How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote: The Effect of Legislator Credit Claiming on Constituent Credit Allocation

 
American Political Science Review                                                              Vol. 106, No. 4   November 2012
                                                                                                     doi:10.1017/S0003055412000457

How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote: The Effect of
Legislator Credit Claiming on Constituent Credit Allocation
JUSTIN GRIMMER, SOLOMON MESSING and
SEAN J. WESTWOOD Stanford University

      P
              articularistic spending, a large literature argues, builds support for incumbents. This literature
              equates money spent in the district with the credit constituents allocate. Yet, constituents lack the
              necessary information and motivation to allocate credit in this way. We use extensive observational
      and experimental evidence to show how legislators’ credit claiming messages—and not just money spent in
      the district—affect how constituents allocate credit. Legislators use credit claiming messages to influence
      the expenditures they receive credit for and to affect how closely they are associated with spending in
      the district. Constituents are responsive to credit claiming messages—they build more support than other
      nonpartisan messages. But contrary to expectations from other studies, constituents are more responsive
      to the total number of messages sent rather than the amount claimed. Our results have broad implications
      for political representation, the personal vote, and the study of U.S. Congressional elections.

        articularistic spending, a large literature ar-                district. And even when constituents are direct bene-

P       gues, cultivates a personal vote for incumbents
        (Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina 1987; Ferejohn
1974; Lazarus and Reiley 2010; Levitt and Snyder 1997;
                                                                       ficiaries, they may fail to identify an expenditure as a
                                                                       government program (Mettler 2011) or fail to attribute
                                                                       the spending to representatives in Washington (Stein
Mayhew 1974). To build this support, legislators are                   and Bickers 1994). On their own, therefore, it is unclear
assumed to direct projects and programs to their dis-                  how constituents allocate credit for expenditures in the
tricts. Constituents, in turn, are thought to reward their             district.
legislator for the level of federal spending in the dis-                  We offer an explanation of how this credit allo-
trict (Levitt and Snyder 1997; Strömberg 2004) or the                 cation occurs: legislators’ statements to constituents.
number of new projects (Bickers and Stein 1996; Stein                  Using extensive observational and experimental evi-
and Bickers 1994).                                                     dence we demonstrate how legislators’ credit claiming
   The extensive study of particularistic spending, how-               messages—and not just expenditures in the district—
ever, provides little evidence of how money spent in                   affect constituents’ credit allocation and the cultivation
the district leads to increased support for incumbents.                of a personal vote for incumbents. Legislators use credit
While weak correlations are often observed between                     claiming messages to influence what expenditures they
particularistic spending and votes, there are few ex-                  receive credit for and to affect how closely they are
planations of how constituents connect expenditures                    associated with spending in the district. Constituents
to their representatives. Instead, existing formal and                 allocate credit in response to credit claiming messages,
empirical models assume that constituents are able to                  but in ways contrary to expectations from previous
tabulate spending in the district and allocate appropri-               studies. Credit claiming messages are more effective
ate credit to incumbents. But this assumption is prob-                 at cultivating support than other nonpartisan messages.
lematic as constituents know too little about federal                  But constituent credit allocation depends on more than
spending (Bickers and Stein 1996; Stein and Bickers                    the amount claimed. Constituents are more responsive
1994). Unless a constituent is a direct beneficiary of                 to the number of messages received, rather than the
a project, she may fail to notice the spending in the                  amount claimed. Together, our evidence shows that
                                                                       legislators’ credit claiming directly causes constituent
                                                                       credit allocation.
Justin Grimmer is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Sci-       To characterize how legislators claim credit for ex-
ence, Stanford University, Encina Hall West, 616 Serra Street, Stan-   penditures in the district, we use a new data set of
ford, CA, 94305 (jgrimmer@stanford.edu).                               over 170,000 House press releases issued between 2005
   Solomon Messing is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Commu-
nication, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 120, Room      and 2010. We show that legislators use credit claiming
110, Stanford, CA, 94305 (messing@stanford.edu).                       messages to associate themselves with spending from
   Sean J. Westwood is a Ph.D. candidate, Department of Commu-         many different sources (Bickers and Stein 1996; Evans
nication, Stanford University, 450 Serra Mall, Building 120, Room      et al. 2007; Stein and Bickers 1994). Earmarked funds
110, Stanford, CA, 94305 (seanjw@stanford.edu).
                                                                       are regularly announced, but they comprise only one
  For helpful discussions we thank seminar participants at the Mid-
west Political Science Association, West Coast Experiments Confer-     component of a broader set of spending that legislators
ence, Lisa Blaydes, David Brady, David Broockman, Will Bullock,        use to cultivate support. Legislators from both parties
Lauren Davenport, Mo Fiorina, Jessica Gottlieb, Shanto Iyengar,        regularly claim credit for expenditures made from bu-
Karen Jusko, David Laitin, Gabriel Lenz, Emily Lynch, Ryan Moore,      reaucratic agencies in the form of grants allocated to
Clayton Nall, Zachary Peskowitz, John Barry Ryan, Paul Sniderman,
Eliana Vasquez, Jonathan Wand, John Wilkerson, Rebecca Weiss,
                                                                       Congressional districts (Evans et al. 2007). And con-
Frances Zlotnick, the anonymous reviewers, and the journal co-         trary to implicit assumptions in previous studies, we
editors.                                                               show that there is systematic variation across legislators

                                                                                                                              703
How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote                                                                  November 2012

in how often they claim credit for expenditures in the      Washington. If legislators know that constituents are
district.                                                   responsive to repeated credit claiming activities, this
   We offer two experiments to show how credit claim-       may explain the proliferation of small grant programs
ing messages affect how constituents evaluate their         across the government (Stein and Bickers 1997).1
legislators—demonstrating that the variation in rep-
etition and content of messages from legislators has
                                                            HOW CREDIT CLAIMING AFFECTS
direct effects on constituents. Our first experiment
                                                            THE PERSONAL VOTE
shows that credit claiming messages do more than raise
a legislator’s visibility (Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina      Particularistic spending is a tool incumbent legislators
1987). Credit claiming messages also create the im-         and parties use to build electoral support in various
pression that the legislator is able to deliver spending    political contexts (Cox and McCubbins 1986; Dixit
and projects to the district (Mayhew 1974). The re-         and Londregan 1995; Fiorina 1977; Levitt and Snyder
sult: Claiming credit for money (allocated as earmarks      1997). This is particularly true in U.S. Congressional
and as grants) cultivates more support than other non-      elections, where a large literature identifies spending in
partisan messages from legislators. Our second exper-       the district as an effective and nonpartisan instrument
iment demonstrates that constituent credit allocation       for building support (Fiorina 1977; Levitt and Sny-
depends on more than the amount claimed. We show            der 1997; Strömberg 2004). The specific models vary
that frequently claiming credit for small amounts of        across applications, but share the common assumption
money can have a larger effect on constituent support       that constituents increase support for incumbents when
for House members than claiming credit for one, much        greater resources are allocated to a district (Lazarus
larger, project. This result is particularly surprising     and Reiley 2010; Levitt and Snyder 1997; Shepsle et al.
given the discrepancy between the awards: The large         2009) or when a larger number of projects are allocated
awards claimed in our experiments are for nearly 100        to the district (Bickers and Stein 1996; Stein and Bick-
times the total funds claimed in the frequent messages.     ers 1994). The allocations—either the money spent or
The total dollar amount claimed does matter—our re-         number of projects awarded—are assumed to have a
sults show that constituents are moderately responsive      direct effect on a constituent’s likelihood of support-
to larger expenditures in credit claiming messages. But     ing an incumbent (Levitt and Snyder 1997) or a direct
we show that frequent credit claiming messages—even         effect on particularly attentive constituents (Stein and
with a smaller amount claimed—build greater support         Bickers 1994). For this increase in support to occur,
among constituents.                                         constituents must account for the spending in the dis-
   We then demonstrate that these results are exter-        trict, associate that spending with the incumbent, and
nally valid using a robust within respondent design and     then reward the incumbent for the expenditure (Stein
observational data. We show that senators with a rela-      and Bickers 1994).
tively higher propensity to claim credit receive higher        But just how constituents account for the flow of
approval ratings than the state’s other senator—even        funds to the district is unclear. Indeed, this task is some-
though both senators represent a single district (the       times difficult for House members to perform, let alone
state) that receives the same number of new projects        constituents. Lee (2003) argues that this is difficult for
and levels of federal spending. And the effect of the       House members “[b]ecause House districts are not
credit claiming messages is largest among respondents       administrative units in the federal system, systematic
most likely to consume the credit claiming efforts—         data on the amount of money they receive in federal
constituents who report a high consumption of local         grants is difficult to obtain” (Lee 2003, 715). But even
news media.                                                 after a district receives funds, constituents struggle or
   Together, our results show how legislators’ credit       are unable to recognize they or their communities
claiming efforts affect their personal vote–a finding       are direct beneficiaries of financial support (Mettler
with implications for the study of U.S. Congressional       2011). The federal structure of U.S. government further
elections, representation, and particularistic spending.    complicates constituents’ ability to assign credit for
Our findings demonstrate the need to revisit key as-
sumptions that underlie formal and empirical models of
distributive spending and its effect on elections. There,
                                                            1 We offer a caveat on the role of credit claiming in particularis-
it has been assumed that expenditure levels in the dis-
                                                            tic spending. We are examining the effect of spending across con-
trict, or the number of new projects awarded, are equiv-    stituents in the district, but there are subsets of constituents who are
alent to the credit constituents allocate for spending      highly motivated to carefully monitor how much money legislators
(e.g., Levitt and Snyder 1997; Stein and Bickers 1994).     obtain. For example, local political leaders who rely on government
Our results show that constituent credit allocation can     grants care deeply about the size of funds allocated for new projects.
be detached from levels of spending in the district.        Business owners who benefit from spending projects prefer more
                                                            money. We are unable to measure the effect of spending on these
Constituents need only to encounter credit claiming         individuals (or the advocacy that these individuals might undertake
messages from legislators to allocate credit, even if       as a result). It is also theoretically possible that challengers could
the expenditure is small. This offers one explanation       document and criticize the small expenditures that legislators claim
for the often weak correlations observed between ex-        credit for in press releases (we are unaware of challengers who adopt
                                                            this strategy). Rather than measure these more indirect effects of
penditures in the district and support for incumbents       credit claiming, our goal is to measure the direct effect of spending on
(Lazarus and Reiley 2010). Our findings also have im-       the reelection constituency who determines the outcome of elections
plications for how the appropriations process works in      (Fenno 1978; Levitt and Snyder 1997; Stein and Bickers 1994).

704
American Political Science Review                                                                       Vol. 106, No. 4

money spent. Each district has multiple representatives      penditures and new projects to Congressional districts
(Bednar 2007; Chen 2010; Shepsle et al. 2009) and            represented by their co-partisans (Berry, Burden, and
therefore multiple legislators could receive credit for      Howell 2010). Accordingly, we expect that earmarked
an expenditure (Shepsle et al. 2009). Some constituents      funds will comprise only one component of a much
are more politically knowledgeable, but even the most        broader set of funds that are announced—legislators
attentive constituents—those best equipped to credit         will regularly claim credit for money allocated through
legislators for expenditures in the district—may strug-      grants administered by bureaucratic agencies (Evans
gle to allocate credit for expenditures made in their        et al. 2007).
district (Martin 2003; Stein and Bickers 1994).                 Legislators are able to announce a wide array of
   Constituents’ inability to account for spending in the    expenditures in the district on a regular basis, but we
district creates the need for legislators to use credit      expect that not all legislators dedicate the same effort
claiming messages to receive credit. Legislators con-        to credit claiming. This is because legislators have dif-
struct messages that are designed to “generate a belief”     ferential incentives to claim credit for money allocated
that they were responsible for money directed to the         to the district. These differential incentives matter be-
district (Mayhew 1974, 52–53). It is commonly—and            cause legislators are constrained in the amount of credit
implicitly—assumed that legislators’ use of credit claim-    claiming they can do—limited staff resources, time, and
ing to induce credit allocation can safely be ignored.       interest from local media all constrain the total volume
This is either due to an assumption that constituents        of messages that legislators can effectively broadcast
are attentive to spending in the district or that all leg-   to constituents (Cook 1988). This constraint, coupled
islators dedicate essentially the same effort to claiming    with legislators’ varying incentives, causes systematic
credit for expenditures in the district. But we argue        variation in who claims credit for money allocated
that ignoring credit claiming messages obscures how          to a district. Electoral considerations are one source
particularistic spending builds support in the district—     of the variance in legislators’ credit claiming efforts.
both because legislators are strategic and variant when      Grimmer (n.d.) shows that marginal senators are more
claiming credit and because of how constituents re-          likely to claim credit for expenditures in their states
spond to legislators’ credit claiming messages.              than senators who are aligned with their constituents
                                                             (see also Ashworth and Bueno de Mesquita 2006 and
                                                             Wichowsky n.d.). Some representatives will have ide-
                                                             ological objections to claiming credit for funds in the
How Legislators Use
                                                             district (Sellers 1997; Yiannakis 1982), while other leg-
Credit Claiming Messages
                                                             islators sit on the Appropriations committee, which
Legislators use credit claiming messages to strategi-        facilitates credit claiming opportunities (Evans 1994).
cally control what spending in the district they are         And still others occupy leadership positions that force
associated with and how closely they are associated          attention away from the district and towards broad na-
with that spending. In this section we outline two           tional policy. While a complete causal theory of credit
broad expectations about the strategic use of credit         claiming propensity is outside the scope of this paper,
claiming messages. First, legislators are able to claim      our expectation is that legislators’ electoral considera-
credit for much more than earmarked funds during             tions, ideological position, and institutional access will
the appropriations process (see also Evans et al. 2007       covary with the space allocated to credit claiming. And
and Stein and Bickers 1994). The strategic incentives        therefore there will be systematic variation in how of-
of legislators and bureaucrats and the limited knowl-        ten legislators claim credit for expenditures.
edge of constituents results in House members claim-
ing credit broadly—particularly for projects that bu-
reaucratic agencies allocate. Second, not all legislators    How Constituents Respond to
engage in the same amount of credit claiming. Because        Credit Claiming Efforts
legislators are limited in the number of press releases
they can issue and they may have differential incentives     Legislators use credit claiming messages to affect how
to engage in credit claiming, there will be systematic       closely they are associated with spending in the dis-
variation in legislators’ propensity to associate them-      trict. We expect that these differences will matter when
selves with spending in the district.                        constituents allocate credit for expenditures, but most
   When legislators use messages to “generate a be-          constituents do not deeply engage with these messages
lief” among constituents, they are able to claim credit      and lack the expertise, motivation, and resources to
broadly for expenditures—even if they exert little or        analyze the size of expenditures compared to relevant
indirect influence over the allocation of funds. Leg-        benchmarks. Instead, we suggest an online information
islators recognize that constituents often fail to dis-      processing model, wherein constituents keep a “run-
tinguish between expenditures allocated by executive         ning tally” of credit allocation that is updated unin-
agencies and allocations earmarked during the appro-         tentionally and spontaneously as they encounter credit
priations process (Evans et al. 2007). Strategic bureau-     claiming messages from their legislators (Cassino and
crats make it easier for legislators to claim credit for     Lodge 2007).
allocations made by their agency, creating opportuni-           If constituents update their impression of legislators
ties for legislators to claim credit for money allocated     using an online model, it follows that credit claim-
(Arnold 1979; Ferejohn 1974), and presidents direct ex-      ing affects constituents’ impressions of how effective

                                                                                                                   705
How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote                                                                  November 2012

a legislator is at delivering funds to the district (Lodge,   a result, the frequency of message dominates the size
Steenbergen, and Brau 1995), and we argue that these          of expenditure.
impressions comprise a component of a legislator’s per-         There are other reasons we might expect frequency
sonal vote (Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina 1987). There-         to matter more than amount—repeated exposure to
fore credit claiming efforts should affect constituents,      a legislator’s name could simply introduce and bet-
even if they fail to recall explicitly how much money         ter acquaint constituents with their representative.
legislators deliver to the district (Cacioppo and Petty       The “mere-repeated-exposure” literature (see Zajonc
1989; Lodge, Steenbergen, and Brau 1995). This differs        2001) suggests that merely exposing constituents to
sharply from the assumed effect of spending on con-           messages from their representative will cause more
stituents in theoretical and empirical models of credit       positive evaluations of the legislator. This is related to
allocation—the more legislators secure for the district,      the effect of “visibility” in the personal vote literature
the more votes they receive. This assumes that con-           (Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina 1987), which argues that
stituents are accountants—carefully tabulating the total      increased name recognition and regular contact with
spent (Levitt and Snyder 1997) or the total number of         constituents causes increased electoral support.
projects (Stein and Bickers 1994).
   Rather, we expect that voters exert a minimal              LEGISLATORS USE OF CREDIT
amount of effort when encountering messages and then          CLAIMING MESSAGES
update their impressions of legislators accordingly. Yet,
                                                              Credit claiming messages matter because they affect
constituents do not need to exert a great deal of effort
                                                              how constituents allocate credit for expenditures made
to absorb a legislator’s credit-claiming message—the
                                                              in the district. This occurs, in part, because legislators
updating process is not mediated by conscious informa-        differ in what they claim credit for and how often they
tion processing, but rather occurs spontaneously, often       make such claims. In this section, we establish how
without conscious awareness, and generally without            legislators use credit claiming messages. We first show
recollection of the specific details that led to the up-      that representatives regularly claim credit for expendi-
dated evaluation (for a review of this frequently repli-      tures made through executive agency grants. Focusing
cated finding, see Lodge, Taber, and Verhulst 2011).          on earmarks alone, therefore, misses a large share of
We therefore expect that credit claiming messages will        the expenditures that legislators use to create the im-
cultivate the impression that legislators deliver funds       pression of delivering money to the district. We also
to the district. And because constituents tend to value       demonstrate the substantial and systematic variation
these expenditures (Cain, Ferejohn, and Fiorina 1987),        in how closely legislators associate themselves with
we expect that credit claiming messages will cultivate        spending in the district: Contrary to assumptions in
more support than other nonpartisan messages, such            previous work, some legislators avoid claiming credit
as advertising statements issued to raise a legislator’s      for money spent in the district, while others actively
visibility (Mayhew 1974).                                     associate themselves with spending in the district.
   Even though constituents are able to detect broad             To measure legislators’ credit claiming efforts, we
differences in credit claiming messages, we do not ex-        use a new collection of over 170,000 House press re-
pect that constituents will be highly responsive to the       leases, issued between 2005 and 2010—all press releases
amount claimed. First, detecting the total amount spent       House members issued over the six-year period.2 Press
requires substantial cognitive effort, which constituents     releases are an incredibly useful tool to measure what
have little incentive to exert (Delli Carpini and Keeter      legislators are saying to constituents—they are regu-
1997; Downs 1957). And even if constituents are able          larly used by House members and have been shown
to identify the total amount claimed in press releases,       to capture credibly legislators’ behavior in other areas
they usually lack the context to evaluate the spending        (Grimmer 2010). Press releases are also useful because
(Delli Carpini and Keeter 1997; Mettler 2011). Barring        they measure legislators’ strategies, rather than con-
substantially greater knowledge, resources, and moti-         flating legislators’ strategies with newspaper editorial
vation to analyze federal spending data, it is difficult      decisions (Kaplan, Park, and Ridout 2006).
for most constituents to assess the relative size of an          We classify the press releases into five categories. The
expenditure made in the district.                             first two categories measure legislators’ credit claim-
   Rather than money determining the credit allocated         ing behavior, following a division first suggested in
to a legislator, we expect that the number of messages        Evans et al. (2007). The first category identifies press
encountered will have a larger effect. Psychology ex-         releases claiming credit for money allocated during the
periments show that greater message frequency cre-            appropriations process, primarily about earmarks in-
ates opportunities for constituents to repeatedly up-         cluded in the bills. For example, Randy Neugebauer (R-
date their impression of their legislator (Lodge, Steen-      TX, 19th) issued a press release where he announced
bergen, and Brau 1995). But constituents’ cognitive           that “[w]eeks of hard work by Rep. Randy Neuge-
engagement is already low and tends to drop when ex-          bauer to restore funding for important rural health
posed to multiple messages (Cacioppo and Petty 1989),         initiatives and Texas Tech University paid off Wednes-
decreasing the likelihood that a constituent will retain      day as the House passed legislation to fund health
the details of each message. These findings suggest that
encountering a credit claiming message will cause con-        2 Our primary source was the U.S. Federal News Service database of
stituents to update their impression of their legislator,     press releases, which we supplemented with collections from legisla-
but the amount claimed is unlikely to be retained. As         tors’ websites.

706
American Political Science Review                                                                                                              Vol. 106, No. 4

 FIGURE 1. Representatives Claim Credit for Grants as well as Earmarks,
 but Vary in Frequency of Credit Claiming

                                                               111th Congress                               111th Congress
                                                           Democratic Representatives                  Republican Representatives
                                         0.4   Mean=17.5                Mean=12.7          Mean=13.8                  Mean=9.2
                                               SD=4.1                   SD=5.5             SD=3.5                     SD=4.5
                                         0.3

                                         0.2                l
                                                                                    l                   l
                                         0.1                                                                                      l

                                                               110th Congress                               110th Congress
                                                           Democratic Representatives                  Republican Representatives
          Proportion of Press Releases

                                               Mean=14.0                Mean=10.5          Mean=13.2                  Mean=11.4                    0.4
                                               SD=3.9                   SD=5.5             SD=3.7                     SD=6.3
                                                                                                                                                   0.3

                                                                                                                                                   0.2
                                                            l                                           l
                                                                                    l                                             l
                                                                                                                                                   0.1

                                                               109th Congress                               109th Congress
                                                           Democratic Representatives                  Republican Representatives
                                         0.4   Mean=14.2                Mean=10.0          Mean=14.9                  Mean=12.7
                                               SD=3.9                   SD=5.8             SD=3.9                     SD=6.0
                                         0.3

                                         0.2
                                                            l                                           l
                                                                                                                                  l
                                         0.1                                        l

                                                    Appropriation              Grant             Appropriation               Grant
                                                   Announcements           Announcements        Announcements            Announcements

 Notes: This figure demonstrates that legislators use both grants and earmarks to create the impression they are effective at delivering
 funds to the district, though there is substantial variability in the space allocated to credit claiming across legislators. The figure visualizes
 the distribution of the proportion of press releases claiming credit for money allocated through the appropriations process (left-hand
 distribution) and grants (right-hand distribution) for Democrats (left panel) and Republicans (right panel) across the 109th, 110th, and
 111th Congress. Where the distributions are thicker, there is a larger concentration of legislators, thinner areas imply fewer legislators,
 and the grey dot is the mean proportion of press releases for that distribution. For specific numerical values, we provide the mean and
 standard deviation (SD) for each distribution.

and education-related programs in 2006” (Neugebauer                                        coding large sets of documents. Like traditional coding
2005). The second category is credit claiming mes-                                         efforts, supervised methods begin with hand coding
sages that claim credit for funds allocated through                                        documents (Evans et al. 2007). Specifically, we hand
a bureaucratic agency, usually in the form of grants.                                      coded 500 randomly sampled press releases into the
One example press release states that “Congressman                                         five categories. The hand coded press releases are then
Dale Kildee (D-MI) announced today that Bishop In-                                         used to train the statistical model to measure the pro-
ternational Airport would receive a $2,576,029 Fed-                                        portion of press releases in each category from each
eral Aviation Administration grant to continue con-                                        House member in each Congress.3
struction of an intermodal hub and allow the airport                                          Figure 1 presents the distribution of legislators’
to accommodate larger aircraft” (Kildee 2008). The                                         credit claiming efforts. Each panel contains the dis-
remaining three categories measure noncredit claim-                                        tribution of the proportion of press releases dedicated
ing behavior, including: advertising messages, posi-
tion taking statements, and critiques of earmarked                                         3 To validate the use of the supervised learning algorithm, we
funds (primarily from the office of Jeff Flake; R-                                         use fivefold cross validation. The results of this cross valida-
AZ). Our supplemental Online Appendix (available                                           tion, contained in the supplemental Online Appendix (available at
at http://www.journals.cambridge.org/psr2012017) con-                                      http://www.journals.cambridge.org/psr2012017), show that the sta-
tains more extensive examples of each category.                                            tistical model is able to measure accurately the proportion of press
                                                                                           releases in each category. Our classification is rather straightforward
   We classify the collection of press releases using the                                  and based on factual distinctions, which explains why our tests of
supervised learning algorithm ReadMe (Hopkins and                                          intercoder reliability reveal agreement substantially higher than we
King 2010)—a method that reduces the cost of hand                                          have observed on other coding projects.

                                                                                                                                                             707
How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote                                                                                                 November 2012

 FIGURE 2.         Moderates Claim Credit for Spending at a Higher Rate than Extremists
                                                                                 −0.5 0.0     0.5   1.0
                                                                 109                    110                             111

                                                    0.5
                       Proportion Credit Claiming

                                                    0.4

                                                    0.3

                                                    0.2

                                                    0.1

                                                          −0.5 0.0   0.5   1.0                                −0.5 0.0     0.5   1.0
                                                                                  DW−Nominate Score

 Notes: This figure provides one example of systematic differences across legislators in credit claiming behavior—demonstrating how
 ideological moderates allocate more space to claiming credit than other senators. The panels present the relationship between ideology
 and credit claiming propensity in the 109th (left-hand panel), 110th (center panel), and 111th (right-hand panel) Congress. Along the
 horizontal axis of each panel legislators are plotted according to their DW-Nominate score and the vertical axis contains the proportion
 of press releases dedicated to claiming credit for expenditures. The black line is a LOESS regression, revealing the relationship between
 ideology and credit claiming (Cleveland 1979).

to claiming credit for money allocated during the ap-                                          Figure 1 not only shows that legislators claim credit
propriations process (left-hand distribution) and grants                                    for grants and earmarks, it also exhibits the substantial
(right-hand distribution), for the 109th (bottom row),                                      variation in the share of press releases legislators ded-
110th (middle row), and 111th (top row) Congress for                                        icate to credit claiming. This variation is systematic—it
Democrats (left-hand panels) and Republicans (right-                                        covaries with legislators’ characteristics and differen-
hand panels). The densities are presented as violin                                         tial incentives to engage in credit claiming in Wash-
plots: flattened kernel-density plots. Areas where the                                      ington. One example of this systematic relationship is
distribution is thicker have a larger share of representa-                                  found in Figure 2, which shows the relationship be-
tives and thinner areas have fewer representatives. The                                     tween the proportion of credit claiming press releases
grey dot is the average proportion of press releases                                        (the aggregation of the two credit claiming categories)
legislators of a particular category, in that Congress,                                     and legislators’ DW-Nominate scores for the 109th,
dedicate to claiming credit for a particular expenditure.                                   110th, and 111th Congress (Poole and Rosenthal 1997).
   Figure 1 shows that conflating earmarks with spend-                                      Moderate legislators of both parties allocate a much
ing vastly underestimates the funds legislators claim                                       larger share of their press releases to claiming credit
credit for. When legislators craft messages to create                                       for money spent in the district—nearly 10 percentage
the impression that they deliver funds to the district,                                     points more than the most liberal Democrats and most
they use both earmarked funds and money allocated                                           conservative Republicans (Grimmer n.d.).5
through the bureaucratic grant process (Evans et al.                                           Figure 3 describes the systematic relationship be-
2007). Funding allocated during the appropriations                                          tween legislators’ characteristics and their credit claim-
process—the left-hand distribution in each cell—com-                                        ing behavior across the 109th, 110th, and 111th
prises a larger share of most representatives’ press re-                                    Congress. We summarize the relationship across a
leases than credit claiming about grants allocated to                                       series of independent variables, to demonstrate how
districts. But press releases announcing grants com-                                        credit claiming behavior differs across representatives.
prise about 42% of all credit claiming press releases:                                      To show the connection with Figure 2, the bottom row
Nearly half of all credit claiming efforts focus on spend-                                  of Figure 3 shows the change in credit claiming behav-
ing made outside of the appropriations process. This                                        ior associated with moving a legislator 0.2 units towards
share is stable across Congresses and across parties—
both Democrats and Republicans regularly use press
                                                                                            Rather, we are merely establishing that credit claiming regularly
releases to associate themselves with money allocated                                       occurs for spending decisions that are not decided on the floor of the
through an executive agency.4                                                               House.
                                                                                            5 We use the proportion, rather than number, to remove differences
                                                                                            in the total number of press releases sent across legislators. That
4 We do not mean to imply that legislators are undeserving of this                          said, the same relationships hold if we use the count of the number
credit. Indeed, several classic studies document Congressional influ-                       of press releases issued rather than the proportion of press releases
ence on agencies (see, for example, Ferejohn 1974 and Arnold 1979).                         dedicated to each category.

708
American Political Science Review                                                                                          Vol. 106, No. 4

 FIGURE 3.        Summarizing the Systematic Differences in Credit Claiming Behavior
                                                                    −0.10 −0.05 0.00 0.05 0.10
                                                  109                          110                           111
                          Democrat
                      Tenure (years)
                             Leader
             Appropriations Member
                         Marginality
                           Extremity
                                       −0.10 −0.05 0.00 0.05 0.10                                −0.10 −0.05 0.00 0.05 0.10
                                        Percentage Point Change, Proportion of Press Releases Claiming Credit
 Notes: This figure summarizes systematic differences across legislators in their credit claiming frequency. To do this the figure presents
 the percentage point difference in share of press releases dedicated to credit claiming (horizontal axis) across representatives’ char-
 acteristics (vertical axis). The points in the figure are the mean of the differences across groups or the difference in means associated
 with shifts in characteristics, while the lines are 95 percent confidence intervals for the mean.

the extreme of her party (a one standard deviation shift                CONSTITUENT RESPONSE TO
in extremism). The point is the expected value of this                  CREDIT CLAIMING MESSAGES
change and the lines are 95 percent confidence inter-
vals. As expected from the top plot, this results in a re-              Legislators, then, use credit claiming messages as a tool
duction of 4.1 percentage points in the 111th Congress                  to cultivate the impression that they are effective at de-
(95 percent confidence interval [0.03, 0.05]). A similar                livering money to the district. In this section, we show
systematic relationship is observed between legislators’                why this matters. We use two experiments to isolate
marginality and credit claiming—marginal representa-                    the effects of the messages and show how the content
tives likely have the strongest incentives to cultivate a               and repetition of messages affect a legislator’s personal
personal vote, facing constituents who tend to support                  vote.
the other party (Grimmer n.d.; Wichowsky n.d.). To                         Our proposed manipulations make standard exper-
measure a legislator’s marginality, we use the share of                 imental tools difficult to apply. Survey experiments,
the two-party vote for the presidential candidate from                  because they can credibly claim to measure the effect
the legislator’s party in the most recent presidential                  of a treatment on a representative sample, have be-
election. A one-standard deviation shift towards more                   come a popular tool for measuring the effect of treat-
alignment is associated with a 2.4 percentage point re-                 ments (Sniderman and Grob 1996). But we are unable
duction in credit claiming press releases in the 111th                  to utilize survey experiments for our manipulation—
Congress (95 percent confidence interval [0.01, 0.04]).                 our experimental conditions vary the frequency of
Similarly, Congressional leaders allocate less attention                messages—a difficult (or impossible) manipulation in
to credit claiming than other legislators (5.8 fewer per-               survey experiments (Gaines, Kuklinski, and Quirk
centage points, [0.01, 0.09]); members of the Appro-                    2007). Additionally, a survey experiment would re-
priations committee allocate more attention to credit                   quire us to place our manipulation directly between
claiming (3.9 more percentage points, [0.02, 0.06]); Re-                pretreatment and posttreatment questions, making it
publicans in the 109th Congress allocate more attention                 more likely that we measure an instantaneous and
to credit claiming than Democrats (3.3 more percent-                    short-lived response to our treatment. Convenience
age points, [0.01, 0.04]); while Democrats in the 111th                 samples of college students are also unattractive for
Congress allocate more attention to credit claiming                     our experiment—they will tend to concentrate in only
press releases than Republicans (7.2 more percentage                    a few Congressional districts and are likely the least
points, [5.6, 8.9]).                                                    interested in spending in their Congressional districts
   It is worth repeating that Figures 2 and 3 are not                   at home.
intended to establish the causal effect of various legis-                  As an alternative we use Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
lator characteristics on their credit claiming behavior.                service to recruit participants and then use proprietary
We think a valuable contribution in future studies will                 software to deliver messages in ecologically valid set-
be to explain why legislators adopt different strate-                   tings. Berinsky, Huber, and Lenz (2012) show that
gies when communicating with constituents. But our                      this service provides a sample more representative
intent in presenting the results in Figures 2 and 3 is to               than most in-person convenience samples and that
show that legislators have substantial discretion over                  Mechanical Turk experimental participants replicate
the extent to which they associate with spending in                     experimental benchmarks. And our study replicates
their district. Legislators, therefore, use credit claiming             this finding: In our supplemental Online Appendix, we
messages in an attempt to affect systematically how                     show that our sample is more diverse than a typical
closely they are associated with spending in the district.              sample of college students, though not representative

                                                                                                                                        709
How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote                                                                           November 2012

of the U.S. as a whole. Further, in the supplemental                     Our experimental manipulation sent messages os-
Online Appendix we show that the correlations in                      tensibly from representatives to constituents. Using
our sample closely follow correlations in benchmark                   Mechanical Turk we recruited 462 subjects to use a
survey data: Democrats, Republicans, liberals, and                    proprietary Facebook application we created called
conservatives in our sample respond like Democrats,                   U.S. Congressional Connection. The participants were
Republicans, liberals, and conservatives in other stud-               told that the application was part of a project through
ies. Validation studies conducted in other fields pro-                our university to facilitate connections between legis-
vide further evidence of the effectiveness of Mechan-                 lators and constituents. After completing a preliminary
ical Turk (Buhrmester, Kwang, and Gosling 2011;                       survey and providing a nine-digit zip code (we assisted
Sprouse 2011). These studies show that Mechanical                     participants in obtaining this), we directed participants
Turk and traditional laboratory subjects are nearly                   to install our Facebook application.7 Upon installa-
indistinguishable—both in replicating recent experi-                  tion of the application, participants were randomly
ments (Sprouse 2011) and in reproducing the results of                assigned to one of three treatment conditions: (1) a
classic experiments (Buhrmester, Kwang, and Gosling                   control condition where no messages were sent, (2)
2011). To increase the internal validity of our study,                a credit claiming condition where subjects were sent
we used a series of questions that assess whether the                 credit claiming messages from their representative, and
subjects were engaged with our pretest and posttest                   (3) an advertising condition where subjects were sent
battery of questions. We provide summary statistics of                messages with minimal political consequence, but that
the characteristics of our experiment participants, de-               advertised the legislator’s name. Table 1 contains two
scription of recruitment and payment, and validation                  example posts, as they appear on our server and before
of our data in the supplemental Online Appendix.                      they are rendered and sent to our subjects. After identi-
   While recruiting experiment participants through                   fying the subject’s legislator, we fill in the information
Mechanical Turk may seem novel, it provides several                   in Table 1 with the legislator’s information—creating
advantages over survey or lab experiments.6 Both of                   the impression of a press release from the subject’s rep-
our experiments are ecologically valid—they replicate                 resentative. For example, at each instance of |lastName
how legislators actually disseminate credit claiming in-              in Table 1 we placed the legislator’s last name and at
formation. Because we gather geographic information                   each instance of |party we place the legislator’s party.
about respondents at a fine enough resolution to deter-               To ensure that our messages closely approximated the
mine their congressional district (zip+4), our platform               actual statements legislators would issue, we based all
alleviates the need to present our manipulations in the               our manipulations on actual press releases. We have
context of a fictitious representative. Instead, each ex-             placed all our treatments in the supplemental Online
periment manipulates messages that our participants                   Appendix.
believe to be from their actual representative—ensur-                    For five consecutive days participants received dif-
ing that our experiments are not artificially powerful                ferent messages from our application that corre-
due to the use of hypothetical legislators. (To ensure                sponded to their assigned treatment. These messages
our participants are not left with false impressions,                 displayed in the participant’s news feed—informa-
we debrief our experiment participants, clarifying that               tion automatically available upon logging into Face-
they had been participants in a study.) Our measure-                  book. Our story appeared naturally in the news feed,
ment strategy also separates exposure to a treatment                  which also contains information about the participant’s
and the measurement of its effect. All of our postex-                 “friends” and displays content they recommend. The
periment surveys are conducted on the day after the                   news feed also displays “subscribed” content—often
treatment is completed. Together, our design provides                 from media outlets and public officials. The left-hand
a powerful platform to assess the effects of credit claim-            image in Figure 4 provides an example of one post
ing messages on constituents.                                         from our manipulation as it appears in a subject’s
                                                                      news feed. The headlines and short descriptions of
                                                                      each message were chosen so that they contain the
Study 1: Credit Claiming Messages                                     desired treatment: our subjects received the treatment
and the Impression of Effectiveness                                   without any additional action. If subjects did click on
Our first experimental study demonstrates that credit                 the provided link they received the entire statement.
claiming messages have distinct effects from other                    The right-hand image in Figure 4 provides an example
nonpolitical advertising messages. Advertising affects                of an actual statement on Facebook from Anna Eshoo
the visibility component of the personal vote (Cain,                  (D-CA). The striking similarity between our manipu-
Ferejohn, and Fiorina 1987), establishing some stand-                 lation and actual content illustrates our experiment’s
ing among those who do not know the representative                    ecological validity. After five days, participants were
and increasing positive evaluations of a representative               asked to complete a poststudy survey, where we ask a
among those who do. By manipulating the presence                      battery of questions designed to assess the effects of our
of credit claiming, we can document its effect beyond                 intervention.8 Participants answered representative
mere exposure to advertising messages designed only
to increase a legislator’s visibility.                                7 Nine-digit zip codes are necessary to avoid ambiguities about rep-
                                                                      resentatives whose districts overlap in five-digit zip codes.
6 It is also very common in other fields—including Psychology, Eco-   8 The five days of messages represent a strong treatment, though a
nomics, and Linguistics.                                              treatment useful for examining differences in response to legislators’

710
American Political Science Review                                                                                              Vol. 106, No. 4

      TABLE 1.        Example Templates for Facebook Posts

                             Credit Claiming                                                       Advertising

      Headline: Local Fire Departments to Receive Over                     Headline: Rep. |lastName: Local Student Wins Art
        $68,000 for Operations and Firefighter Safety                        Contest
      Short description: A total of $68,763 in grants for                  Short description: Rep. |firstName |lastName,
        operations and safety programs were awarded to                       |party-|state, announced that 17-year-old Sara
        local fire departments from the Department of                        Fischer won first place in the annual congressional
        Homeland Security, Rep. |lastName announced.                         district art competition.
      Full text: A total of $68,763 in grants for operations               Full text: Rep. |firstName |lastName,
        and safety programs was awarded to local fire                        (|party-|state), announced that 17-year-old Sara
        departments from the Department of Homeland                          Fischer won first place in the annual congressional
        Security, Rep. |NAME announced. |firstName                           district art competition. Sara’s winning art, “Medals,”
        |lastName (|party-|state) announced the grants                       was created using colored pencils. |lastName said
        today. Specifically, the grant will be used to improve               Sara’s artwork will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol
        training, equipment, and make modifications to fire                  with other winning entries from districts nationwide.
        stations and facilities in local fire departments.                 Sara is a senior in high school, and will study art and
      “This is great news for our local community,” said                     political science at The George Washington
        Representative |lastName. “With these funds, our                     University in Washington, D.C., beginning this fall.
        local fire departments will continue to train and                  “Sara is a very talented young person,” |lastName said.
        operate with the latest in firefighter technology.”                  “The congressional art competition is vigorous, and
                                                                             Sara should be very proud of her talents and efforts.”
                                                                           Each year, |lastName hosts the competition for all local
                                                                             high school students and enlists the help of local art
                                                                             leaders to serve as judges for the special event. More
                                                                             than 20 students participated in this year’s art
                                                                             competition.

      Key
      |lastName: The representative’s last name
      |firstName: The representative’s first name
      |party: The representative’s party
      |state: The representative’s state

 FIGURE 4. Example Message from Our Facebook Application, Compared to Actual Credit Claiming
 on Facebook

 Notes: This figure compares a message from our application that is ostensibly from Anna Eshoo (D-CA) (left-hand picture) to an actual
 credit claiming message from Anna Eshoo (right-hand picture). The strong resemblance is evidence of the ecological validity of our
 treatments.

identification questions first, then questions about atti-                    Table 2 summarizes the results across the experi-
tudes towards the representative, and finally questions                     mental conditions (rows) and for four dependent vari-
about the performance of the representative. All ques-                      ables (the columns).10 In the first column we provide
tions were randomized within the three blocks.9
                                                                            10 An interesting consideration in analyzing the experiments is
messages. An important variation on our experiment would be to              whether to include representatives’ credit claiming behavior. Be-
examine how longer delays between treatments and longer delays              cause we focus on estimating an overall treatment effect with ran-
in collecting participants’ responses affect our results. Alternatively,    domized treatment assignment, we know that legislators’ prior credit
we could conduct an analogous experiment before an election and             claiming behavior is unrelated to respondents’ treatment assign-
record actual voting behavior.                                              ments, so we can identify the effect of interest without including
9 This study was conducted in the summer of 2011 on the pre-                the measures of credit claiming behavior. That said, an important
Timeline version of Facebook.                                               future study could use legislators’ prior credit claiming to estimate

                                                                                                                                            711
How Words and Money Cultivate a Personal Vote                                                                                 November 2012

                   TABLE 2.        The Effect of Credit Claiming and Advertising on Constituents

                                              Identify         Delivering        Passing District        Legislator Feeling
                   Condition                   Name             Money              Legislation             Thermometer

                   Advertising                 0.87               3.99                  3.96                   50.32
                                           [0.81, 0.93]       [3.77, 4.21]          [3.73, 4.19]           [46.22, 54.43]
                   Credit Claiming             0.90               4.49                  4.51                   56.01
                                           [0.83, 0.96]       [4.26, 4.71]          [4.27, 4.74]           [51.75, 60.27]
                   Control                     0.58               3.68                  3.72                   45.16
                                           [0.51, 0.64]       [3.46, 3.91]          [3.49, 3.96]           [40.97, 49.35]

                   This table shows that credit claiming messages are more effective at cultivating support than
                   advertising messages. Each row contains the conditions: the top row is the advertising condition,
                   the middle row is the credit claiming condition, and the bottom row is the control condition. The
                   columns contain the outcome variables. Each entry is the corresponding condition’s average for
                   the dependent variable, with a 95 percent confidence interval below this average. The first column
                   contains a manipulation check, demonstrating that our study increases name recognition, evidence
                   subjects received our treatments. The second and third columns demonstrate that claiming credit
                   increased the impression that legislators were effective at delivering money to the district and passing
                   legislation beneficial for the district. The fourth column shows that credit claiming messages cultivated
                   more support for the legislator.

a manipulation check: demonstrating that participants                       effective than participants assigned to the advertising
assigned to the advertising (top row) and credit claim-                     condition (95% confidence interval [0.16, 0.82]).11 The
ing (middle row) conditions were significantly more                         third column shows that subjects in the credit claim-
likely to select their legislator in a multiple choice                      ing position rated their legislator as more effective at
quiz than participants assigned to the control condition                    “passing legislation that helps your community” on the
(bottom line). When compared to the control group,                          same seven-point scale. Subjects assigned to the credit
participants assigned to receive advertising press re-                      claiming condition rated their representative 0.78 units
leases were 29 percentage points more likely to se-                         more effective than the control condition (95% confi-
lect the correct representative (95% confidence inter-                      dence interval [0.46, 1.11]) and 0.55 units more effective
val [0.20, 0.39]), while participants assigned to receive                   than those assigned to the advertising condition (95%
credit claiming messages were 32 percentage points                          confidence interval [0.21,0.88]).
more likely to identify the correct legislator (95% con-                       The fourth column in Table 2 shows that credit claim-
fidence interval [0.22, 0.41]). This is strong evidence                     ing messages are more effective at cultivating sup-
that constituents assigned to receive messages from                         port than advertising messages. Following a wide array
our application actually encountered those messages.                        of studies (for example, Stein and Bickers 1994), we
   Both credit claiming and advertising messages in-                        measure the effect of our experiment on constituent
crease a legislator’s name recognition. But credit claim-                   evaluations using a 100-point feeling thermometer: a
ing messages are more effective at cultivating the im-                      score of “0” is the lowest possible score and a score
pression that legislators are able to deliver funds to the                  of “100” is the highest possible rating. Subjects as-
district and pass legislation beneficial to the district.                   signed to the credit claiming condition had an increase
The second column shows that subjects in the credit                         in average feeling thermometer rating of 10.85 points
claiming condition rated their legislator as more effec-                    over the control condition (95% confidence interval
tive at delivering federal money to the district. Subjects                  [4.87, 16.83]) and an increase in average thermome-
were asked to rate how effective their representative                       ter rating of 5.69 points over the advertising condition
has been on “bringing federal money to your com-                            (95% confidence interval [−0.27, 11.65]). This is a sub-
munity” on a seven-point scale. Subjects in the credit                      stantial increase in favorability—nearly as large as the
claiming condition rated their representative 0.80 units                    increase in favorability associated with having a co-
higher than evaluations in the control condition (95%                       partisan representative. Among our control group, co-
confidence interval [0.48, 1.12]) and 0.49 units more                       partisans rated their representative 13.56 units higher.
                                                                            Credit claiming messages increased the average rating
                                                                            of representatives 10.85 units over the control group—
heterogeneous treatment effects, or treatment effects that vary over        an effect 80% the size of the co-partisan difference—
legislators’ characteristics—such as prior credit claiming behavior or
fiscal conservatism (Sellers 1997). Identifying heterogeneity in how        and 5.69 units over the advertising group—an effect
our participants responded to treatments is also of interest. While
we found little heterogeneity in how participants responded to our
treatments, previous observational studies suggest that constituents        11 Participants assigned to the advertising condition also rated their
with different ideological orientations or partisan identification re-      legislators slightly more effective at delivering money than partici-
spond to particularistic spending differently (Kriner and Reeves            pants assigned to the control condition. This small increase is con-
2012; Lazarus and Reiley 2010). With larger and more representative         sistent with studies demonstrating that merely exposing participants
samples, we suspect we will have sufficient statistical power to detect     to information about an individual can raise familiarity and cause
these differences.                                                          increases in evaluations in unrelated areas (Zajonc 2001).

712
American Political Science Review                                                                              Vol. 106, No. 4

42% of the size. The results are also robust to alterna-
tive model specifications. In the supplemental Online                 TABLE 3. Total Amount Claimed across
Appendix, we show that including respondent level                     Experiment Conditions
covariates and legislator random effects—to account                                        Small Award       Large Award
for the repeated use of some legislators—yields nearly
equivalent results.                                                   Low Frequency
   This experiment demonstrates that credit claiming                    (one message)    $15,000          $1,500,000
messages have a distinct and substantial effect on con-
stituents above and beyond increasing visibility. Credit              High Frequency
claiming messages cultivate an impression of effective-                 (five messages) Day 1: $15,000    Day 1: $1,500,000
ness and therefore cause a greater increase in con-                                     Day 2: $19,000    Day 2: $1,900,000
stituents’ evaluations.                                                                 Day 3: $85,000    Day 3: $8,500,000
                                                                                        Day 4: $21,000    Day 4: $2,100,000
                                                                                        Day 5: $36,000    Day 5: $3,600,000
Study 2: The Effect of Money and                                                        Total: $176,000   Total: $17,600,000
Repetition on Constituent Support
While many models of credit claiming assume that
constituents are responsive to the dollar amount al-                 and randomly assigned them to one of the four con-
located to the district, we argued that it is unlikely               ditions in our experiment. The participants were again
that constituents are able to account for the spending               told that the information was part of a project through
in their district. Even when presented with legislators’             our university to facilitate connections between legis-
credit claiming statements, it requires substantial effort           lators and constituents. To ensure comparability across
to account for the amount a legislator claims to have                conditions, we followed a similar timeline across con-
directed to the district. Repeatedly issuing credit claim-           ditions. The day after enrolling, subjects began receiv-
ing statements, however, allows constituents to serially             ing emails with the corresponding treatments. The day
update their impression of their legislator’s effective-             after the final email was sent subjects received an in-
ness at directing funds back to the district. We therefore           vitation to complete the postexperiment survey. This
expect that the amount claimed will matter much less                 ensures that our findings are not the result of effects
than the number of the credit claiming messages.                     decaying after subjects participated in our study.
   We test these expectations directly with an experi-                  Given the use of emails to deliver the credit claiming
mental manipulation of both the number of messages                   messages, one concern is that our messages would be
and the amount of money claimed in credit claiming                   trapped in email spam filters. The construction of the
statements. To ensure that our results are not depen-                emails minimized this possibility, but we begin with a
dent on any one context, we conduct this experiment                  manipulation check to demonstrate that our subject
using emails sent directly to our subjects rather than               participants received our messages. The first column in
messages posted on Facebook. We test the effect of                   Table 5 shows the proportion of subjects in each condi-
message frequency and award size using a 2 × 2 exper-                tion who are able to correctly identify their representa-
imental design—which we summarize in Table 3. One                    tive in a multiple choice test. The top entry in each row
manipulation varies how frequently subjects received                 is the proportion of subjects assigned to each condition
emails. Subjects assigned to the high frequency con-                 who correctly identified their representative and the 95
dition received emails for five consecutive days, while              percent confidence interval is the bottom entry in each
subjects assigned to the low frequency condition re-                 row. The first column of Table 5 shows that, across
ceived a single email. The second manipulation varies                the four conditions, there is an extremely high level
the amount claimed. Subjects assigned to the large                   of recognition. And as expected intuitively, there is a
award condition receive emails claiming credit for 100               slight increase among the high frequency conditions:
times the amount of the corresponding small award                    95.2% of the subjects assigned to the high frequency
condition with the same frequency. Table 4 provides                  condition could correctly identify their representative,
an example of this manipulation, before it is rendered               a 4.4 percentage point increase over the low frequency
and sent in an email. Again, we use information about                condition (95% confidence interval [0.01, 0.08]).
the subject’s legislator to customize the announcement                  Figure 5 shows that increasing the number of mes-
to create the appearance that it is from the legislator.             sages cultivates more support than increasing the
Depending on the condition, we substitute the dollar                 amount claimed. Consider the left-hand plot, which
amount at each instance of |awardAmount. As a re-                    shows participants’ rating of their representative’s ef-
sult, we have direct control over the amount of money                fectiveness at delivering money to the district, recorded
claimed.12                                                           on the same seven-point scale as in the previous sec-
   We again used Mechanical Turk to recruit a new                    tion. Each dot represents legislators’ average effec-
group of 1,001 participants for the second experiment                tiveness ratings for each condition and the lines are
                                                                     95 percent confidence intervals. Subjects assigned to
                                                                     the small award, high frequency condition evaluated
12 The amounts are ordered in a way that minimizes effects related   their representative as 0.41 units more effective at
to anchoring (Tversky and Kahneman 1974)—see the supplemental        delivering funds than the large award, low frequency
Online Appendix for details.                                         condition (95% confidence interval [0.18, 0.64]). This

                                                                                                                           713
You can also read
NEXT SLIDES ... Cancel