Research


Articles

[1] Homola, Jonathan, Miguel M. Pereira, and Margit Tavits. Forthcoming.
Legacies of the Third Reich: Concentration Camps and Outgroup Tolerance.
American Political Science Review. [Replication files; Supplementary information]
SAGE Best Paper Award, APSA 2018.

Abstract

We explore the long-term political consequences of the Third Reich and show that current political intolerance, xenophobia, and voting for radical right-wing parties are associated with proximity to former Nazi concentration camps in Germany. This relationship is not explained by contemporary attitudes, the location of the camps, geographic sorting, the economic impact of the camps, or their current use. We argue that cognitive dissonance led those more directly exposed to Nazi institutions to conform with the belief system of the regime. These attitudes were then transmitted across generations. The evidence provided here contributes both to our understanding of the legacies of historical institutions, and the sources of political intolerance.

[2] Pereira, Miguel M. Forthcoming. “Responsive Campaigning: Evidence from European Parties.
The Journal of Politics. [Replication files; Supplementary Information]

Abstract

How do parties respond to public opinion shifts on the campaign trail? While a vast literature looks at ideological updating across elections, the dynamics of short-term responsiveness remain largely a black box. I argue that campaign rhetoric reflects parties’ need to balance office and policy goals. Shifts in voter preferences alter the salience of these goals, leading parties to adjust their strategies. A novel dataset combining opinion polls with campaign statements by 68 European parties provides support for this argument. Parties performing well in the campaign pursue their dominant aims. However, when voters shift away from a party, leaders are impelled to accommodate their secondary goals: mainstream parties polarize to secure the support of core voters, while niche parties moderate their rhetoric to guarantee survival in parliament. The fluidity of party positioning uncovered here helps enlightening multiple questions left open by previous studies of policy responsiveness.

[3] Pereira, Miguel . 2019. “Do Parties Respond Strategically to Opinion Polls? Evidence from Campaign Statements.
Electoral Studies 59: 78-86. [Supplementary Information]

Abstract

This article investigates how parties respond to polling results on the campaign trail. I argue that parties use pre-election polls as mobilization and fine-tuning devices. Opinion surveys that exceed expectations can be exploited to mobilize the party base. Disappointing polls, in turn, are publicly downplayed and criticized. However, this information can be used to refine campaign strategies. Parties underperforming in the polls have incentives to emphasize their own policy positions and to attack other parties. These arguments are supported by evidence from 2,140 campaign statements by Portuguese party leaders over two elections, combined with polling results. The findings suggest that parties carefully adjust their campaign rhetoric in response to public opinion signals. The study contributes to research on elite behavior and political representation. Moreover, it shows how research on campaign effects can benefit from a closer attention to the supply-side of campaigns.

[4] Butler, Daniel, and Miguel M. Pereira. 2018. “How does Partisanship Influence Policy Diffusion?
Political Research Quarterly 71(4): 801-812. [Replication filesSupplementary Information]

Abstract

We explore the role of partisanship in policy diffusion. Previous studies suggest that partisanship may influence the willingness of public officials to learn from the experience of their peers. Officials’ willingness to consider policies endorsed by copartisans can arise either because party labels are used as informational cues, or simply due to copartisan imitation. In the latter case, knowing more about the policy tradeoffs should have no effects on politicians’ preferences. Based on two experiments with local public officials where both the party endorsing a policy and the type of information provided were manipulated, we find consistent partisan bias. When a policy is endorsed by copartisans, public officials are more likely to consider pursuing it, and additional information does not mitigate this bias. Exploratory analyses of the information-seeking behavior of officials suggest that the partisan bias is not due to differential exposure or attention to policy tradeoffs.

[5] Pereira, Miguel M., and Nick Waterbury. 2018. “Do Voters Discount Political Scandals Over Time?
Political Research Quarterly 72(3): 584-595. [Replication filesSupplementary Information]

Abstract

This paper explores how political scandals are discounted over time. Previous research has shown that voters respond disproportionately to recent economic conditions when evaluating incumbents. We argue that voters discount not only the performance of incumbents in office, but also information about their personal character, largely due to accessibility biases. Building on a comprehensive database of congressional scandals covering the last four decades, we show that the electoral consequences of political scandals fade fairly quickly. Only cases emerging in the election-year systematically affect the vote share of incumbents. Moral scandals are the exception, with negative effects persisting over the entire term. In line with the mechanism proposed, additional analyses suggest this pattern results from disproportional levels of media attention, making moral scandals more easily retrieved from memory. The results broaden our understanding of the nature of myopic voting, and provide an explanation for the increasing reliance on negative campaigning.

[6] Butler, Daniel, and Miguel M. Pereira. 2018. “Are Donations to Charity an Effective Incentive for Public Officials?
Journal of Experimental Political Science 5(1): 68-70. [Replication filesSupplementary Information]

Abstract

Incentivized experiments allow researchers to better understand individuals’ behavior. Researchers typically use direct payments to participants as the incentive in these experiments. In some cases, however, direct payments cannot be used. Politicians, for example, are often not allowed to receive monetary inducements for participation. In two studies with state and city officials we test whether donations to charity are an effective alternative to direct payments. The experiments show that incentives do increase cognitive effort. When answering factual questions, politicians perform better when incentivized with either direct payments or donations to charity. Most importantly, both incentives improve performance. We also test whether these incentives affect officials’ level of risk aversion and find that the incentives have no effect. Our results suggest that donations to charity can be an effective alternative to direct payments in experiments with political elites.

[7] Gibson, James L., Miguel M. Pereira, and Jeffrey Ziegler. 2017. “Updating Supreme Court Legitimacy: Testing the ‘Rule, Learn, Update’ Model of Political Communication.American Politics Research 45(6): 980-1002. [Replication files; Supplementary Information]

Abstract

One of the more important innovations in the study of how citizens assess the U.S. Supreme Court is the ideological updating model, which assumes that citizens grant legitimacy to the institution according to the perceived distance between themselves and the Court on a unidimensional ideological (liberal-conservative) continuum. Under this model, citizens are also said to update this calculation with every new salient Supreme Court decision. The model’s requirements, however, do not seem to square with the long-established view that Americans are largely innocent of ideology. Here, we conduct an audit of the model’s mechanisms using a series of empirical tests applied to a nationally representative sample. Our general conclusion is that the ideological updating model, especially when supplemented with the requirement that citizens must become aware of Court decisions, simply does not square with the realities of American politics. Students of Supreme Court legitimacy may therefore want to search for other theories of legitimacy updating.

[8] Fernandes, Jorge, Miguel M. Pereira, and Carolina Plescia. 2016, “Strategic voting in local elections: evidence from Portugal (1979–2013).
Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 26(3): 312-335.

Abstract

Do voters behave strategically in local elections? Have voters become more strategic with democratic experience? Is there a relation between education and voters’ capacity to anticipate the mechanical effects of electoral statutes and adapt their behavior accordingly? Using an original dataset covering the complete democratic period, this paper studies split-ticket voting at the local level in Portugal. Using an ecological inference approach, we contribute to a vast body of literature on strategic voting by testing whether theories developed for national contexts travel to local contexts. Our findings suggest that (1) voters defect non-viable lists to support viable lists; (2) democratic experience helped voters to learn how to maximize their utility; and (3) that education is important for voters’ ability to identify a strategic setting.

[9] Magalhães, Pedro, Luís Aguiar-Conraria, and Miguel M. Pereira. 2011. “As sondagens e os resultados eleitorais em Portugal.” [Pre-election Polls and Electoral Results in Portugal] Boletim da Sociedade Portuguesa de Estatística, Spring: 37-52.


Under Review

[1] Pereira, Miguel M. “How do Public Officials Learn About Policy? A Field Experiment on Policy Diffusion.

Abstract

This study uses a field experiment in collaboration with a non-profit organization to explore the motivations of politicians to learn from their peers. As part of an email campaign promoting a new policy among local elected officials, I randomized whether the program was endorsed by co-partisans, out-partisans, or early adopters from both parties. The study shows that representatives are systematically more interested in policies endorsed by co-partisans. I advance two potential explanations for this bias in learning: partisanship being used as a cue for ideological congruence, or affective polarization. Additional analyses reveal that bipartisan initiatives also attract less interest than co-partisan policies, and no more interest than out-partisan policies, even in competitive contexts where moderate positions are closer to the median voter. The results suggest that partisan-based learning is driven by ingroup favoritism rather than ideological goals. Implications for the study of policy diffusion and interest group access are discussed.

[2] Pereira, Miguel M., and Pablo Fernandez-Vazquez. “Does Electing Women Reduce Corruption? A Regression Discontinuity Approach.
Marian Irish Award for Best Paper on Women and Politics, SPSA 2017.

Abstract

Previous studies uncovered a negative correlation between the proportion of women in public office and corruption, inspiring anti-corruption programs across the world. It remains unclear, however, whether there is a causal link between the share of women in office and malfeasance. Leveraging the gradual implementation of gender quotas in Spain, we isolate the effects of female descriptive representation on public misconduct and adjudicate between alternative explanations. The analyses reveal that an exogenous increase in the share of women elected led to a decrease in corruption that is sustained in time. This result contradicts the claim that gender quotas reduce corruption only because new office-holders are inexperienced. Instead, it supports the view that there is a causal link between gender and malfeasance in office. This study contributes to our understanding of the effect of public officials’ characteristics on policy outcomes, and to the role of parity laws in promoting political change.

Working Papers

[1] Pereira, Miguel M. “Understanding and Reducing Biases in Elite Beliefs About the Electorate.
Richard E. Matland Award, MPSA 2019.

Abstract

To be responsive, politicians have to rely on beliefs about public will. Previous research suggests that perceptions of public opinion are often distorted. However, it remains unclear (1) why reelection-seeking elites misperceive constituent preferences, and (2) how to mitigate these distorted beliefs. I argue that elite misperceptions result from differential exposure and social projection. First, inequalities in political voice generate distorted images of the electorate by making some voter signals more accessible than others. Second, representatives systematically overestimate support for positions they endorse. I find evidence in line with these arguments in a panel of Swedish MPs covering two decades. Additionally, a novel experiment with Swiss representatives reveals how promoting a more balanced exposure to voters and avoiding social projection reduces misperceptions. The study concludes that economic and political inequalities are rooted in elites’ conception of the electorate and reveal ways to bolster the links between voters and their representatives.

[2] Pereira, Miguel M., and Patrik Öhberg. “The Expertise Curse: How Policy Expertise Can Hinder Responsiveness.

Abstract

Representative democracies rest on the idea that legislators channel the preferences of those who elected them. However, distortions in the chain of responsiveness are common. We advance that policy expertise may constrain the ability of politicians to be responsive. Officials with more knowledge and experience on a given policy area have more confidence in their own issue-specific positions. Enhanced confidence, in turn, may lead elites to dismiss opinions they disagree with. We find evidence consistent with this argument in an original experiment with Swedish representatives. Politicians with more expertise in a given area are more likely to disregard appeals from voters holding contrasting opinions. Issue experts are also less likely to recognize that opposing views may represent the majority opinion. The results suggest that representatives with more expertise in a given policy area are paradoxically less capable of voicing public preferences in that field. The study contributes to our understanding of biases in elite decision-making and provides a novel explanation for distortions in policy responsiveness.

[3] Brierley, Sarah, and Miguel M. Pereira. “Female Bureaucrats and Petty Corruption.

[4] Pereira, Miguel M., and Kaya Axelsson. “What Drives Politicians to Act on Climate? Evidence from a Collaborative Field Experiment.