Special Call for Proposals

Join us for the 2020 APSA Annual Meeting program co-chairs’ “Special Call” Panels addressing current events.

  • Black Lives, Black Deaths, and Black Protest: Political Scientists Respond (Anew to a Persistent Challenge
  • Relevance, Quality, and Expedience: Political Science Responds to COVID-19

The program chairs are pleased to accept the panels and papers below.

Black Lives, Black Deaths, and Black Protest: Political Scientists Respond (Anew) to a Persistent Challenge

Did Affirmative Action in Policing Reduce Crime?

Thu, September 10, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT)

Mattia Taylor, New York University
Anna L. Harvey, New York University

Despite what many argue to be the overpolicing of black neighborhoods, black Americans are less safe than white Americans, with persistently higher risks of crime victimization. One possible cause of persistent racial disparities in crime victimization may lie in persistent racial disparities in police force composition. Using data from the National Crime Victimization Survey between 1979 and 2004, and leveraging idiosyncratic variation in the timing of post-litigation affirmative action plans imposed on law enforcement agencies between 1970 and 1986, we show that post-litigation affirmative action not only increased black officer shares, but also substantially reduced racial disparities in crime victimization. We explore possible causal mechanisms, finding that post-litigation decreases in relative black victimization were likely due not to relative increases in reporting by black victims, but rather to relative increases in police responsiveness to black victimization.

Business Responses to Black Lives Matter: towards progressive neoliberalism 2.0?

Thu, September 10, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT)

Daniel Kinderman, University of Delaware

The recent murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have led to nationwide protests and uprisings that some have compared to the 1960s – serious pressure that is being felt by America’s business establishment. The purpose of my qualitative and exploratory paper is to characterize the American business elite’s responses to these pressures in early-mid 2020.

Nancy Fraser distinguishes between Donald Trump’s reactionary populism, the progressive neoliberalism of the Democratic establishment, (Obama, Clinton), and progressive populism (Sanders, Warren). In Fraser’s words, “The progressive neoliberal program for a just status order did not aim to abolish social hierarchy but to ‘diversify’ it, ‘empowering’ ‘talented’ women, people of color, and sexual minorities to rise to the ‘top.’ She maintains that “we should be focused on forging a new alliance of emancipation and social protection … In this project, emancipation does not mean diversifying corporate hierarchy, but rather abolishing it. And prosperity does not mean rising share value or corporate profit, but the material prerequisites of a good life for all.”

I posit that America’s corporate establishment are using BLM to reboot and re-launch progressive neo-liberalism, which may be consolidated in what at this point appears likely, a Biden presidency. At this point, no one knows whether these attempts will be successful. If they are, America’s dominant class can breathe a sigh of relief, at least for the time being, since it does not appear that this program threatens their core material interests.

Progressive members of the business elite, such as those in responsible business organizations seem to acknowledge that serious action is needed, but whether any of their ideas or proposals can help address both the problems of pervasive racism and racial injustice, as well as the glaring socio-economic disparities that pervade our country, is unclear as of yet. Given the short amount of time available before the APSA annual conference, I will read statements from different fractions of the American business class, especially business organizations ranging from the Chamber of Commerce to Business for Social Responsibility and Black Business Organizations, in order to characterize their responses and determine whether progressive neoliberalism remains the center of gravity and the default option, as I expect, or whether members of the business elite have other ideas up their sleeve.

Racism and the Challenge of Implementing Systemic Change after Black Protest

Thu, September 10, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT)

Fernando Tormos-Aponte, University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Heath Brown, City University of New York
James E Wright II, Florida State University

Police reforms since at least the Kerner Commission have repeatedly failed to address the brutal treatment of Black Americans in neighborhoods across the US. Past reforms have tended to be small fixes to big systemic problems; routinely failing to change the nature of policing or its deadly outcomes.

Today, a new wave of protests led by a very different set of movement leaders aim to create the programs and policies needed to keep communities safe from historic patterns of violence and new forms of abuse. As opposed to the changes advocated for in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and others just five years ago–which included mandatory body-worn cameras and officer bias training–protesters are pushing for systemic change, not just policy change. These calls for police defunding, dismantling, or abolition represent a new challenge for scholars with few historical precedents.

Scholars of public organizations and the study of implementation, in particular, offer several theoretical approaches to understanding how and why policies fail or succeed. Unfortunately, the entire study of implementation has often faltered over the inability to conceptualize and measure the pernicious role of racism. We argue that a starting point to evaluate the potential outcomes of recent protests and calls for systemic change is to better situate racism in the study of policy implementation. This is especially important for understanding why past incremental changes to policing–many well-resourced and nominally supported by police leadership–have not ultimately changed police officer behavior. If racism is to be taken seriously by public administration scholars, then a new conceptual understanding is called for along with better efforts to operationalize the crippling impact racism has on public organizations.

In our paper, we make an initial effort to do just this by contrasting lessons from failed police reforms of the past with the new calls for system-wide changes to policing. We focus primarily on two dimensions of institutional-centered change that is: (1) implementation through the courts and consent decrees; and (2) implementation through collective bargaining and unions. In each case, we identify aspects of the literature that can inform what is to come next, as well as limitations of existing research that must be addressed, to better understand change in policing.

After the Storm: Black Lives Matter Protests and Spatial Variation of Policing

Thu, September 10, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT), TBA

Monique Newton, Northwestern University

Recent scholarship calls attention to the police as an important locus of state power in race–class subjugated (RCS) neighborhoods in American cities (Soss and Weaver 2017). This scholarship shows how governing institutions and officials that exercise everyday social control through coercion, surveillance, discipline, and violence impact the lives of neighborhood residents. Yet little is known about how police officers exercise control in RCS neighborhoods during times of social unrest, such as the current Black Lives Matter protests taking place in cities across the United States. We do not know if police behavior towards protesters varies across neighborhoods in the same city during these demonstrations. This spatial variation in policing is key to understanding if police behavior is consistent across neighborhoods in the city, especially during times of unrest. We know very little about policing during extraordinary times. It may uncover potential biases regarding the policing of RCS neighborhoods. Overall, little attention has been paid to the relationship between policing, spatial variation, urban politics, and social unrest in American cities.

This study explores whether or not there are differences in how police manage protests across neighborhoods in the same city during this historic time of mass protests. I also examine how police behavior toward protesters shifts over time. To explore this phenomenon, I conduct an ethnographic study of Black Lives Matter protests in the city Chicago, IL beginning on May 30, 2020. This methodological approach allows me to describe empirically the relationship between police, geography, and protests in the city. I am able to see firsthand whether there are substantive variation across neighborhoods in the tactics police employ when they interact with protesters. My field observations document police behavior in various neighborhoods at a time when police officers may be reluctant to talk to researchers and when official records and media account may not be available. My ethnography details how police interact with protesters in real-time in various neighborhoods across a major city in the United States. The third-largest city in the United States, Chicago is an important case study regarding police conduct given its size and the vast history of police misconduct in the city. This includes the scandals involving former police chief Jon Burge as well as the recent cover-up of the murder of Laquan McDonald.

I find that there were neighborhood-level disparities in how police treated the protesters across the city in the early days of unrest and converged just days later. Police interactions with protesters started to look the same across the city after the first few days of the demonstrations. However, during those first four days, policing tactics varied noticeably by neighborhood.

Defunding the Police: A Functional Accountability Framework

Thu, September 10, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT), TBA

J. Andrew Sinclair, Claremont McKenna College
María Méndez Gutiérrez, University of Minnesota

In June 2020, Americans found themselves debating the meaning of a new slogan: “defund the police.” (Washington Post, June 7: “Defund the police? Here’s what that really means.” USA Today, June 8: “What does defund the police mean?” The Atlantic, June 14: “What Does Defund the Police Really Mean?”) In the wake of George Floyd’s death, with protests across the nation, those echoing such calls, and the elected officials responding to them, may not have a single meaning in mind. Potential policies range from funding readjustments to complete abolition; the Minneapolis City Council, for example, announced plans to disband its police department. Such decisions seem significant because of the ubiquity of policing; they are also hard to evaluate because they are relatively rare in this policy domain. This paper connects this domain to a larger literature on agency termination and proposes a framework – which we term the “functional accountability framework” – for evaluating such proposals.

As Herbert Kaufman wrote in 1976, the answer to “are government organizations immortal?” is “maybe yes, maybe no.” They can certainly endure for a long time, yet not all live forever. Carpenter and Lewis (2004) describe termination as “the ultimate act of political control,” and brought about through three main causes: performance failure, opposition, or resource competition. Despite their longevity, police departments face risks from all three; as Kaufman (1976) put it, “the same factors that buffer a government organization against potentially lethal forces also limit its ability to respond to changes in its environment.” Dommett and Skelcher (2014) note that much of the literature about agency termination is grounded in structural explanations related to the U.S. federal government (see also Lewis 2002), but that in other settings (in their case, the U.K., but also the differing decision-making institutions in state and local government in the U.S.) agency responses to termination threats may be key to understanding agency reform. A framework for analyzing police defunding proposals must take into account the termination risks, the institutional environment, and the organizational responses.

As in all of the termination literature, however, it is important to focus on the particular functions of government and the organization tasked with performing the function. Termination can apply both to agencies and to programs (Berry, Burden, and Howell 2010). In this domain, advocates propose “the creation of new non-police institutions empowered to supersede the police monopoly” (Gimbel and Muhammad 2019): in other words, the termination of particular functions within policing and the replacement of those functions with related programs in other or new agencies. How exactly agencies are reformed, and where those functions end up, have important consequences for democratic accountability (Bertelli and Sinclair 2016). Local governments have the ability to manipulate not only agency independence within their authority but also to contract with higher level service providers or peers (for policing interlocal contracts, see Zeemering 2018). These arrangements can increase identification with policy outcomes or obscure lines of responsibility.

Our framework builds on these principles – risks, institutions, response, functions, and accountability – to assess the prospects of reform. We motivate the framework with examples from California and New York, states with adequate similarity for comparison but important differences in institutions (particularly in Los Angeles and New York City).

Feeling Some Type of Way: Examining the Role of Emotions in Black Politics

Fri Sep 11 2020, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30 pm EDT)

Camille Danielle Burge, Villanova University
Davin Lanier Phoenix, University of California, Irvine 
Tasha S. Philpot, University of Texas, Austin
Lafleur Stephens
Julia S. Jordan-Zachery, University of North Carolina Charlotte
Ernest B. McGowen, University of Richmond
Jonathan Collins, Brown University

Ferguson. Sandra Bland. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Emmett Till. LaQuan McDonald. Rosa Parks. Tamir Rice. #SayHerName. Jena 6. Renisha McBride. Amadou Diallo. Rodney King. Hurricane Katrina. Barack Obama. #BlackLivesMatter. Stacey Abrams. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Rayshard Brooks. These names, phrases and events have activated acute and palpable emotional responses among many Black Americans, ranging from pride and hope to fear and anxiety to shame and anger. And these emotions have propelled Black collective action in a myriad of forms—increases in voter registration, surges in turnout, changes in policy opinions, demands for changes to legislation, and last but certainly not least, protests. In the midst of the current groundswell of Black-led activism against systematic racism in policing, playing out against the backdrop of a global pandemic exacting a disproportionate toll on Black lives and an impending Presidential election, there is no better time to convene a panel of experts to grapple with the distinct role of emotions in shaping Black public opinion, political decision-making, and behavior.

Extant literature in political psychology and Black politics paint a helpful yet impartial picture of how emotions inform African Americans’ navigation of their political environment. While political psychology scholars have only recently begun to explore collective emotional experiences in the form of affective polarization, scholars of Black politics have largely relied on cognitive understandings of racial identity (i.e. linked fate) and its implications for policy opinions and political participation. A burgeoning body of literature in Black politics is beginning to fill these voids. This roundtable is devoted to understanding how a variety of positive and negative emotions (pride, hope, shame, anger, anxiety, fear, and disgust) shape Black politics. This roundtable will provide a critical interjection in the field as we aim to understand the political implications of the emotions of Black people, who seem to be experiencing increasing levels of trauma on a daily basis.

Locked up But Not Locked Out: Activism in United States Prisons

Fri, September 11, 12:00 to 1:30pm  (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Kaneesha Johnson, Harvard University

In June 2020, a group of people detained in an Immigration Enforcement Customs detention center in Bakersfield, CA, released a video expressing solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives, and against a system that kills, incarcerates, and detains Black lives. The video was filmed while the incarcerated men went on a hunger strike for four days as a form of protest. In April 2020, men in the Cook County jail painted signs on a window calling for help during a COVID-19 outbreak inside the jail. These incidents are not isolated. Uprisings, hunger strikes, and communication with the non-incarcerated population have commonly been used as tools to express outrage at the system and to push for change. Indeed, the prison has been a central focus for many Black activists and wider movements (Berger 2014). While political scientists have spent much of their time looking at the ways incarceration affects political mobilization and feelings of citizenship (White 2019, Lerman and Weaver 2014), few have looked at the way incarcerated people engage in politics while inside. This project looks to show how the incarcerated population, with a focus on young adults, engage in protest and social movements from inside prisons. I will be using examples from social media as well as materials shared from inside prisons to show that those who are incarcerated are deeply invested in and actively working alongside the national Movement for Black Lives.

Perceptions of Police and Safety Among Young Adults

Fri, September 11, 12:00 to 1:30pm (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Jordie Davies, University of Chicago

Since the police murder of George Floyd in May 2020, Black activists across the nation have boldly called for the defunding of police, the abolition of prisons, and a reimagining of what public safety looks like. Building upon abolitionist frameworks, organizers are calling for state and local divestment from police and prisons and greater investment in their communities. Young adults– particularly young Black people– have been at the forefront of these calls, especially those participating in the Black Lives Matter Movement (Lopez Bunyasi and Smith 2019; Ransby 2018). Using data from the July 2019 GenForward Survey, this paper explores how young adults are thinking about public safety. In particular, I ask how differences across race and ethnic background influence perceptions of whether police make communities safer. Given the racialized history of policing, Black young adults and young adults of color will experience these systems much differently than white young adults. I also consider ways young people are re-envisioning justice and safety through interviews with organizers and activists in Chicago who have long been working for better solutions than police violence and punishment. This study will demonstrate that for young adults, policing is racialized and tied up with perceptions of politics– who belongs, who gets what, and who police protect and serve. 

Contesting the Carceral State from the Bottom Up

Fri, September 11, 12:00 to 1:30pm (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

David Jonathan Knight, University of Chicago

Many refer to the prison boom, or racialized mass incarceration, as a war on Black people and Black communities. Yet for all of the political, legal, and social discourse and research on the subject, little work has been done by political scientists to understand the carceral state as a site of political struggle and political socialization among young Black people who come of age inside that system. This paper takes important steps to examine the carceral state not from the top-down, but from the bottom-up, as a context of political awakening and political life for millions in the Black community. Specifically, I ask: In the era of mass imprisonment, what role does the carceral continuum play as a context for political socialization among Black youth? How does it shape these young people’s perceptions of themselves as citizens and agents in American society? To answer these questions, I draw on long-term ethnography and sociohistorical evidence. The findings from this ethnographic and sociohistorical research connect the present political and racial dynamics inside America’s punishment system to past historical periods, while putting into sharper focus important continuities of political struggle, political learning, and Black politics that take shape in the deep end of that system.

 

Do Whites Admit to Discrimination of Blacks but not White Privilege?

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Mona Kleinberg, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

In political science we use a four-item racial resentment scale to measure racism. The current measure of individual negative attitudes towards blacks was developed in response to the widely recognized decline in openly hostile “traditional” racism. It is sometimes called “symbolic” or “modern” racism and captures a more veiled form of individual-level resentment toward black Americans than the explicit racism of the Jim Crow era. Since the development of this scale by Kinder and Sears in the 70’s, the scale has been used extensively in public opinion scholarship.For the past 10 years or so, however, it has become widely recognized that today’s racism is not so much a problem of individuals or their negative attitudes towards blacks. As critical race scholars argue, the problem of racism in the US is not a problem of individual people, but of institutions. Institutions like public schools and the criminal justice system for example disproportionately disadvantaging people of color. Public policy, on the other hand, systematically advantages white people (GI Bill, New and Fair Deal Legislation, Redlining, etc). In other words, the real reason why racial disparities remain is not because of a few racists, but because of white Americans’ denial of the systemic way that they benefit from the current racial hierarchy. Thus, the symbolic racism scale may need updating. If the problem is not individual-level resentment, but individual-level denial of white privilege or systemic racism, then a new scale is needed to measure this new form of racism/ passive endorsement of the racial order. In this paper I present the results from an experiment designed to capture whites’ willingness to admit to systemic privilege.

Racialized Emergencies: COVID-19, Decarceration, and Public Opinion

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Matthew Denney, Yale University
Ramon Garibaldo Valdez, Yale University

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated other illnesses in the American body polity: mass incarceration and racial inequality. As of mid-June, there have been 46,249 cases of the novel coronavirus reported inside prisons and jails. Additionally, 1,623 cases have been reported across 67 immigrant detention centers. The conditions of carceral facilities rapidly accelerate the spread of COVID-19, and incarcerated people and immigrant detainees are disproportionately exposed to risk of infection and death. Given the racialized dimension of the carceral state (Alexander 2010, Lehrman & Weaver 2014, Murakawa 2014), non-White populations — mainly Black, followed in number by Latinx — have beared the blunt of the pandemic inside bars.

In this paper, we analyze activist responses to COVID-19 in prisons and immigrant detention centers, and we offer the results of two surveys we conducted that measure views on harm reduction and decarceration.

Activists have responded to this crisis by demanding decarceration policies to reduce the number of people inside prisons, improve conditions inside carceral facilities, and accelerate releases from facilities. Following the calls from criminal justice advocates, our surveys measure support for decarceration and harm-reduction measures. We also embed experiments about the effects of information on (a) racial disparities in jails and prisons, and (b) some of the inadequate health conditions inside immigrant detention centers, in order to measure the causal effects of this information.

We argue that prisoners and immigrant detainees are viewed with less dignity and respect than those outside carceral institutions. Respondents favor mitigating harm towards them, but they do not see COVID-19 as revealing the need to change a flawed system. Information about racial inequality in the carceral system increases support for some short-term solutions to COVID-19, but it does not significantly change preferences for changing the system long-term. COVID-19 is seen as a short-term crisis to overcome, not a signal flare that calls for drastic action to change the system. In support of this, we offer five major results from our analysis.

First, we find that a majority of respondents do not believe carceral institutions should be prioritized in the response to COVID-19; most respondents suggest that incarcerated people and immigrants in detention should not receive the same priority and treatment as those outside these institutions. Second, while respondents largely favor improving conditions inside carceral facilities, they express much more hesitation about decarceration measures.

Third, information about racial disparities in jails and prisons increased support for decarceration policies during the COVID-19 crisis, but this effect is attenuated and insignificant when applied to support for decarceration after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. Fourth, while the racial disparities treatment caused a shift in views, information about poor conditions inside migrant detention centers did not affect views on policy responses to COVID-19 in these institutions. Lastly, Black and Latinx respondents show more support for decarceration than White respondents. All groups in our survey, however, show more reticence to support rapid decarceration than do activist groups organizing towards decarceration and abolition.

Incarcerated individuals and immigrant detainees are disproportionately Black and Latinx people, and our results highlight the lack of concern for their lives. We find that showing racial disparities can change views on incarceration, but this effect is limited to short-term policy responses in light of the pandemic, while views on long-term policy prove to be more durable.

Black Networks Matter

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Matthew Simonson, Northeastern University
Katherine Ognyanova, Northeastern University
Matthew A. Baum, Harvard University
James N. Druckman, Northwestern University
David Lazer, Northeastern University

This summer’s historic tide of black-led protests made history not only for their political impact but for their ability to mobilize millions of people outside of a formal organizational framework. What explains this success? Although this stunning turnout may be partially attributable to impersonal forms of media such as YouTube videos and social media influencers with millions of followers, prior research suggests that peer recruitment among friends, family, and acquaintances is likely to have had a substantial impact. In this paper, we explore the extent to which black protesters have harnessed the power of their own personal networks, circumventing slower-moving hierarchical organizations, to build a true grassroots movement.

Reliable quantitative data on protester attributes is hard to come by. Gathering a representative sample of attendees at a live protest is formidable and obtaining a sufficiently large sample of protesters can prove even more difficult once participants have returned home. A typical population survey of approximately 1000 respondents is unlikely to pick up a sufficient number of protesters, let alone black protesters, to analyze their motivations and beliefs. The collection of social media posts such as geotagged tweets has allowed scholars to make considerable headway, but protester motivation and race remain hard to capture on a large scale, even with automated text analysis. We, therefore, turn to a novel instrument of unparalleled scope: a 25,000-respondent multi-wave panel survey including thousands of protesters and a targeted oversample of black adults. This survey is currently in the field and we expect data collection and preliminary analysis to be complete prior to APSA.

Our data allow us to address a wide array of questions about how black protesters use peer recruitment to drive turnout. How important are personal messages and conversations in people’s decisions to attend compared to simply being exposed to posts on social media? Are acquaintances as capable of recruiting as close friends? To what extent is recruitment driven by event organizers or existing formal organizations versus unaffiliated friends and family? Within the black community, are there major class or age differences between protesters and non-protesters? Who is most likely to try to recruit other protests and, of those, what traits predict success? The role of non-black allies has drawn considerable attention in the media, yet the role of black activists in driving non-black turnout remains underexplored. One mechanism we investigate is explicit recruitment by a black friend or acquaintance. However, we also examine whether respondents know someone who has been harmed by police racism/violence, and we look at the ways in which recruitment among black people differs from the ways in which black protesters recruit non-black participants. We also look at how recruitment of first-time protesters, political conservatives and moderates, and older participants may operate through different channels. For instance, are people who do not self-identify as activists more likely to be persuasive in getting these individuals to turn out?

All told, our data offer an unprecedented glimpse into the demographics and dynamics of black protest. Our results and conclusions have the potential to improve our understanding not only of protest dynamics generally but of the ways in which black protesters use their social capital to compensate for other forms of capital that society has denied them. We aim to show how black networks matter not only to the present political moment but to influencing future movement mobilization in the U.S. and around the world.

Police Violence, Intimate Politics, and Collective Action

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Bradley Holland, University of Hawaii-Hilo
Brianna Mack, Ohio State University

How do African Americans make sense of coercive policing, and how do those efforts shape collective politics? Based on a year-long participant observation study in homes, barbershops, community centers, restaurants, and drug corners in Columbus, Ohio, this paper shows how African Americans leverage ascriptions of black criminality during everyday discussions about police violence. While interpretations and normative views of crime vary widely, notions of black criminality allow African Americans to perform interpersonal familiarity in deliberative forums. We label such practices ‘political intimacy,’ and argue that they help mold nebulous norms of collective solidarity into a chimera of more concrete political prescriptions and social behaviors. In turn, we suggest that the very ideas that underpin coercive criminal justice practices may also foment collective action and divisive forms of in-group exploitation.

Do Whites Admit to Discrimination of Blacks but not White Privilege?

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Mona Kleinberg, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

In political science we use a four-item racial resentment scale to measure racism. The current measure of individual negative attitudes towards blacks was developed in response to the widely recognized decline in openly hostile “traditional” racism. It is sometimes called “symbolic” or “modern” racism and captures a more veiled form of individual-level resentment toward black Americans than the explicit racism of the Jim Crow era. Since the development of this scale by Kinder and Sears in the 70’s, the scale has been used extensively in public opinion scholarship.For the past 10 years or so, however, it has become widely recognized that today’s racism is not so much a problem of individuals or their negative attitudes towards blacks. As critical race scholars argue, the problem of racism in the US is not a problem of individual people, but of institutions. Institutions like public schools and the criminal justice system for example disproportionately disadvantaging people of color. Public policy, on the other hand, systematically advantages white people (GI Bill, New and Fair Deal Legislation, Redlining, etc). In other words, the real reason why racial disparities remain is not because of a few racists, but because of white Americans’ denial of the systemic way that they benefit from the current racial hierarchy. Thus, the symbolic racism scale may need updating. If the problem is not individual-level resentment, but individual-level denial of white privilege or systemic racism, then a new scale is needed to measure this new form of racism/ passive endorsement of the racial order. In this paper I present the results from an experiment designed to capture whites’ willingness to admit to systemic privilege.

Racialized Emergencies: COVID-19, Decarceration, and Public Opinion

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Matthew Denney, Yale University
Ramon Garibaldo Valdez, Yale University

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated other illnesses in the American body polity: mass incarceration and racial inequality. As of mid-June, there have been 46,249 cases of the novel coronavirus reported inside prisons and jails. Additionally, 1,623 cases have been reported across 67 immigrant detention centers. The conditions of carceral facilities rapidly accelerate the spread of COVID-19, and incarcerated people and immigrant detainees are disproportionately exposed to risk of infection and death. Given the racialized dimension of the carceral state (Alexander 2010, Lehrman & Weaver 2014, Murakawa 2014), non-White populations — mainly Black, followed in number by Latinx — have beared the blunt of the pandemic inside bars.

In this paper, we analyze activist responses to COVID-19 in prisons and immigrant detention centers, and we offer the results of two surveys we conducted that measure views on harm reduction and decarceration.

Activists have responded to this crisis by demanding decarceration policies to reduce the number of people inside prisons, improve conditions inside carceral facilities, and accelerate releases from facilities. Following the calls from criminal justice advocates, our surveys measure support for decarceration and harm-reduction measures. We also embed experiments about the effects of information on (a) racial disparities in jails and prisons, and (b) some of the inadequate health conditions inside immigrant detention centers, in order to measure the causal effects of this information.

We argue that prisoners and immigrant detainees are viewed with less dignity and respect than those outside carceral institutions. Respondents favor mitigating harm towards them, but they do not see COVID-19 as revealing the need to change a flawed system. Information about racial inequality in the carceral system increases support for some short-term solutions to COVID-19, but it does not significantly change preferences for changing the system long-term. COVID-19 is seen as a short-term crisis to overcome, not a signal flare that calls for drastic action to change the system. In support of this, we offer five major results from our analysis.

First, we find that a majority of respondents do not believe carceral institutions should be prioritized in the response to COVID-19; most respondents suggest that incarcerated people and immigrants in detention should not receive the same priority and treatment as those outside these institutions. Second, while respondents largely favor improving conditions inside carceral facilities, they express much more hesitation about decarceration measures.

Third, information about racial disparities in jails and prisons increased support for decarceration policies during the COVID-19 crisis, but this effect is attenuated and insignificant when applied to support for decarceration after the COVID-19 crisis subsides. Fourth, while the racial disparities treatment caused a shift in views, information about poor conditions inside migrant detention centers did not affect views on policy responses to COVID-19 in these institutions. Lastly, Black and Latinx respondents show more support for decarceration than White respondents. All groups in our survey, however, show more reticence to support rapid decarceration than do activist groups organizing towards decarceration and abolition.

Incarcerated individuals and immigrant detainees are disproportionately Black and Latinx people, and our results highlight the lack of concern for their lives. We find that showing racial disparities can change views on incarceration, but this effect is limited to short-term policy responses in light of the pandemic, while views on long-term policy prove to be more durable.

Black Networks Matter

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Matthew Simonson, Northeastern University
Katherine Ognyanova, Northeastern University
Matthew A. Baum, Harvard University
James N. Druckman, Northwestern University
David Lazer, Northeastern University

This summer’s historic tide of black-led protests made history not only for their political impact but for their ability to mobilize millions of people outside of a formal organizational framework. What explains this success? Although this stunning turnout may be partially attributable to impersonal forms of media such as YouTube videos and social media influencers with millions of followers, prior research suggests that peer recruitment among friends, family, and acquaintances is likely to have had a substantial impact. In this paper, we explore the extent to which black protesters have harnessed the power of their own personal networks, circumventing slower-moving hierarchical organizations, to build a true grassroots movement.

Reliable quantitative data on protester attributes is hard to come by. Gathering a representative sample of attendees at a live protest is formidable and obtaining a sufficiently large sample of protesters can prove even more difficult once participants have returned home. A typical population survey of approximately 1000 respondents is unlikely to pick up a sufficient number of protesters, let alone black protesters, to analyze their motivations and beliefs. The collection of social media posts such as geotagged tweets has allowed scholars to make considerable headway, but protester motivation and race remain hard to capture on a large scale, even with automated text analysis. We, therefore, turn to a novel instrument of unparalleled scope: a 25,000-respondent multi-wave panel survey including thousands of protesters and a targeted oversample of black adults. This survey is currently in the field and we expect data collection and preliminary analysis to be complete prior to APSA.

Our data allow us to address a wide array of questions about how black protesters use peer recruitment to drive turnout. How important are personal messages and conversations in people’s decisions to attend compared to simply being exposed to posts on social media? Are acquaintances as capable of recruiting as close friends? To what extent is recruitment driven by event organizers or existing formal organizations versus unaffiliated friends and family? Within the black community, are there major class or age differences between protesters and non-protesters? Who is most likely to try to recruit other protests and, of those, what traits predict success? The role of non-black allies has drawn considerable attention in the media, yet the role of black activists in driving non-black turnout remains underexplored. One mechanism we investigate is explicit recruitment by a black friend or acquaintance. However, we also examine whether respondents know someone who has been harmed by police racism/violence, and we look at the ways in which recruitment among black people differs from the ways in which black protesters recruit non-black participants. We also look at how recruitment of first-time protesters, political conservatives and moderates, and older participants may operate through different channels. For instance, are people who do not self-identify as activists more likely to be persuasive in getting these individuals to turn out?

All told, our data offer an unprecedented glimpse into the demographics and dynamics of black protest. Our results and conclusions have the potential to improve our understanding not only of protest dynamics generally but of the ways in which black protesters use their social capital to compensate for other forms of capital that society has denied them. We aim to show how black networks matter not only to the present political moment but to influencing future movement mobilization in the U.S. and around the world.

Police Violence, Intimate Politics, and Collective Action

Sat, September 12, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Bradley Holland, University of Hawaii-Hilo
Brianna Mack, Ohio State University

How do African Americans make sense of coercive policing, and how do those efforts shape collective politics? Based on a year-long participant observation study in homes, barbershops, community centers, restaurants, and drug corners in Columbus, Ohio, this paper shows how African Americans leverage ascriptions of black criminality during everyday discussions about police violence. While interpretations and normative views of crime vary widely, notions of black criminality allow African Americans to perform interpersonal familiarity in deliberative forums. We label such practices ‘political intimacy,’ and argue that they help mold nebulous norms of collective solidarity into a chimera of more concrete political prescriptions and social behaviors. In turn, we suggest that the very ideas that underpin coercive criminal justice practices may also foment collective action and divisive forms of in-group exploitation.

Political Science and the Movement for Black Lives: A Roundtable Discussion

Sun, September 13, 10:00 to 11:30am (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

Michael C. Dawson, University of Chicago 
Juliet Hooker, Brown University
Barnor Hesse, Northwestern University
Deva Woodly, New School for Social Research
Debra Thompson, McGill University
Shatema Threadcraft, Dartmouth College
Jenn M. Jackson, Syracuse University
Jordie Davies, University of Chicago
Christopher Paul Harris, Northwestern University 

This roundtable brings together established and emerging Black scholars whose work intersects with the underlying issues, historical trajectories, and demands animating the Black Lives Matter Movement. We aim to provide analysis of and context for the current uprisings, which we address along the arc of the movement’s evolution, developments in American politics, and the centuries-long struggle for Black liberation. In doing so, we likewise take stock of and question the extent to which political science as a discipline and the university as an institution are capable of addressing the matter/ing of Black life.

Relevance, Quality, and Expedience: Political Science Responds to COVID-19

Similar to other nations, the United States is firmly in the grip of a global pandemic, with little end in sight. What do we know about the political origins and consequences of this public health scourge—and what do we still need to learn about it and other phenomena like it?

Comparing and Explaining Policy Reactions and Political Consequences

Thu, September 10, 10:00 to 11:30am (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented shock to democratic political systems, but the manner in which democracies have responded have been markedly different. This panel includes papers that seek to explain how institutional and political factors have shaped the way in which the crisis has been defined and handled by governments; that explain how democratic publics have responded to crisis measures; and that inquire into the short-term and longer-term consequences of crisis politics for the quality of democracy. Paper 1 focuses on the explanatory power of the federal versus unitary distinction in explaining public policy responses to the crisis. Paper 2 focuses on the politics of social distancing and asks how people have complied with lockdown politics. Paper 3 examines how crisis politics have affected trust in government across a range of European and North democracies. Paper 4 assesses the democratic implications of public health measures against COVID-19 for 30 established democracies.

All four papers that make up the panel draw on original data that has been collected since the onset of the pandemic; have a strong comparative orientation; and involve teams of authors with senior and early career scholars. The papers will form part of a special issue of the journal West European Politics that is expected to be published in the spring of 2021.

Klaus Goetz, University of Munich
Andrea Louise Campbell, MIT
Dorte Sindbjerg Martinsen, University of Copenhagen

Policy Responses to the COVID-19 Pandemic in Federal vs. Unitary States
Tim Buthe, Technical University of Munich (TUM)
Joan Barcelo, Washington University in St. Louis
Paula Daniela Ganga, Columbia University
Allison Spencer Hartnett, Yale University
Cindy Cheng, Bavarian School of Public Policy

The Politics of Social Distancing
Ben Ansell, University of Oxford
Asli Cansunar, University of Oxford
Mads Andreas Elkjaer, University of Oxford

Rally-around-the-flag: The Corona Crisis and Trust in Government
Sylvia Kritzinger, Institut fur Hohere Studien
Romain Lachat, Sciences Po
Julia Partheymuller, University of Vienna
Carolina Plescia, University of Vienna

Implications of COVID-19 Public Health Measures in Established Democracies
Tarik Abou-Chadi, University of Zurich
Daniel Kubler, University of Zurich
Lucas Leemann, University of Zurich
Romale Lovelace
Sarah Engler, University of Zurich
Palmo Brunner, University of Zurich 

Polarization and Public Health: Partisan Differences in Social Distancing

Thu, September 10, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Michael Thaler, Princeton University
Levi Boxell, Stanford University
David Y. Yang, Harvard University
Jacob Conway, Stanford University
Matthew Gentzkow, Stanford University

We study partisan differences in Americans’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Political leaders and media outlets on the right and left have sent divergent messages about the severity of the crisis, which could impact the extent to which Republicans and Democrats engage in social distancing and other efforts to reduce disease transmission. We develop a simple model of a pandemic response with heterogeneous agents that clarifies the causes and consequences of heterogeneous responses. We use location data from a large sample of smartphones to show that areas with more Republicans engage in less social distancing, controlling for other factors including public policies, population density, and local COVID cases and deaths. We then present new survey evidence of significant gaps at the individual level between Republicans and Democrats in self-reported social distancing, beliefs about personal COVID risk, and beliefs about the future severity of the pandemic.

Are There Differences Between Male and Female Leaders’ Response Strategies?

Thu, September 10, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Mette Marie Harder, Stockholm University
Christoffer Bugge Harder, Lund University

According to news speaks all over the world, the COVID-19 virus is showcasing gendered leadership to everyone: Male leaders such as Donald Trump and Boris Johnson initially applied a laid back, macho-“we are not afraid” attitude and did not set up extensive measures to fight the virus, as female leaders such as Jacinda Ardern and Angela Merkel did. Or did they? This study examines whether nations with female heads of government have applied more extensive measures to combat the COVID-19 virus than countries that are led by men. Using the Oxford COVID-19 Government Response Tracker dataset, we find that there are no indications of female leaders generally applying more far-reaching measures than their male colleagues. However, we do find that in OECD countries, female heads of government are significantly less likely to require school shutdowns than their male colleagues. Since women are more vulnerable in the conflict between labor of production and reproduction than men, not shutting down schools could be viewed as representing female interests. We are currently applying various statistical models to assess the relative importance of other factors in explaining this difference.

Domestic Workers from Margin to Center: Pandemic Politics, Protest, and Policy

Thu, September 10, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Laurel Weldon, Simon Fraser University
Amber Lusvardi
Kaitlin Kelly-Thompson, Purdue University
Summer Forester, Carleton College
Srijani Datta, Simon Fraser University

The outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has made savage inequalities worse, especially in terms of economic opportunity, working conditions, and access to health care. Those who work in informal employment – overwhelmingly women – are especially disadvantaged by pandemic conditions. Domestic workers already experience precarious working conditions and have been slow to be recognized for full workers’ rights around the world. Prior to the pandemic, protest was a primary avenue for workers to catalyze change, but lockdown conditions and other pandemic-related challenges make both working conditions and the political responses to those conditions more challenging for domestic workers. Here, we focus on how feminist movements are integral to efforts to spark legislative protections for marginalized workers and how the pandemic halts these efforts. We present new evidence on the ways in which feminist mobilization has bolstered legislative change for domestic workers’ rights on a global scale. We also employ a case study of regions in India, including Delhi, Kerala, and West Bengal, to illustrate how the pandemic paused advocacy for domestic workers at a time when they were most vulnerable, and what implications this has for women in domestic work worldwide.

COVID-19 and Asian Americans: How Social Exclusion Shapes Partisan Attitudes

Thu, September 10, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Nathan Chan, University of California, Irvine
Jae Yeon Kim, University of California, Berkeley
Vivien Leung, University of California, Los Angeles

By labeling the coronavirus as the “kung flu” or “Chinese virus,” President Trump’s rhetoric has brought anti-Asian American bias to the forefront. While recent work has explained the rise of negative Asian American sentiment, we further aim to address how ongoing social exclusion influences the partisan attitudes of Asian Americans themselves. Extending theories of social exclusion, we argue that Trump’s continued usage of targeted rhetoric toward Asian Americans pushes the racial group, of whom is largely ‘Independent’ or nonpartisan affiliated, towards holding more Democratic-related preferences. Using the COVID-19 Twitter dataset (over 3.3 million tweets a day), we use machine learning to trace how anti-Asian attitudes among Whites and Blacks have changed since the pandemic. Next, drawing on a nation-wide survey conducted weekly by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group (n=12,907), we find that favorability toward the Democratic Party; favorability toward the Democratic Party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Joe Biden; and identification with the Democratic Party, has increased since Trump first made inflammatory remarks uniquely among Asian Americans, who have been subject to social exclusion during the COVID-19 pandemic. Whites, Blacks, and Latina/os, on the other hand, exhibited little change in these Democratic-related attitudes. Our findings suggest that experiences with social exclusion may further cement Asian Americans as Democrats, who are positioned to be consequential in the outcome of the 2020 election.

COVID-19 on Tribal Reservations: Challenges and Needed Policy Foci

Thu, September 10, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Lorinda Riley, University of Hawaiʻi Manoa

As domestic dependent sovereign nations, tribal governments have a unique status in the US. Even though the federal government has a trust responsibility, tribes are often forgotten during crises. COVID-19 created a global pandemic that highlighted the need to review our nation’s policies for coordinating with tribes. The situation was so dire at Navajo and Hopi that Doctors Without Borders, a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing lifesaving medical care to those most in need, deployed, for the first time, to a domestic location.
Tribal lands are frequently rural and lack basic services such as clean drinking water, proper sewage, and access to fresh foods a clear disadvantage in the fight against the spread of COVID-19 (Crepelle, 2019; Necefer, 2015). In addition, tribal citizens suffer from higher rates of diabetes, respiratory issues, obesity, and other illnesses (Burrows, et al, 2000; Nickle, 2018; Lewis, 2004; Singleton, 2006) making this population incredibly vulnerable. Yet, tribal nations, such as the Navajo Nation, which has the highest infection rate of COVID-19 in the nation (Silverman, 2020), initially were not included in the CARES Act (McSally & Daines, 2020).

Ultimately, tribal leaders and organizations working closely with federal legislators were inserted into federal legislation, but implementation problems remained. Tribes requested that the Center for Disease Control funding be funneled through the Indian Health Service (IHS) for streamlining purposes, but bureaucratic unpreparedness prevented this. Furthermore, the CARES Act incorporated timelines for start of construction that were unreasonable for tribal communities, especially due to the lack of infrastructure development, which needs to be address before any projects can be undertaken. Another administrative challenge is that many states are not disaggregating their COVID-19 data by race or tribal affiliation making planning difficult and obscuring the impact. Finally, differences between tribal responses and state responses created tensions in certain areas as both pushed to protect their jurisdictional integrity (CRST, 2020; Heinert, et al., 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed several problems that may have policy solutions. First, all federal agencies should consult with tribal nations and have processes already in place in case during an emergency. Excluding tribal nations, whether intentional or not, results in less funding appropriated to tribes, which, in turn, may result in state and local governments having to shoulder more of the burden. Third, states should consider solidifying state-tribal consultation agreements and coordinating efforts amongst themselves and with federal agencies. Fourth, infrastructure development on reservations should be a funding priority. The lack of infrastructure on reservations is an invisible, but huge public health issue. While tribal nations and state governments are distinct, their co-located status provides an opportunity to take advantage of shared interests in order to multiply their effectiveness with an inactive federal government.

Illuminating Geographic Racism: The  COVID-19 Shutdown and Environmental Justice

Fri, September 11, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT)

Heather Campbell, Claremont Graduate University
Shawnika Johnson, Claremont Graduate University
SeKwen Kim, Claremont Graduate University

In the US, both the Environmental Justice (EJ) movement and EJ scholarship were catapulted by events in the 1980s. In 1982, protesters in NC fought against the government placing contaminated soil in one of the “few counties in the state with a majority black population” (NRDC May 18, 2016), and in 1983 Sociologist Dr. Robert Bullard presented research showing that solid waste sites in Houston, TX, were disproportionately in black communities or “near black schools” (Bullard 1983, np). Following soon thereafter, the famous Toxic Waste and Race study conducted by the United Church of Christ found similar results for the entire US (Chavis & Lee 1987). Although the study found both social and economic class to be contributing factors to siting environmental polluting facilities in African-American communities, race was identified as the most accurate predictor for the siting of such egregious land uses.

In the decades since these pathbreaking events, significant research has continued to show that African Americans and other racial and ethnic minorities in the US are disproportionately collocated with a wide variety of environmentally harmful pollutants—and that race/ethnicity are even more important predictors than poverty (Ringquist 2005). Aside from the patent unfairness of this in a society that pledges “liberty and justice for all,” these pollutants cause a variety of physiological harms, and the cumulative effects of greater exposure to a whole variety of pollutants may partially explain race-based health disparities including worse birth outcomes for African Americans (Bekkar, Pacheco & Basu 2020), greater death rates from COVID-19 for African Americans and Hispanics (Wu et al. April 2020; Garcia Cano, Snow & Anderson June 20, 2020), and increased incidence of respiratory diseases (e.g. asthma) for African Americans and Latinos (Brulle & Pellow 2006; Brown 1995; Mohai 1992; and Szasz & Meuser 1997).

In 2000, geographer Dr. Laura Pulido showed that environmental racism doesn’t require explicit, current racist acts because environmental racism can be historio-spatial, woven into the very fabric of the geographies in which we live (Pulido 2000). Outside the EJ context, we have evidence of this reality in newer findings of the ongoing and cumulative economic damage to minority neighborhoods—and their residents, usually African Americans—that were red-lined many decades ago (e.g., Rothstein 2017), and those that were bifurcated by freeways, zoning, etc. (Connerly 2002).

In the proposed paper, we use the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 shutdowns to provide additional illumination regarding the ways that environmental injustice is woven into US geographies. It is well known at this point that the economic downturn has caused a significant decline in air pollution (some amazing before-and-after photos have appeared in the media), and particularly in CO2, NO2, and PM2.5 (Liu et al. 2020; Tanzer-Gruener et al. 2020). NO2 and PM are harmful to human health, and health impacts of exposure to PM “include cardiovascular effects such as cardiac arrhythmias and heart attacks, and respiratory effects such as asthma attacks….” (USEPA October 2019, np). We use multivariate regression analysis to assess whether the shutdown-induced air-quality improvements were distributed evenly across racial and ethnic groups or whether, as we have seen too often, benefits accrue disproportionately to White-non-Hispanic residents. Or, perhaps, since racial and ethnic minorities suffered disproportionately from air pollution before the shutdown (e.g., Morello-Frosch, Pastor & Sadd 2001), they will gain disproportionately from the improvements in air quality.

Our unit of analysis is the Census Tract, and we examine all tracts in the contiguous US that contained at least one EPA air sensor for PM in both April of 2019 (business as usual) and April of 2020 (post shutdown). The dependent variable is the change in average measured PM. The primary independent variables are the percentage representation of minority racial and ethnic groups within each Census tract (white-non-Hispanic is the baseline omitted group). Control variables include measures of poverty/income, population density, and measures of rainfall (rainfall has an important causal impact of washing air pollutants from the air).

The repeated dramatic police-caused deaths of African Americans have finally revealed to most that there is systemic racism in policing in America. Elevated levels of miscarriages, pre-term births, and low-birth-weight babies; heart attacks and asthma; and susceptibility to COVID-19 among African Americans are less dramatic, but they are also evidence of systemic racism that is instantiated in our very geographies and that, often invisible, can be nearly impossible to escape. The proposed paper uses the misfortune of the COVID-19 economic downturn to better understand the geography of oppression via changes in air pollution.

The Coronavirus Crisis, Word Order(s) and Latin American Responses

Fri, September 11, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT)

Arie Kacowicz, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Daniel F. Wajner, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Exequiel Lacovsky, Hebrew University ofJerusalem

The major research question that we will address in this paper is the following: How and why Latin American political leaders and regional organizations frame their discursive responses to the global pandemic crisis in the context of international relations? How are they reacting in rhetorical terms, with reference to international relations? In other words, the paper’s major analytical focus will be to assess the reactions, in discursive terms, of political leaders in the region (Presidents and PMs), as well as regional organizations within Latin America, to the Covid-19 crisis, from March to June 2020, in terms of Latin American approaches to world order and global and regional governance.

The coronavirus pandemic is an extreme case-study to ascertain the way the world works during crises, and how different approaches to world and regional orders can capture better these crisis dynamics. The rationale behind this research question is that though the crisis is global and has affected unevenly most of the countries of the world, there might be an important Latin American regional dimension that has to be underlined, beyond the national and global generalizations. The virus is just beginning to take off in Latin America, with consequences likely to be even more enduring than those in Europe and the United States. Nowadays the Covid-19 spreads faster in Latin America than in other regions of the world, due to the conditions of poverty and inequality existing in the region, which make the requirements of lockdowns and social distancing difficult to implement. In that sense the dramatic health, political, economic, and social crisis, whereas Latin America has turned by late May 2020 in the epicenter of the epidemic, can be considered as an extreme case-study to assess in analytical terms broader issues of Latin American insertion into the world order and international relations.

Pandemic Backsliding: Public Communication and Autocratization during Crises

Fri, September 11, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT)

Seraphine Maerz, University of Gothenburg
Amanda B. Edgell, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa
Sandra Grahn, University of Gothenburg
Anna Luehrmann, University of Gothenburg
Jean Lachapelle, University of Gothenburg

Our newly developed Pandemic Democratic Violations-Index captures violations of democratic standards for emergency responses. Based on factual data and prior expert assessment of the quality of liberal-democratic institutions and rights, the regularly updated index currently covers 142 countries’ responses on covid-19 from early April 2020 onward. More specifically, we observe several types of violations such as the expansion of executive power without sunset clause, discriminatory measures, restrictions of civil liberties, limitations of the legislature or judicial oversight as well as arbitrary and abusive enforcement and governmental disinformation campaigns. The index reveals that there seems to be a puzzling variation concerning the responses of those governments which score high on violating democratic standards: While some arbitrarily enforce a range of disproportionate emergency measurements, others violate their accountability by spreading disinformation campaigns which downplay covid-19 and disguise their inability or reluctance to adequately deal with the crisis. This paper investigates into this puzzle and thereby offers three contributions: First, based on our new Pandemic Democratic Violations-Index and with the help of innovative computational text as data methods we look into the differing communication strategies of those governments which substantially violate democratic standards during the current crisis. Second, we systematically analyze how these differing communication strategies correlate with other crucial factors such as covid-19 death rates, capacities of the health system, prior levels of autocratization, diffusion effects, and regime-specific aspects (e.g. federalism, presidentialism, personalist rulers, etc.). Thirdly and on a more general level, we illustrate how these novel empirical insights help to refine our theories on the relationship between crises and autocratization.

The Geo-Political Effects of COVID-19

Fri, September 11, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT), TBA

Benjamin Miller, University of Haifa

This essay focuses on evaluating the geopolitical effects of the COVID-19 crisis on the key conflicts in contemporary world politics. The paper argues that this crisis is likely to aggravate the four major conflicts of the 21st century: great-power competition; the authoritarian challenge to the democracies: the dispute between liberals and populists inside the democracies; and the conflicts in failed states and their de-stabilizing effects on the West. Overall, the second decade of this century has witnessed the growing effects of these domestic and international conflicts. On the international level, observers have noted the rising great power competition, led by the rivalry between the West and Russia, and even more so, between the US and China. Joining the geopolitical component of the rising great power rivalry is an ideological competition between the democratic versus the authoritarian model. This dimension was strengthened following the 2008 financial crisis in the West, while China argued that its “state capitalism” was more effective than the Western liberal free market model. Inside the democratic world, a rising conflict emerged between liberals and nationalist-populists with regard to economic globalization, immigration, the checks and balances on elected officials, and the partly related role of the so-called “deep state” (which in the populist view includes the professional civil service, experts, academics, the mainstream media, and the judiciary). Especially in recent years, the nationalist-populist camp has scored unprecedented accomplishments, with the UK’s exit (Brexit) from the European Union (EU), the election of Donald Trump, the rise of far-right parties in Europe, and elections results in Brazil and India. At the same time, following the Arab Spring, failed states flourished in the Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Libya), as well as in other regions as a result of state collapse (Somalia, Afghanistan, and quite a few others). The rise of the failed states led to growing migration and terrorism, which, in turn, affected the rise of populism in the West through the growing opposition to migration and the rising fear of terrorism—both processes manipulated by nationalist-populists to accumulate political power and to challenge liberal democracy.
In liberal eyes, the outbreak of the coronavirus seems to justify the liberal arguments about the global and trans-national nature of threats to all of humankind. Such threats should compel large-scale international cooperation among states and the construction of powerful international institutions. At the same time, the paper examines the argument that the post-coronavirus world might be less liberal and pursue less international cooperation—even if it is not fully rational in light of the need for greater international cooperation in order to cope effectively with epidemics. At this stage, it looks as though authoritarianism, nationalism, and unilateralism have accumulated some advantages and that this outcome will aggravate the struggles inside and among states and also great-power competition, notably the rivalry between China and the US. The COVID-19 crisis led many states to focus on their own problems without caring to pursue international cooperation. Such self-help dynamics took place even among the members of the most far-reaching cooperative international institution: The EU. Numerous states, including even some democracies, applied new and powerful methods of state surveillance and of tracing their own citizens, thus potentially creating the means for challenging privacy and individual freedom even after the COVID-19 crisis ends. Finally, the paper analyzes the concern that the crisis will especially hit hard weak and failed states. This might provide opportunities for radical forces to de-stabilize their regions and beyond. All of this will also create pressures for mass migration which might further challenge Western democracies. At the same time, the incompetence shown by populist leaders in addressing the epidemics—at least partly because of their contempt for expertise and for “liberal elites”/” the deep state — might weaken their appeal and provide new opportunities for liberals to challenge them. The handling of the COVID-19 will also have major effects on the attractiveness or “soft power” of the democratic versus the authoritarian model. Each model can claim for superior capacity: free flow of information (democracies) vs. social control of the population (authoritarians). The paper evaluates the relative effectiveness of the two models’ performance based on the record of authoritarians vs. democracies during the crisis. In sum, the paper carefully examines the key geo-political effects of the major crisis brought about by COVID-19.

Regimes and Epidemics: Insights into the COVID-19 Pandemic

Fri, September 11, 2:00 to 3:30pm MDT (4:00 to 5:30pm EDT)

Kelly McMann, Case Western Reserve University

Are democracies less effective than autocracies in responding to epidemics? Journalists and pundits have speculated that democratic freedoms and processes are limiting democratic countries’ abilities to quickly implement stringent measures to save lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, there is scant research on regime types’ impact on epidemics; it is mostly limited to HIV/AIDS. We first take a historical approach and investigate democracies’ impact on all epidemics from 1900 to 2018 using crossectional regression analysis with Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) regime type data and EM-DAT epidemic data. Taking advantage of the 470-plus V-Dem indicators of aspects of democracy, we also test to what extent particular democratic practices and institutions, such as civil liberties, affect epidemic outcomes. Rarely have works on democracy and public health disaggregated democracy. Second, we demonstrate how COVID-19 death rate are currently too provisional to draw conclusions about regime types’ impact on that pandemic. Finally, we examine how past epidemics are similar to or different from COVID-19 and thus in what ways our findings about past epidemics may apply to the current pandemic. The authors are a political scientist and epidemiologist, respectively, so they bring to this research the two areas of expertise essential to exploring this topic.

How does COVID-19 impact local participation? Evidence from Public E-Meetings

Sat, September 12, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Luisa Godinez Puig, Boston University
David Glick, Boston University
Katherine Levine Einstein, Boston University
Maxwell B. Palmer, Boston University

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, local governments in the US have taken the lead in crafting public health, economic and social policies in response to COVID-19. Public meetings are one of the many local institutions that has been affected. Many cities and towns have moved them online to enable government business to proceed consistent with social distancing. Which types of citizens participate in these meetings matters because they are where important decisions about issues like housing, and more recently Cofid-19 take place. Previous work has found that institutions encouraging local participation often inadvertently amplify some voices over others. One policy relevant conclusion some take from this work is that making public meetings easier to attend will improve equity in participation and representation. In this manuscript we explore how the different online participation procedures — which may make it easier for some residents to attend meetings — adopted by local governments have shaped local political participation. We build a novel database of online public meetings in 97 cities in Massachusetts and code the different ways in which citizens can participate in these meetings. We then match individuals to a voter file to analyze who participates. This analysis speaks to important questions about policy making about and around Covid-19 and provides insight into broader questions of the sources of, and potential remedies for, local participatory inequalities.

 

How is Coronavirus affecting Support for Universal Health Coverage?

Sat, September 12, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Ashley Fox, University at Albany
Yongjin Choi, University at Albany

In 2020, The United States remains the only high-income country that relies on employer-sponsored health coverage to insure the majority of its population, with significant gaps in coverage. Lay-offs associated with the economic downturn produced by the Coronavirus lock-downs are estimated to have already resulted in 27 million Americans having lost their employer sponsored health insurance leaving many uninsured and with unaffordable options for coverage in the midst of a pandemic. We conducted a survey experiment with a Qualtrics sample of 1,200 Americans to examine whether priming people about the risk of losing employer-sponsored health coverage during a pandemic affects their attitudes towards tax-financing health insurance compared with no priming or priming about non- COVID-related job loss. We also examine how ideology moderates the priming effect. The survey experiment was pre-registered with Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) and results are reported according to the original study design. We find no overall effect of priming respondents with a pro-social vignette about the effects of job loss on insurance coverage on their support for universal health coverage measured in several different ways. Contrary to expectation, priming seems to have more of an impact on respondents who identify as Democrats rather than Independents who we hypothesized would have more malleable views, though with borderline statistical significance (p<0.2). Priming was not more impactful on those had lost employer-sponsored coverage, though those who reported losing their coverage were more favorable to Medicare for All overall (77% compared with 60%, p<0.01). Additionally, 54% of respondents report they have become more favorable to moving towards a “Medicare-for-All” plan in light of Coronavirus and 67% report favoring a Medicare for All Plan. These results are likely limited by statistical power considerations, but also suggest that people’s attitudes towards government financing of health coverage are fairly fixed even in the face of unprecedented evidence of the challenges associated with providing health insurance through employers during a pandemic.

 

Presidential Statements Influence Health Behavior: Two Experiments in the US

Sat, September 12, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Henry Hale, George Washington University

There is a widespread belief that presidential statements can influence health behavior. This belief underlies the consternation with which many political opponents and medical experts have reacted to many of President Donald Trump’s public comments on the new coronavirus: By seemingly downplaying the COVID-19 threat, he may be leading individuals–especially his supporters–away from pro-health behaviors necessary to combat the pandemic. Unfortunately, we lack a solid research basis for evaluating whether and how presidential statements might influence health behavior generally, not to mention in a situation as important as a pandemic. And while the strength of partisanship in the US gives us good cause to worry that partisans will take their health-behavior cues from politicians over doctors, research has also found that differences in partisanship are associated with distinct poor health behaviors for other reasons (Kannan and Veazie 2018), generating risks of spurious causal claims. Experimental methods are well positioned to address such identification problems and thereby yield insight into how presidential statements might be influencing behaviors that could, in turn, impact the pandemic’s spread. This paper reports findings from a pair of survey-embedded experiments conducted in the United States during May 4-11, the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, using a nationally representative sample of 2000 participants in an online YouGov panel. Simple t-tests are used to evaluate average treatment effects, and Bayesian Additive Regression Trees (BART) is employed to calculate heterogeneous effects since it avoids many of the pitfalls associated with linear models and interaction terms (Green and Kern 2012). The first experiment asks a randomly selected half of the sample to reflect on what Trump has said about the virus (without reminding them what he has said) just before all respondents are asked about their propensity to engage in three pro-health behaviors. While this modest treatment had no effect on the propensity to wear gloves or to spread the view that the virus threat is overblown, it had a strong pro-health effect when it comes to personal contact: People having Trump’s coronavirus statements in mind were significantly less likely to report willingness to hug or shake hands with other people. The effect is not moderated by partisanship, is particularly strong among older people, and reflects (according to post-experiment questioning) a surprisingly widespread belief (as late as May 2020) that that Trump is sincerely trying to combat the pandemic’s spread. The second experiment focuses on the impact of two actual Trump statements (one appearing to minimize the virus threat and one that appears to take it gravely seriously) when combined and compared with statements by doctors. It is here that the dangers of presidential minimization of the threat emerges. The good news is that when the President calls on people to self-isolate in strong terms, he has a positive pro-health effect roughly in line with those of doctors, reducing the tendencies to visit public places and gather with friends and relatives. But when he appears to belittle the need to take personal self-isolation measures, he not only reduces pro-health behaviors but undercuts the effect of doctors’ strong advice. The effect is starkest when it comes to masks, where his statement that he personally chooses not to wear one significant dampens people’s propensity to wear them. It turns out, however, that these effects are also not moderated by partisanship, instead being most pronounced among people who are personally least at risk (the young) but who could spread the disease by failing to wear masks. One final finding emerges across both experiments: People in states with stay-at-home orders in effect are much more receptive to cautionary advice than those in other states, where rebellious responses are more common. Overall, while even weak presidential pro-health advice can have positive effects during the early stages of a pandemic, specific presidential rejection of pro-health behaviors can have damaging effects, undercutting the recommendations of medical professionals.

 

Voice and Inequality in the Spread of COVID-19 Information and Misinformation

Sat, September 12, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

Sarah Shugars, Northeastern University & New York University
David Lazer, Northeastern University
Ryan J Gallagher, Northeastern University

As both high-quality expert information and life-threatening misinformation compete to reach online audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic, the promises and risks of social media communication networks have become only more acute. While it is important to map which specific news media, expert opinions, politically-divisive hoaxes, and everyday posts spread through social media, it is equally important to understand who amplifies that content and the inequities in attention that are given to different voices. Historically and currently, marginalized voices continue to be discounted or excluded from mainstream discourse. On social media, not all voices are given equal weight, and failing to consider whose voice is being amplified during the pandemic risks endangering the civic integrity of online platforms and exacerbating the disparities in offline health outcomes. Understanding inequities of COVID-19 attention and amplification is the first step towards equitably promoting voices in the rapidly changing conversations of the pandemic.

Using a panel of Twitter accounts linked to public voter registration records in the United States, we study demographic differences in who shares information related to COVID-19 and whose messages on this topic are amplified. Examining dimensions of race, gender, age, and political affiliation, we assess both raw dissemination of COVID-19 content as well as the degree to which these users receive engagement and attention from others. We further study the network effects underlying this amplification — examining the influence of homophily within the network as well as the degree to which the popularity of specific content can be explained by the popularity of its author. Through content analysis and curated lists of sites disseminating COVID-19 misinformation, we also examine the interplay between demographic characteristics, voice, and the quality of content being shared. Preliminary findings suggest attention is focused on a small fraction of users, and that white men receive relatively more attention than their peers. Furthermore, older and younger users appear to engage with information on social media in notably different ways.

 

Vulnerable Populations and COVID-19 Misinformation

Sat, September 12, 12:00 to 1:30pm MDT (2:00 to 3:30pm EDT)

James Druckman, Northwestern University
David Lazer, Northeastern University
Katherine Ognyanova, Northeastern University
Matthew A. Baum, Harvard University
Matthew Simonson, Northeastern University

“The most astonishing thing about the pandemic was the complete mystery which surrounded it. Nobody seemed to know what the disease was, where it came from or how to stop it. Anxious minds are inquiring today… In spite of the repeated statement that [some information] has been discredited, there are many well-informed persons who believe [it].” –Major George A. Soper (1919: 501, 503)

This statement, from a 1919 Science article on the Spanish Flu, could most certainly apply to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like the Spanish Flu, COVID-19 has upended health, economic, and social systems. Yet, one notable difference is the information environment in which we live today. While misinformation was obviously a concern a century ago—as is mentioned in the quote—the speed with which misinformation can spread today is unprecedented. Misinformation about COVID-19 can have severe consequences for people ignoring health advice that can delay economic recovery and becoming hostile to groups they misattribute as being responsible (van Bavel et al. 2020: 464).

Not surprisingly, these concerns have led to a large number of explorations into COVID-19 misinformation; however, virtually, all of this work focuses on social media and misinformation spread. While certainly a crucial topic, much less work explores who, in fact, is misinformed. Isolating those more likely to be misinformed allows communities and practitioners to target such individuals with techniques for enhancing accurate information (e.g. Pennycook et al. 2020, van Bavel et al. 2020: 464).

In this paper, we explore the correlates of misinformation about COVID-19. We offer a brief review of work on science misinformation, leading to a set of expectations. We then explore the correlates of misinformation about COVID-19, as well as the correlates of correct information with a large data set of nearly 18,000 individuals. We find clear evidence that populations vulnerable to the disease tend to be the least informed and the most misinformed—perhaps most notably African-Americans, who have been otherwise disproportionally affected by the disease, and those exhibiting low levels of mental health who are inherently at risk. We also find that partisan gaps reflect group attachments with political parties. With a disease that quickly became politicized in the United States, these too are vulnerable individuals insofar as they tend to rely on identity affirmation rather than the systematic assessment of information (Achen and Bartels 2016). Our results offer a crucial portrait of those susceptible to the consequences of misinformation and also contribute to the general knowledge of misinformation about science.

 

Political Science Responds to COVID-19: Rethinking the Political Science Major during times of Crisis

Sun, September 13, 10:00 to 11:30am MDT (12:00 to 1:30pm EDT)

John Ishiyama, University of North Texas
Fletcher McClellan, Elizabethtown College
Michelle D. Deardorff, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Matthew B. Platt, Morehouse College
Elizabeth C. Matto, Rutgers University, New Brunswick
Terry Gilmour, Midland College

In this round table, panelists will discuss the current efforts by an APSA working group on rethinking the political science major. During the course of the past year, since the convening of an APSA sponsored conference on “Rethinking the Political Science Major” in May 2019 and the continuing work of the group at the APSA Teaching and Learning Conference in February 2020, we have been working on a report that was to suggest guidelines on learning objectives and curricular structure regarding the undergraduate political science major. However, recent crises, most notably the COVID-19 Pandemic and the widespread anti-racist protests following the death of George Floyd, has fundamentally altered the current situation facing political science, and raise important questions about how we teach about politics to undergraduate students. The COVID crisis has fundamentally changed how we teach and the anti-racist protests have called into question what we teach. As to the former the discipline must grapple with how the pandemic has impacted our goals as well as well as how we are best able to promote student learning and the development of skills when we are all at a distance. As to the latter, we must revisit some of the content of what we teach, especially the general lack of materials about race and ethnic politics in our introductory level political science courses (which reaches the greatest number of American students). Panelists will discuss how we might adjust our thinking about the goals and structure of the political science major in the face of these challenges.