8430637Eric Merkley, Fred Cutler, Paul J. Quirk, and Benjamin Nyblade. 2018. “Having their Say: Authority, Voice, and Satisfaction with Democracy.” Journal of Politics (Forthcoming).

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Abstract: As studies using macro-level evidence have shown, citizens are more satisfied with democracy when they feel that their instrumental preferences are represented in government, and this feeling is more likely in non-majoritarian institutional contexts.  Scholars have given less attention to whether such institutions also increase satisfaction by providing more inclusive political discourse. Citizens may value having their voice represented in politics, regardless of the resulting authority. This paper presents the first micro-level evidence of this mechanism by having subjects experience a simulated election campaign that manipulates both the political discourse and the outcome independently. We find that subjects were less satisfied with democracy when their party lost the election; but this effect disappeared when the campaign discourse had featured thorough discussion of an issue they felt was important. The findings suggest that institutions and party systems that provide more diverse voices may soften the blow of losing elections.

85569_spscx_39_4_72ppiRGB_150pixwEric Merkley and Dominik A. Stecula. 2018. “Party Elites or Manufactured Doubt? The Informational Context of Climate Change Polarization.” Science Communication 40(2): 258-74.

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Abstract: Americans polarized on climate change despite decreasing uncertainty in climate science. Explanations focused on organized climate skeptics and ideologically driven motivated reasoning are likely insufficient. Instead, Americans may have formed their attitudes by using party elite cues. We analyze the content of over 8,000 print, broadcast, and cable news stories. We find that coverage became increasingly partisan as climate change rose in salience, but climate skeptics received scant attention. Democratic messages were more voluminous and consistently pro–climate science, while Republican messages have been scarcer and ambiguous until recently. This suggests Republican voters took cues from Democratic elites to reject climate science.