our findings suggest that election administrators can bolster voter confidence through the design of election audits, without serious fear that turning up small numbers of errors will harm voter confidence.

Working Papers

“Legislating Democracy: When State Legislators Change Access to the Ballot”

“Where We Vote: The Changing Landscape of Where Americans Cast Votes’’ (with Alejandro Flores)

“Polling Places of Interest: How Where We Vote Shapes Voting Behavior”

“The Party of Law and Order: Issue Ownership in Local Sheriff and Prosecutor Elections” (with Gabrielle Péloquin-Skulski)

“Êtes-vous bilingue? The Electoral Rewards of Speaking Both of Canada’s Official Languages” (with Gabrielle Péloquin-Skulski, Samuel Baltz, and Alejandro Flores)