“When Do Politicians Grandstand? Measuring Message Politics in Committee Hearings” 2019. Accepted at the 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.
“The Grievance Asymmetry in Economic Voting Revisited” 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.
Working Papers “The Power of Leadership as a New Determinant of Information Acquisition from Committee Hearings” Invited to Revise and Resubmit at The Journal of Legislative Studies While existent rational choice models on legislative decision-making process suggest that committees hold costly hearings only to gather and provide policy-relevant information to the floor, empirical literature has acknowledged other political benefits that committee members can obtain from holding hearings. A recent study by Park (2017) bridges this gap by theoretically incorporating the possibility of the latter and studies when information gathering is facilitated. This paper proposes the committee chair’s relative power in selecting witnesses as a new determinant. Findings suggest that under some conditions, a principal can informationally benefit more from having a chair representing a minority power in the full chamber with opposite bias call a hearing than with a chair of a majority party.
“Testing Conditional Effects of a Moderator in Deliberation: A Lab Experiment” 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
“Electoral Rewards for Political Grandstanding in Congressional Committee Hearings” Sometimes congressional members use committee hearings as a venue for sending political messages by framing an issue or branding a party to the public which I refer to as “grandstanding.” However, we lack clear understanding of their motivation for strategically engaging in grandstanding and who the target audience is. This paper examines whether House members’ grandstanding efforts are electorally rewarded through the increased vote shares as well as soliciting more political donations using a novel dataset of House committee hearing transcripts from the 105th to 114th Congresses. I find that committee members making more grandstanding statements in hearings are likely to garner more votes in the following election while such efforts are note rewarded by political donors – both PACs and individual donors and each of them separately – who rather tend to reward legislators for being effective 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. However, they still have to make such decisions strategically because using their speaking time for grandstanding may cost them opportunities to attract political donation. 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 and specialized interest policy-wise.
“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 1970s 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 discontiuity design on the data collected from the 103th and 104th Congress.
“A Model of Abstention with Known Asymmetric Information Quality and Public Messages” with Rebecca Morton We study voters’ decisions to publicly communicate their private signals before voting when there is a known asymmetry in the quality of signals they receive. We present a game theoretic model and conduct laboratory experiments to test our theoretical predictions. The study suggests that as the asymmetry between the high quality and low quality signals increases sometimes there is a situation where only the voter with the high quality signal sends a message to persuade others while those with low quality signals prefer to just listen. Also, such an effort by the high quality signal holder to inform others tends to have an effect on their vote choices. The effect is strongest especially when both types of signals are not too precise because otherwise those with low types will follow their own signal ignoring the message of the high type if they are different. This study suggests that possessing relatively high quality information may provide the person with a political power to affect final policy outcomes, and this power can be amplified through communication before voting. The real world applications can be found in legislative committees where committee chairs tend to be better informed than other members.
“Measuring Concepts in Text: Using Supervised Learning to Estimate Continuous Latent Traits in Individual Texts” with Jacob Montgomery In this project, we explain how to better measure a latent trait in a text corpus using crowd-sourced supervised learning by presenting necessary validation steps to be taken which are however often ignored by researchers. We further show that our measurement strategy outperforms any other existing supervised and unsupervised learning models widely used in political science.
“Informational Inequality and Biased Representation: Evidence from Committee Hearings” with Hye Young You “Party-branding While Legislating” with Myunghoon Kang