“When Do Politicians Grandstand? Measuring Message Politics in Committee Hearings” 2021. Journal of Politics. While congressional committee members sometimes hold hearings to collect and transmit specialized information to the floor, they also use hearings as venues to send political messages by framing an issue or a party to the public which I refer to as “grandstanding.” However, we lack clear understanding of when they strategically engage in grandstanding. I argue that when committee members have limited legislative power they resort to making grandstanding speeches in hearings to please their target audience. Using 12,820 House committee hearing transcripts from the 105th to 114th Congresses and employing a crowd-sourced supervised learning method, I measure a “grandstanding score” for each statement that committee members make. Findings suggest that grandstanding efforts are made more commonly among minority members under a unified government, and non-chair members of powerful committees, and in committees with jurisdiction over policies that the president wields primary power, such as foreign affairs and national security.
“Committee Chair’s Majority Partisan Status and Its Effect on Information Transmission via Hearings” 2019. The Journal of Legislative Studies While US Congress assigns only the members of a majority party to committee chairs, some state legislatures and other legislative bodies using a proportional representation system also consider members of a minority party for the position to promote a bipartisan policy making practice. Although previous literature investigates the effects of bipartisan rules and practices exploiting such institutional variations, the informational benefit of having a minority partisan committee chair has not been explored. By extending a recent study by Park (2017), this research note theoretically examines the effect of the committee chair’s majority partisan status on information acquisition and transmission via committee hearings. Findings suggest that under some conditions, the floor can informationally benefit more from having a chair representing a minority party in the chamber with opposite bias call a hearing than with a chair representing a majority party.
“Punishing without rewards? A comprehensive examination of the asymmetry in economic voting” 2019. Electoral Studies. In principle, committees hold hearings to gather and provide information to their principals, but some hearings are characterized as political showcases. This article investigates conditions that moderate committee members’ incentives to hold an informative hearing by presenting a game-theoretic model and a lab experiment. Specifically, it studies when committees hold hearings and which types of hearing they hold by varying policy preferences of committee members and the principal and political gains from posturing. Findings provide new insights to how preferences and power distribution affect individuals’ incentives to be informed when they make decisions as members of a committee in many contexts.
“A Lab Experiment on Committee Hearings: Preferences, Power and a Quest for Information” 2017. Legislative Studies Quarterly. It has been controversial whether incumbents are punished more for a bad economy than they are rewarded for a good economy due to mixed results from previous studies on one or handful number of countries. This paper makes an empirical contribution to this lingering question by conducting extensive tests on whether this asymmetry hypothesis is a cross-nationally generalizable phenomenon using all currently available modules of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems survey from 122 elections in 42 representative democracies between 1996 and 2016, as well as macro-economic indicators and individual-level economic perception. In general, this paper finds little support for the asymmetry hypothesis; although the evidence of such asymmetric economic voting is found in some subpopulations using certain economic indicators, these conditional effects are largely inconsistent, suggesting that it is still safe to assume a linear relationship between economic conditions and support for the incumbent.
"Electoral Rewards for Political Grandstanding in Congressional Committee Hearings" Sometimes members of Congress use committee hearings as a venue to send political messages to the public by framing an issue or branding a party which I refer to as “grandstanding.” However, we lack clear understanding of their incentives to engage in grandstanding and who the target audience is. This paper examines whether House members’ grandstanding efforts are electorally rewarded through increased vote shares or by soliciting more political donations using a novel dataset of 12,820 House committee hearing transcripts from the 105th to 114th Congresses. Findings suggest that if a committee member grandstands more in hearings than he normally does, he is likely to accrue more votes in the following election but do not solicit more political donations. In contrast, an opposite rewarding mechanism is at work for being more active in policy-making. This result suggests that grandstanding which is often considered wasteful can be a useful political tool for politicians to communicate electoral messages to their constituents and thus can change the electoral climate in favor of themselves. These findings further imply that, due to the asymmetric response from constituents and donors, the political representation may work unequally in favor of political donors because politicians can win voters’ minds only by verbally appealing to them while benefiting those affluent donors policy-wise.
"A Theory of the Supply of an Informative Signal in Competitive Elections" with Myunghoon Kang (Under R&R) We present a signaling model where two competing parties decide whether to spend their limited resources either on improving the precision of the signal on the incumbent party’s performance or on party brand building or a combination of both as their electoral campaign strategy. Our findings suggest that if one party has obviously higher quality than the other the parties’ strategies will polarize such that the one with higher quality will focus on improving the precision of the signal; however, if both parties have similar level of quality, the one with more resources will contribute to the precision of the signal but this effort will reduce as the qualities of both parties diverge.
"Testing Conditional Effects of a Moderator in Deliberation: A Lab Experiment" (Under Review) Recent findings show that deliberation outcomes can be vulnerable to manipulations by moderators. However, what makes moderators influential over deliberation outcomes and how to minimize the chance of manipulation have not been investigated yet. To address this issue, this paper presents a lab experiment which examines the conditional effect of a moderator’s perceived expertise on his potential to persuade participants of deliberation. Subjects are asked to deliberate on whether to expand the subsidized jobs program of New York State or not. The result suggests that participants are more susceptible to a moderator’s influence when they perceive him as having expertise on the policy than not. They also tend to assume that a moderator would be more knowledgeable on the issue than themselves due to his leading position in the discourse. However, such a perception does not strengthen his persuasive message while his self-claimed expertise does. This paper contributes not only to deliberative democracy but also provides a broader implication to studies on leadership effects in legislative committees.
Works in Progress "How Are Politicians Informed? Witness Testimony and Information Provision in Congress" with Pamela Ban and Hye Young You How are politicians informed and who do politicians seek information from? Congressional committee hearings have played a crucial role in how members of Congress acquire information, make decisions, and communicate with key stakeholders. To examine the information flow between Congress and witnesses from external groups, we construct a novel dataset that represents the most comprehensive data collection to date on congressional committee hearings and witnesses spanning 1960-2018. We use the content of witness testimonies from the 105th-114th Congresses in particular to scale the level of analytical information provided by witnesses, demonstrating that different types of witnesses provide different levels of analytical information. We then examine witness invitation patterns across 74,082 hearings and 755,540 witnesses who testified in Congress during the 60-year period of our data and find how committees invite different types of witnesses based on institutional conditions. Finally, we show how changes in the internal capacity of Congress, namely the elimination of the Office of Technology Assessment in 1995, drive committees to change their behavior in how much – and from whom – they seek external information. "Measuring Concepts in Text: Using Supervised Learning to Estimate Continuous Latent Traits in Individual Texts" with Jacob Montgomery This study explores how to best measure a latent trait in textual data using crowd-sourced supervised learning and the ensemble Bayesian model averaging which combines multiple learners by assigning weight to each to optimize performance. Using the original dataset on Senate confirmation hearings from the 105th to 115th Congresses, we measure the negativity of committee members’ questioning tones to showcase necessary validation steps that are important for justifying modeling choices as well as improving the model’s prediction performance but often ignored by researchers utilizing the supervised learning method. Furthermore, we compare our results to other supervised and unsupervised learning models commonly used in political science literature and show that our model outperforms the others. "The Changing Role of Committee Hearings in the Era of Polarization and Party Government" As the Congress historically experienced a shift from a committee government to a party government which empowered the party leadership while weakening the discretion that committees had, the role of the congressional committees in the legislative process has been believed to be changed. However, the literature lacks a systematic analysis of how their role has changed over time. Using congressional committee hearing transcripts in select Congresses from the early 1960s to the 114th Congresses, I examine whether the role of committees as an informational mediator in the legislative procedures has declined over time. In addition, I examine the causal effect of the congressional transformation led by Newt Gingrich, upon the Republican rule in both chambers after a long break, on the congressmen’s committee behaviors using regression discontinuity design on the data collected from the 103th and 104th Congress.
"Better Targeted Messages for Get-Out-the-Vote Campaigns" with Chris Dawes and John Kuk We study whether minority voters (e.g. female voters, racial minority and naturalized citizens) tend to respond to different GOTV messages than other main stream voters. Based on our preliminary finding that men are more likely to be motivated by civic duty while women are more interested in practicing their voting rights, we argue that voters whose voting rights have been obtained through a harder process historically or personally are more likely to be motivated to turnout when prompted with a campaign message emphasizing the importance of exercising their voting right than others and test the argument through a survey experiment in the 2019 local election in New Jersey as a pilot study and in the 2020 presidential election at a larger scale.
"Inversed Representation: Top Down Issue Framing through Twitter" This project studies whether politicians communicate the framing of an issue to the public via Twitter. I have collected tweets of 600K Twitter users from 2016 until now and the tweets of U.S. congressmen from 2008. Using the Twitter data and supervised-learning method, I measure the moral and emotional dimensions of individual tweets on each of the five most controversial issues (e.g. gun control, immigration, abortion, climate change and gay marriage). This study examines whether and how the average moral and emotional dimensions on each issue based on the Democrat and Republican politicians’ tweets, respectively, has changed over time during the period covered in the data and see if these changes are adopted by the liberal and conservative Twitter users’ discourse on each issue.