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Updating Prop. 14 and the Death of Minor Parties

Last year I wrote a number of posts about the impact of Prop. 14 on California’s minor parties. These musings ultimately led to an article, which was published in the California Journal of Politics and Policy, about the minor parties’ experience post-Prop. 14  (gated versionrevised, ungated version). Since the June election is now just weeks away, I thought I would update some of the tables and figures with data from this election cycle.

Overall, 2014 is a continuation of the pattern observed in 2012–there are fewer minor party candidates contesting fewer districts this election cycle compared to prior cycles. The 2012 cycle saw a historically low number of minor party candidates–just 17 (compared with 77 in 2010). In 2014, there are only 14 minor party candidates contesting 12 districts. Table 1 shows the number of minor party candidates and the number of districts contested for each of the three types of legislative districts in California. In general, 2014 looks an awful lot like 2012.

2014 Update Table

In my article, I argue that the decline in minor party candidates principally comes from three factors (in order of increasing importance):

  1. Candidates, knowing they were likely not be one of the top two vote getters and therefore would not make the November election, chose not to run.
  2. The Legislature significantly increased the costs of filing for office for minor party candidates after Prop. 14, changing what had been an essentially costless act into a very costly one. As a result, fewer minor party candidates chose to file for office.
  3. Most importantly, party leaders–especially in the Libertarian Party–no longer recruited candidates as they once did in the face of (1) and (2).

I really want to emphasize the importance of #3 in understanding the impact of Prop. 14 on California’s minor parties. Most of the decline between 2010 and 2012, as shown below, was located in the Libertarian Party. (There was a little controversy over the following chart. See here then here.)

2014 UpdateUnlike the other minor parties (with the exception of the Natural Law Party when it existed) the Libertarian Party has historically relied on a centralized candidate recruitment effort. Moreover, as shown below, until the last two election cycles its number of candidates has largely tracked its statewide party registration numbers. In 2012, though, the person responsible for recruiting Libertarian candidates chose not to repeat the effort. In an email exchange with me, the person specifically identified #1 and #2 as reasons for no longer recruiting candidates. (While I haven’t talked with the person this year, I would be very surprised if there was a recruitment effort in 2014.) As a consequence, while the Libertarian Party’s registration numbers have been ticking upward in the state–reaching a modern high in 2014–the number of Libertarian candidates filing for office has collapsed. Only five candidates filed for office this year. The Libertarian Party now looks like the other minor parties in California.

LibUpdate

It wouldn’t be a post about Prop. 14 and minor parties if I didn’t speculate about what these numbers mean for California’s minor parties, so here goes:

There are two primary ways in which California’s minor parties maintain the ballot qualification status. First, one of their candidates receives at least 2 percent of the November vote for a statewide office (e.g., Governor, Lt. Governor, Insurance Commissioner, and Attorney General). Historically, this has been the principal way in which parties have maintained access to the ballot. Given that none of the parties’ candidates will make it to the November election for these offices, none of the parties will maintain their ballot status this way this cycle.

The second way to maintain ballot status is by having 1 percent of the total gubernatorial vote registered as party members. The minor parties are really lucky that the governor’s race is so very boring this year. Turnout is likely to be low, which will make it easier for the parties to stay on the ballot. The magic number after the 2010 contest (which had relatively high turnout–44%!–because of the Brown-Whitman contest) was 103,004 registrants. Given current registration numbers and an assumed turnout rate closer to 2006, the American Independent, Green, and Libertarian parties should be able to maintain their ballot status. The Americans Elect (a failed “third way” party organized for the 2012 presidential election) and the Peace & Freedom parties, however, will likely lose their ballot status.

(The parties can also gather petition signatures equal to 10 percent of the gubernatorial vote in order to stay on the ballot. Given the expense of doing so, though, I don’t see either party trying this route.)

Updated Minor Party Trend Lines

A commenter on the last post asked to see the numbers for minor party participation going further back in time, so here’s the graph showing the percentage of districts contested by each of the minor parties. I don’t think the argument changes much–while the 2000 election cycle appears to be a modern high for Libertarian Party participation, the decline still predates Prop. 14. Moreover, the other minor parties (with the exception of the Natural Law Party) have always been down in the low teens at best.

What the chart does offer that is new is another possible culprit for the decline in minor party participation–the 2000-2001 redistricting. This redistricting was incredible. Every incumbent was made safe–so much so that hardly any districts changed partisan hands between 2002 and 2012. Only one congressional district (CA-11, which includes Pacific) switched parties. Perhaps the redistricting so ensured Republican and Democratic dominance within their respective districts that the Libertarian Party found it increasingly difficult to recruit candidates. It’s worth exploring more.

Prop. 14 and California’s Minor Parties

I’m working on a project about the impact of Prop. 14 on California‘s minor parties (American Independent, Green, Libertarian, and Peace and Freedom), and I thought I would get some of it up even though it is incomplete.[1]

The conventional wisdom is that by making California’s electoral system a majority-runoff system, where only the top two candidates appear on the general election ballot, California’s minor parties would have a much harder time (a) recruiting candidates to run for office and (b) maintaining their qualified ballot status. Richard Winger, of Ballot Access News, looking at the data for 2012, concludes that Prop. 14 has had exactly this effect: “Proposition 14 makes it virtually impossible for minor party members to participate in the general election, so many candidates decided not to file.”

In this post I want to examine this claim–that Prop. 14 will/has lead to fewer minor party candidates running for office. (I’ll have some thoughts on the second claim–it will be harder to maintain ballot status–in the future.) What I hope to show here is that (a) the number of minor party candidates in California has been declining for a while and that (b) almost all of the decline comes from the Libertarian Party.

If we look at the number of districts contested by minor parties in 2010 and 2012, then it appears that Prop. 14 has had an effect on minor party participation. The following table shows a significant drop-off in the number and percentage of districts contested by minor parties by legislative district type (Assembly, State Senate, and House of Representatives). In 2010, minor parties candidates ran in 39 percent of all California legislative districts. In 2012, these candidates ran in just 8 percent of the districts.

Pretty big effect, right? Well, as you could probably guess, no. It turns out that minor party participation in California elections has been declining for some time now. The figure below shows the percentage of each district type contested by minor parties stretching back to 2000. As is pretty clear, except for the 2010 elections, there has been a steady decline in minor party participation. In 2000, California’s minor parties contested every congressional district (CD in the figure) race, about 85 percent of the State Senate districts (SD), and about 75 percent of the Assembly districts (AD). Each successive year, with the exception of 2010, saw an erosion in those numbers.

If we break out each of California’s minor parties, it becomes clear that this decline is concentrated almost exclusively in California’s Libertarian Party. Most of California’s minor parties actually have very few candidates contesting elections each cycle. With the exception of the Natural Law Party, which disappeared from California elections after 2002, only the Libertarian Party has ever fielded a large slate of candidates. The American Independent Party usually only runs two or three candidates across all of California’s legislative districts per election (although in 2010 it had nine) and the Peace and Freedom Party and the Green Party each average about ten contests per election.

Moreover, as shown below, the decline in Libertarian participation is pretty consistent across the different district types. Each saw a slight up-tick in 2010, but the 2012 numbers are fairly good extrapolations of the 2000-2008 participation trends. You can draw a pretty straight, downward sloping line through each of these time-series.

I should note, too, that this decline is not a function of the number of Libertarian Party registrants, which (a) has averaged about 89,000 people over this period and (b) has increased slightly over the last two election cycles. Also, if the number of candidates contesting elections is a function of party registration numbers, then we ought to expect the American Independent Party, which has seven times as many registrants, to consistently run more candidates than the Libertarian Party. As shown in the previous graph, it clearly does not.

Again, the main points to take away from all of these graphs is that the decline in minor party participation in California elections (a) began well before Prop. 14 was passed–and therefore can’t be the result of Prop. 14–and (b) is largely concentrated in the Libertarian Party.

So why the overall decline in the Libertarian Party and why did it experience a small up-tick in 2010? I am currently exploring these issues, but in their book Three’s a Crowd, political scientists Ronald B. Rapoport and Walter J. Stone offer some potential insight into the (mostly) ebb and flow of the party’s ability to contest elections. Rapoport and Stone argue for a “push-pull” model of minor party success. Minor parties succeed when voters are pushed away from the major parties because they are (a) dissatisfied either with its policies or its candidates or (b) when they do not perceive enough distinction between the Democratic and Republican parties. At the same time, voters are pulled toward minor parties when they view the parties as positive alternatives to the two major parties. Minor parties disappear over time, though, as the major parties co-opt their issue positions in order to win elections.

Using this model, then, we might guess that would-be candidates choose to run as Libertarians when they are dissatisfied with the Republican Party and when the Libertarian Party offers a viable, and perhaps exciting alternative. As the California Republican Party, and the Republican Party more generally, has moved to the right on fiscal issues–co-opting policy positions of the Libertarian Party–perhaps would-be candidates have become more satisfied with the options it presents. Thus the decline over time.

The up-tick is likely due to the Tea Party movement, which was at its peak in 2010. A significant part of the movement was dissatisfaction with the Republican Party establishment, as was a general commitment to fiscal conservatism. Perhaps in such an environment the Libertarian Party offered would-be candidates an attractive alternative to running as a Republican. Now that the Tea Party is a major (if not the dominant) faction within the Republican Party, the Libertarian Party is not as attractive to would-be candidates.

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[1] Yes, I know the Americans Elect party/nonparty has qualified for the California ballot, but they are/were only interested in the presidential contest. These other parties have (a) been around much longer and (b) have contested a number of legislative races. Also, the Reform Party and the Natural Law Party were qualified parties in California at the beginning of the 2000’s. They have since disappeared from politics, however.

Educating voters about voting by mail

April 16, 2012 1 comment

In 2008, in partnership with the San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters, a group of faculty from a variety of programs at Pacific designed and executed a voter education campaign. The education campaign had three primary goals: (1) to reduce voter induced error in elections (e.g., improperly marking a ballot), (2) to reduce polling-place induced error in elections (e.g., improperly enforcing regulations), and (3) increasing voter awareness and positive perceptions of voting by mail.

At this year’s Midwest Political Science Association meeting, Prof. Dari Sylvester and I presented an analysis of the campaign’s effects relative to this last goal. The main question was, did knowledge about and positive perceptions of voting by mail increase as a result of the education campaign?

To assess these impacts, we relied on three waves (in May, July, and November) of random telephone surveys of registered voters conducted as part of the broader project. The surveys asked respondents four questions of interest:

  1. Who can vote by mail?
  2. How does one sign up for permanent vote by mail?
  3. Are there any advantages to voting by mail? Respondents were prompted to provide up to three advantages.
  4. Are there any disadvantages to voting by mail? Again, respondents were prompted to provide up to three responses.

Using these questions  we constructed four variables:

  1. Who: The respondent correctly identified who could vote by mail (everyone)
  2. How: The respondent correctly identified how to sign up for permanent vote by mail (a variety of ways)
  3. Convenience: The respondent identified convenience as an advantage to voting by mail
  4. Net advantages: The number of advantages identified by the respondent minus the number of disadvantages

The table below presents the change in each of these variables over the three survey waves.

There are a couple of important points that come out of this table. First, people already know a lot about voting by mail. Generally, we expect between 10 to 30 percent of respondents to answer recall questions like these correctly. Here, roughly two-thirds of respondents were able to answer these questions correctly and thought of voting by mail as convenient–even before the education campaign began. As such, there wasn’t a whole lot of educating to do about vote by mail.

Second, while we can identify some statistically significant increases in voter knowledge and perceptions over the course of the education campaign, the effects are relatively small. In part, this is because of the relatively high starting values for each variable. At the same time, though, it is also because relatively few people reported exposure to the campaign in the surveys (and many of those that did report exposure likely weren’t exposed to it). Given the limited reach of the campaign, there was very little educating that could be done–even if people didn’t already know a lot.

Sex, Drugs, and Genital Photos: Does Character Count in Political Elections?

November 29, 2011 20 comments
English: New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer...

Image via Wikipedia

Though we publicly eviscerate politicians who engage in extramarital affairs, hire prostitutes, or send photos of their genitalia, we remained glued to the screen when such news flashes across the computer or t.v.  Former frontrunner Cain is now reconsidering whether to continue his push for the Republican party nomination after a set of damaging accusations of harassment and infidelity were revealed.  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/30/us/politics/herman-cain-may-quit-after-affair-and-harassment-accusations.html.

This summer, Rep. Anthony Weiner resigned his office after finally admitting he had sent photographs of his genitals to a number of women and he has been laying low since.  On the contrary, Eliot Spitzer scored a spot as a political commentator for CNN in the aftermath of his resignation from the governorship of NY — after it was revealed that he had hired the services of prostitutes illegally.

In 1998, President Clinton was impeached (though not removed), when the House found him guilty of lying under oath about an affair he had with his intern.

Does questionably moral private behavior impinge on one’s ability to conduct his or her professional office?  Can one cheat on one’s wife without necessarily “cheating” his constituents?

What do Americans think?  In other words, what is the real impact of private scandal on voter preferences for candidates?  In the minds of Americans, does character count?

Scholars have only begun to wrap their brains around the first question.  For instance, political scientists Maule and Goidel conducted an experiment to determine what variables influence reactions to a variety of political scandals (Maule and Goidel 2003).  Interestingly, the sex of the officeholder had a role in determining individual reactions to scandal, though the type of scandal and individual acceptance of gender stereotypes did as well.

But what if you’re the unfortunate politician who’s been accused of scandalous wrongdoing?  When accused of a scandal, what is the most effective political strategy an official can take?  Deny?  Confirm?  Sigal et al. (1988) experimentally tested atttitudes toward fictitious candidates who denied or apologized for either sexual or financial misconduct.  Their findings indicated that individuals were more likely to vote for the candidates who denied misconduct rather than apologized for it.

At the end of the day at the voting booth, we’ll all need to answer the normative question about whether character should count.  Regardless, the next year promises to be a scandal-filled and glorious presidential race.

Dan O’Neill Goes All Tom Cruise in Seattle

September 6, 2011 2 comments

University of the Pacific Political Science and International Studies Professor Daniel O’Neill also participated in the recent Seattle meetings of the American Political Science Association.  He delivered a paper “Risky Business: China‘s Foreign Direct Investment and Aid to Developing Countries.”

Here’s the abstract for the paper:

Foreign direct investment (FDI) from China is increasingly destined for developing states with high corruption, weak rule of law and substantial political risk. To explain the ability of China’s state owned enterprises (SOEs) to invest successfully in such environments, I present a theory of how Chinese bilateral policies, particularly foreign aid, shape incentives for the leadership in the receiving country that constrain predatory behavior against Chinese SOEs. This creates a de facto insurance for Chinese investors in foreign states lacking the institutions shown to protect investments. Case studies of Chinese SOEs in Cambodia and Kazakhstan support the hypotheses. A main contribution of this study is in analyzing the effects of the policies of home (FDI source) country governments on outward foreign direct investment.

Chelsea Kelleher is the Pacific Political Science 2011 Outstanding Graduate

May 6, 2011 Leave a comment

Chelsea Kelleher is the University of the Pacific Political Science Department’s 2011 Outstanding Graduate.  She will graduate on Saturday, May 7,  magna cum laude, completing minors in English and Art History as well as her major in Political Science.  She is a member of Pi Sigma Alpha, the political science honor society.  As a member of the University of the Pacific Speech and Debate team during her first three years at Pacific, Chelsea was a nationally ranked competitor and earned as she says, “about a kajillion trophies.”  Chelsea has worked with Jeff Becker as a writing mentor in several of our Writing in the Disciplines courses.  The department faculty are especially proud that Chelsea has developed a keen interest in public policy research.  A project she conducted under Keith Smith’s direction on the impact of certain housing policies on crime rates in Stockton garnered her an award at the recent PURCC for outstanding oral presentation.  Following graduation Chelsea will accept a research internship at the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco.  She also plans to do graduate work in public policy, ideally at UC – Berkeley.  Chelsea is the daughter of immigrants from Ireland and she is especially proud that she will be the first member of the US-branch of her family to earn a bachelor’s degree.

Kelleher Takes Top Prize at 2011 PURCC

Graduating senior Chelsea Kelleher recently took home the top prize for oral presentations at the 2011 Pacific Undergraduate Research and Creativity Conference. She was up against 23 other students from a variety of disciplines. Congrats Chelsea!

Here’s the abstract of her paper, which she completed as an independent research project under the direction of Prof. Keith Smith:

Is there a relationship between crime and Section 8 housing? In 2008, Atlantic Monthly journalist Hanna Rosin published an article investigating the relationship between high crime rates in the Memphis area and newly formed clusters of Section 8 recipients. She argues that the Section 8 program is responsible for the rise in crime rates for Memphis, Tennessee, and extends this conclusion to the rest of the United States, implicating a host of popular affordable housing programs as well. Housing advocates and policy makers were quick to respond to these allegations, arguing that Rosin had established no causal link between Section 8 and crime, and that her findings could not be verified for the country as a whole. This paper seeks to test the hypothesis that the presence of Section 8 housing increases crime rates in an area. To do this I use a controlled comparison of crime rates in six Stockton neighborhoods in 2009, using three pairs of neighborhoods matched by similar demographic characteristics. Drawing from crime statistics from the Stockton Police Department, I then examine their crime rates in comparison to their matches, before finally drawing a conclusion. The results reveal that there is insufficient evidence to state that there is a relationship between Section 8 and crime; while areas with higher poverty rates tended to experience more crime, whether or not they accepted Section 8 did not make a difference.

Pacific@MPSA: English for the children?

Ed. note: This is the third in our series of entries about presentations by people associated with the department at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings. Today’s entry is especially exciting as it is from Ms. Julia Sweeney, one of our students. Ms. Sweeney presented a poster about her project evaluating the impact of Prop. 227 in California. Be sure to check out the photo at the end.

In 1998, California voters approved Proposition 227, “English for the Children”. This ballot initiative promoted an English-only approach to teaching English Second Language (ESL) learners. The impact of ESL policy in California is great, as 23.7% of the California public school population is classified as ESL (cde.gov). This project assesses the impact of that English-only proposition on the success of ESL students in each California school district.

The implementation of Proposition 227 varied immensely throughout the state. Some districts drastically changed their services from providing primary language support to English-only; some districts continued primary language support; and some districts provided the same English-only services before and after Prop. 227. Due to the differences in impact Prop.227 had throughout the state, this project analyzed the relationship between services provided within a district and ESL test scores, assuming that Prop. 227 influenced an overall increase in English-only methods and decrease in primary language support.

The literature discusses the importance of embracing an ESL student’s primary language, stating that ESL students can fall behind academically if they don’t learn the basic skills being taught in English. If a student enters the first grade and spends that year focusing on learning “Survivor English” (the very basic English communication skills) and does not comprehend the academic content being taught, by the time that student understands academic English, they have missed the foundation for their academic content. The research in this area also stresses that academic skills established in a primary language are transferable once the student better understands English. For these reasons I predicted to see a negative relationship between English-only instruction and ESL test scores. As the percentage of students in a district receiving no primary language services increased, I predicted to see a decrease in the percentage of students in a district testing at a proficient level.

Using the data from the California Department of Education website on school instructional services, ESL populations within a district, and California English Language Development Test (CELDT) scores, I analyzed a cross section time series. Although the results initially have shown an insignificant relationship, the proponents of Proposition 227 were incorrect to say that English-only services would improve test scores and raise ESL student success.

After receiving feedback at the Midwest Political Science Association Conference last weekend, I plan to expand this project to include other test scores and more quantitative analysis for my senior political science capstone presentation at the end of April.

Ed. note: This is the second of several entries on our faculty’s presentations at the recent Midwestern Political Science Association annual meetings in Chicago, IL. Prof. Susan Sample presented her paper, “From Territorial Dispute to War:  Timing, Causation, and the Steps-to-War.”

Dari Sylvster Contributes Chapter to New Book

February 4, 2010 Leave a comment

CQ Press: Book: The Electoral Challenge: Theory Meets Practice, 2nd Edition, Stephen C. Craig , David B. Hill
The Pacific Political Science Department’s own Dari E. Sylvester (and co-authors Michael T. Heaney and Matthew Newman) will have a chapter called “Campaigning on the Internet” in the 2nd edition of The Electoral Challenge: Theory Meets Practice, edited by Stephen C. Craig and David B. Hill.
The book will be available in August, just in time for use in courses on campaigns and elections.  You can preorder a copy of this must-read book here.

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