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Party Issue Valuations

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POLS 3315-001
Party Issue Valuations and Reassessments Why do political parties in the United States abandon or revisit specific issues? Moreover, what is the driving force behind a party making an issue politically salient? Some examples that could be correlated with these questions could be why the Republican Party has stayed silent on issues that many old-guard Democrats feel is contentious in the current administration, why the sudden recent ideological transformation of conservative party, or why many politicians steer clear from Wall-Street related subjects (even though lashing out against bankers these days is sure to garner some attention, and most likely support from the general public). All of these examples and more will be discussed in order to provide a sufficient answer as to why issues are left behind in the dust or put out prominently on display. There are numerous factors and variables to consider when trying answering such a question, one of which could be racial factors. It’s been largely documented that Latinos have been an increasingly growing electorate, going from 1 percent of voters from the 1950s to over 11% in the twenty-first century (Abramowitz 27). With this information in mind, it would make sense that the Democratic establishment is today trying to initiate immigration reform in the United States Senate, knowing that they’ll have an increasing amount of support from their Latino electorate. It should also be noted that although the Democrats harbor a substantial share of the Latino vote, the battle isn’t a lost cause for Republicans, with Bush winning the 2004 Presidency with more than 40% of the Latino vote and one-third of Latino votes in general going to Republicans (Bibby 337-338). It seems the Republicans already know this, and are seemingly trying to capitalize on this with the insertion of Marco Rubio in primetime status. Dr. Alan Abramowitz comments that along with the rise of the nonwhite population, it also brings with it divide and polarization. He notes an example would be the rise of the Tea Party movement, which the American National Election Study showed data that racial resentment helped stimulate the movement (Abramowitz 27). After seeing this movement sprout in 2009-2010, it would make sense why the mainstream Republican Party would transform ideologically to try and harness this opportunity and in turn create a stronger ideological party in the process.
One theme I’ve noticed across the board from scholars on the topic is that many agree that racism still plays a role in elections (Abramowitz 27) and is a growing, newly evolving trend (Henry 254). Dr. P.J. Henry believes in specific types of racism, such as symbolic racism, aversive racism, modern racism, and racial resentment. Symbolic racism described by Henry is a belief system that African-American disadvantages are due to their own fault and a lack of responsibility (Henry 254); this ties with Abromowitz’s thoughts on the shifts of conservative white voters responding with the Tea Party movement whose movement has showed evidence that it was started by the visibility of nonwhites taking control of the Presidency and other forms of government (Abramowitz 32). Moreover, Political Scientist Regina Branton in her research of race in Congressional primary elections found that in areas mostly populated by African Americans or Latinos are more likely to have districts with minority candidates, and also, interestingly, that Democratic primary competition increases in these areas. (Branton 471). It would seem clear the Democratic party sees this trend as an advantage, and is moving with candidates that share the same traits as its constituents in certain districts; it would probably be safe to assume as well the Party in these districts will target issues that are of key importance to Latinos or African-Americans, rather than the country at large. This has some explanation as to why some issues get left behind or abandoned and why some issues re-emerge to the forefront.

Another common theme I’m finding is that most agree that voters on the higher socioeconomic sale or that are more educated and sophisticated are the ones that tend to vote more often (Henry 314, Belanger 551-552) , and these people have stronger ideological views when it comes to the role of government with regards to education, health care, etc. (Abromowitz 33). It’s also been found that that suburban voters have for decades voted for Republicans, with the most loyal being southern suburban voters (Shaw 143-144). Expanding on Dr. Belanger’s study, it was found that citizens of higher sophistication tended to vote less “sociotropically”, or in other words, they view the world more selflessly (Belanger 552); this would seem perfect for the Democratic party to try and cease more sophisticated, educated voters since their view of the role of government is to help, protect, and provide for the less fortunate and argue for higher taxes, which would probably correlate positive results if trying to influence “sophisticated” voters of this model, knowing their traits. For example, you could argue the Democrats have been more aggressive or extreme in recent years with regards to civil liberties issues; it would make sense to remain silent on the issue when asked about it, since explaining it to their selfless/always concerned for others portion of the base might result in a political mishap that costs votes. Although these themes imply why the Republicans and the Democrats target issues the way they do, it’s important to recognize that not all voters vote policy-based, as some of the parties today may assume; as Dr. Benjamin Highton explained in his research with policy voting in the Senate, he describes that there are a variety of factors to consider when asking the question if voters vote by their policy preferences (Highton 196). Some of those factors include the intake of information, motivation, and opportunity, all of which are important variables that the parties should reflect upon before deciding on trying to mobilize voters with policy initiatives. An also related theory I found with regards to parties, issues, and voting in the United States was a study from Dr. Owen G. Abbe. In the study, Abbe researched voter support for candidates and their impact on campaigns. One of the findings was strong evidence that “partisan voters care about issues that are favorably associated with their party” (Abbe 428) and also that leaders must “campaign on party owned issues to have an impact” (Abbe 427-428). An example of not following this model could be Mitt Romney’s infamous comment from the 2012 campaign caught on tape in which he said 47% of country is dependent of the government; at first Romney said the comments were inelegantly stated but were his views, then a few weeks later he said he said he believed his comments were wrong and apologized. If Mitt Romney really does believe what he said in that infamous comment, he might as well have owned up the comment according to Dr. Abbe’s research; in the research, Abbe also says that voters are more likely to support candidates whose campaign “has a well-defined agenda” with regards to issues, and basically feel comfortable with party-owned issues (Abbe 428). Since Romney didn’t exactly own up to his comments, you could make the argument from Abbe’s research that the impact for the “independent individual” argument Romney started later in the campaign lost ground.
With all that being said, it seems to be that there’s plenty of strategic scheming with regards to issue approach. I say this since many political scholars that I’ve listed is in agreement over critical areas, including high political saliency among educated or wealthy citizens, racial factors still playing roles in elections, and also how well candidates are firm in their positions. If parties want to win elections, it’s important that they take into account these important distinctions. So calculated issue revivals based on racial, saliency, and mentality factors are part of the answer to our question. However, are there other factors playing into this role as well? If one were to take an educated guess, could campaign funding be also a part of the answer to the question? Winning primaries is near impossible without a substantial amount of funds. Since candidates always need these funds, does this correlate with issue revivals?
In the beginning of the paper I brought up an example of why would Republicans stay silent on hot-button issues Democrats consider contentious, such as the administration using constant drone warfare or its specific disregards to clear constitutional civil liberties amendments. Another example I mentioned is why some politicians would steer clear away from issues regarding Wall Street. My hypothesis would be that due to the troubles and importance of funding campaigns for general elections and in primaries, it’s a key importance to look after the interests of these campaign contributors than local constituent issues. Reviewing the literature from above would already explain some parts of our question, which is that parties calculate/strategize constituent’s respected ideological mentalities and saliency. Our hypothesis would attempt to explain the rest of our question, which is if campaign funding also has anything to do with issue revival in American Politics.
In order to see if my hypothesis could be correlated with the original question, it would be important to see campaign contributions of a few congressmen. We will analyze a sample of a few congressmen’s voting records and see if they possibly match up with their campaign contributor’s interests.
Firstly, let’s look at some specific congressmen who voted on a specific bill, such as the CISPA bill from a couple of years ago. CISPA, or the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, was a bill that basically allowed internet companies to share information to the United States government about internet activity. The bill caused controversy among various nonprofit advocacy groups such as the ACLU, with its major concerns being the invasion of privacy.
Now, some of the candidates we will sample to analyze who voted on this bill will be a list of 14 Representatives, including Lamar Smith, Eric Cantor, Steny Hoyer, Kevin McCarthy, Mark Amodei, Paul Ryan, Charles Rangel, Pete King, Carolyn Maloney, Bruce Baley, John Lewis, Alan Grayson, John Larson, and Keith Ellison. To see if we can draw up some correlations, it will be important to match up their voting records on a recent issue with their interests of their major sources on campaign contributions.

**All Data Provided From,, and Smith | Express Scripts, Comcast Corp, TimeWarner, USAA, Ernst & Young, Dell, Deloitte, Honeywell International, KPMG LLP, Microsoft, Norfolk, Wal-Mart, CSX | Cantor | Comcast Corp, Wells Fargo, Travelers Companies, DaVita, New York Life Insurance, Dominion Resources, McGuireWoods, Goldman Sachs, Genworth, Bank of America, Citigroup, Merck & Co., Northrop Grumman | McCarthy | Oracle, Chevron, Comcast, Goldman Sachs, Bechtel Group, Google, Northrop Grumman, Express Scripts, Edison International, Eli Lilly & Co | Hoyer | AT&T Inc, Citigroup, USAA, Verizon, Northrop Grumman, Time Warner Cable, Comcast, Exelon, Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young | Ryan | AT&T Inc, Unitedhealth Group, Abbott, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, JPMorgan Chase, Lockheed Martin, Deere & Co. | Amodei | AT&T Inc | Rangel | Cablevision Systems | King | Boeing, Deloitte, Cablevision, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Fed Ex, Honeywell | Maloney | Reed Elsevier Inc, Deloitte, KPMG, New York Life Insurance, Ernst & Young, Asurion | Baley | Honeywell Int. | Lewis | Comcast, Coca-Cola, Boeing, CSX, Honeywell | Grayson | Wyndham Worldwide | Larson | United Technologies, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, New York Life Insurance, Goodrich, Travelers Companies, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Wal-Mart Stores, McKesson Corp., Pfizer | Ellison | General Mills, Honeywell, New York Life Insurance | Smith (Y) | $157,363.00 | Amodei (Y) | $14,000.00 | Lewis (N) | $60,000.00 | Cantor (Y) | $458,150.00 | Rangel (Y) | $10,000.00 | Grayson (N) | $10,000.00 | McCarthy (Y) | $401,750.00 | King (Y) | $81,200.00 | Larson (N) | $126,200.00 | Hoyer (Y) | $223,400.00 | Maloney (N) | $64,500.00 | Ellison (N) | $32,200.00 | Ryan (Y) | $115,570.00 | Baley (N) | $10,000.00 | | | | |
The charts and graphs above show many things. The data shows a sample size of seven “YEA’s” and six “NAY’s”. The middle chart from the data from digitaltrends shows the companies that have given their direct or indirect support in the CISPA bill (indirect support meaning through support of a trading group). The companies in bold have voiced their direct support of the bill. The bar graph above it shows the total amount of capital contributed by these companies to the respected congressmen. The total amount of capital contributed for those voting YEA in support from the bill vastly outweighs those who voted for NAY in disapproval of the bill. The total difference in capital from the bill’s supporters to detractors is a substantial $1,158,533.00. The average amount of capital spent for YEA support is $182,679.13 and the average for NAY votes is $50,483.33.

From the sample chart, you can possibly make the inference that X amount of capital translates to a YEA vote, or, in other words, X amount capital translates to Y support for an issue. This is important to our original question, since it shows that not only do constituents mentality and other mentioned factors play into issue restoration and lessening’s, but also that other campaign contributory factors correlate with it as well. This can also be used to answer why some congressmen back off or stay away from certain issues; suppose we have candidate X and X’s major campaign funder, company Z. Z has publicly stated its support for bill Y that is to be voted on in the next weeks. X’s constituents may disapprove of the bill, but X’s major campaign contributor feels another way. Opposing Z’s viewpoints may cost X campaign funding may cost him much need capital to win the next primary election. Hence, it would make sense for X to go with support of an issue; it would most likely hurt X politically more if the opposing candidate outspent him.
Also, these graphs could also explain other relations; for example, if company Z were to support congressmen X in hopes of revival of an issue that hasn’t been politically salient in years. Some examples of this in the modern era could be why no one congressionally has really moved on the issue of prominent bankers getting off with a pass, even with regards to large amounts of evidence and reports that there has been systematic abuse of the financial system. Why haven’t many Congressmen brought this issue up for revival? By studying our graphs and analysis, it shows that many of the banks who were involved, or implicated, in the abuse are also major campaign contributors, such as JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, and most notoriously Bank of America. Even though going after these larger banks may seem like a good idea, since most of the public view the banks today the way most Americans view Piers Morgan, it doesn’t necessarily translate to bringing up the issue to the forefront, since these banks have many hands in play with regards congressionally backed topics. Concluding this analysis, issues are revived and abandoned for many aspects, including the status of constituents, their underlying tensions including specific issues that engage them or even racial factors. The hypothesis conducted that since many scholars and scientists agree with this notion, could the possible campaign funding factor be correlated into answering this question as well? After finalizing results, and after seeing the correlation of the substantial amount of average capital spent by companies in support by congressional support, it would make be clear that issues are abandoned or revived also by congressmen’s lobbied interests backing them as well. These huge corporations, banks, and other lobbying conglomerates can play huge factors in elections, from having issues being in dead water to later being discussed nationally among congressional leaders. Some of what it takes to get issues undertaken, revived, or expanded upon are large start-up movements including the Tea Party or Occupy Wall Street, but another factor that cannot be looked over is the amount of capital spent in support of an issue. If one wanted to further investigate into this, I would suggest looking into the studies of political expenditures from the likes of Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase. After reading into many documents concerning funding of campaigns, I came across their names among the top contributors and many prominent Congressmen. It would be interesting to see how many bills these larger banks of the western world have had their fingerprints on. One example I would mention also with the revival of certain issues would be the gun control debate. Gun control hasn’t been a politically salient issue in years, probably since the 1990s with the LA riots. However, since the incidents at Aurora, Colorado, Newtown, and Tucson, it has been brought back by the current administration at full force. It would make sense that the issue would be revived again since these national days of horror keep happening once a year, and that maybe the White House recognizes constituents want something to be done. However, it has always been known that gun violence in America is and has been a major epidemic when compared to the other developed countries. So since the statistics of gun violence were out there long before the incidents, why the revivals of the gun control issue now? This goes to show that sometimes, not even the most well-known problematic, statistical happening can cause political salience among voters. It took major incidents across the board for issues to be brought back up again. I would also argue that as well as voter mentalities, ideologies, and campaign funding’s, I would recommend further investigation of the role of television and news networks with regards to issue resurgence or salience. For an example, I would mention the 60 Minutes piece from a couple of years ago that put an issue on the forefront, which was that congressmen were being allowed to basically trade stock on information they learn during confidential briefings not available to the public. Afterwards, constituents and subsequently the press were adamant about their questions on why this was being allowed in the first place. Hence, discussions in Washington were held on how to settle this newly revived or unknown issue, which later became known as the STOCK Act, which would prohibit this type of behavior. However, as discussed earlier, it would probably only be a matter of time before the larger banks put their fingerprints on this to make their voices known, whether it is through verbal communication or contributory capital.
So now, we have discussed why all the important factors as to why issues make their mark in American saliency. We have discussed ideological factors, mentality, and status factors. One of the bigger issue forefront bringer, however, as hypothesized, is monetary factors. After conducting sampled analysis and results, it shows that support for issues does correlated well with the amount of capital contributed. Many people believe money speaks volumes in Washington, and this in case of politically salient issues, they certainly have a case.
Highton, Benjamin. 2004. “Policy Voting in Senate Elections: The Case of Abortion”. Political Behavior , Vol. 26, No. 2 (Jun., 2004), pp. 181-200
Owen G. Abbe, Jay Goodliffe, Paul S. Herrnson and Kelly D. Patterson. “Agenda Setting in Congressional Elections: The Impact of Issues and Campaigns on Voting Behavior”. Political Research Quarterly , Vol. 56, No. 4 (Dec., 2003), pp. 419-430.
Daron R. Shaw and Seth C. McKee. 2003. “Suburban Voting in Presidential Elections”. Presidential Studies Quarterly , Vol. 33, No. 1, 2000 Presidential Election (Mar., 2003), pp. 125-144
Branton, Regina. “The Importance of Race and Ethnicity in Congressional Primary Elections”. Political Research Quarterly , Vol. 62, No. 3 (Sep., 2009), pp. 459-473. P. J. Henry and David O. Sears. 2002. “The Symbolic Racism 2000 Scale”. Political Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 2 (Jun., 2002), pp. 253-283.
Jean-François Godbout and Éric Bélanger. 2007. “Economic Voting and Political Sophistication in the United States: A Reassessment”. Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Sep., 2007), pp. 541-554.
Abramowitz, Alan. 2013. The Polarized Public? Emory University. New Jersey. Pearson.
Bibby, John F. 2003. Politics, Parties, and Elections in America. 5th ed. Belmont, California. Wadsworth-Thompson.
Couts, Andrew. 2012. “CISPA SUPPORTERS LIST” Digital Trends.

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