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Journal: Political behavior


Despite growing recognition among journalists and political pundits, the concept of victimhood has been largely ignored in empirical social science research. In this article, we develop a theory about, and use unique nationally-representative survey data to estimate, two manifestations of victimhood: an egocentric one entailing only perceptions of one’s own victimhood, and one focused on blaming “the system.” We find that these manifestations of victimhood cut across partisan, ideological, and sociodemographic lines, suggesting that feelings of victimhood are confined to neither “actual” victims nor those partisans on the losing side of elections. Moreover, both manifestations of victimhood, while related to candidate support and various racial attitudes, prove to be distinct from related psychological constructs, such as (collective) narcissism, system justification, and relative deprivation. Finally, an experiment based on candidate rhetoric demonstrates that some political messaging can make supporters feel like victims, which has consequences for subsequent attitudes and behavior.


This article studies the role of partisanship in American’s willingness to follow government recommendations. I combine survey and behavioral data to examine partisans' vaccination rates during the Bush and Obama administrations. I find that presidential co-partisans are more likely to believe that vaccines are safe and more likely to vaccinate themselves and their children than presidential out-partisans. Depending on the vaccine, presidential co-partisans are 4-10 percentage points more likely to vaccinate than presidential out-partisans. Using causal mediation analysis, I find that this effect is the result of partisans' differing levels of trust in government. This finding sheds light on the far-reaching role of partisanship in Americans' interactions with the federal government.


Should a government repay its international debts even if this imposes severe hardships on its citizens? Drawing on moral psychology, we investigate when people think a government is morally obligated to pay its debts. Participants read about a government that has to decide whether to default on its debt payments or cut vital programs. Across conditions, we varied the number of jobs at stake and whether a full or partial default is required to save them. Overall, most participants judged that a government should pay its debt even when the damage to the debtor is greater than the benefit to the lender. As the damage to the debtor became extreme, participants increasingly said the government should default, but they still judged that defaulting is morally wrong. In Experiment 2, we find in a national sample of Americans that political conservatives were more opposed to default than liberals. We discuss implications for policy, public opinion, and public welfare during economic downturns.


Proponents of public deliberation suggest that engaging in deliberation increases deliberators' subsequent participation in other forms of politics. We evaluate this “deliberative participation hypothesis” using data drawn from a deliberative field experiment in which members of medically underserved communities in Michigan deliberated in small groups about the design of that state’s Medicaid program. Participants were randomly assigned to deliberate about the program in a group or to think about the decision individually, and then completed a post-survey that included measures of willingness to engage in a variety of political acts. We measured willingness to engage in common forms of political participation, as well as willingness to participate in particularistic resistance to adverse decisions by insurance bureaucracies. Contrary to the claims of much of the existing literature, we find no impact of deliberation on willingness to engage in political participation. These results suggest that the ability of public deliberation to increase broader political engagement may be limited or may only occur in particularly intensive, directly empowered forms of public deliberation.