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Where are the quokkas? New study explains what happened to

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Australia, recently devastated by severe wildfires, is no stranger to the consequences of climate change, habitat destruction and invasive species.

The quokka, a small marsupial native to Australia, is one such example of a species vulnerable to extinction in the country’s harsh surroundings. Known as the “happiest animal in the world” due to its cute and friendly appearance, these creatures are now only found in a few isolated forests and small islands.

In a new study, published this month in the Journal of Zoology, researchers at Vanderbilt University demonstrate evidence that invasive species, most notably foxes, were likely responsible for the dramatic decline of quokkas over the past century. 

Quokka on a table. (Larisa DeSantis, Vanderbilt University)

“Australia has experienced catastrophic losses due to warming temperatures, drought, and the combination of these effects on resident animals,” said Larisa DeSantis, senior author and Associate Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Vanderbilt.  “The iconic wildlife Australia is best known for, evolved largely in isolation and has been in decline since Europeans introduced foxes, rabbits, goats, and other animals that have preyed upon and/or competed with native animals for food and water.” 

Until now, the reason for the decline in the quokka population was unclear. Some studies attributed the decline to climatic and vegetative change, while others have pointed to overhunting and/or the introduction of non-native species. 

To study the ecology of these mammals, DeSantis and undergraduate student Elinor Scholtz, the lead author of the study, examined the teeth of fossil and modern quokka specimens. By molding and drilling their teeth, they were able to determine the types of plants consumed and attributes about their habitat—through time and between mainland and island populations.

“Piecing together the ecological history of the quokka helped us better understand why they are an isolated and vulnerable species today,” said Scholtz. “We learned that quokkas on mainland Australia today occupy denser forests than in the past, likely to avoid predation by foxes.  In contrast, quokkas typically live in more open habitats and feed on tougher vegetation on islands that lack foxes.”

While they occur in high numbers on Rottnest Island, an island that foxes were unable to occupy, numerous quokkas die on Rottnest Island every summer due to the lack of sufficient freshwater—with mortality only expected to increase with warmer temperatures and more frequent droughts.The destruction caused by brushfires in Stirling Range in Western Australia has also made these ‘vulnerable’ animals even more prone to extinction.

“To put this all in perspective, the entire geographic range of quokkas is only a fraction of the size of the forests that were completely decimated from fires during one year in Australia,” said DeSantis.  “We are essentially playing roulette with native species in Australia, and the odds are stacked against quokkas and many other native animals in the face of invasive species, fires, and the current climate crisis.”

The research is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation and funding from Vanderbilt University.

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How even school lunches can become a partisan issue | Vanderbilt News

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Even a seemingly uncontroversial topic can become politicized when the person advocating for it is a polarizing figure, finds Cindy Kam, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Political Science and director of the Research on Individuals, Politics and Society Lab, in new research.

The study, “And Why is That a Partisan Issue?” Source Cues, Persuasion and School Lunches, appears in the Journal of Politics.

“I was puzzled by the debate about whether school lunches should be more nutritious, because children’s nutrition should seemingly be a valence issue,” said Kam. “That is, making school lunches healthier seems like something everyone would support, regardless of their political beliefs.”

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Cindy Kam, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science, College of Arts and Science (Vanderbilt University)

The reason for the divide, Kam suspected, may have been that the chief advocate—the source cue—of improved school nutrition at the time was First Lady Michelle Obama, who was very popular among Democrats and very unpopular among Republicans.

She tested the theory by designing a survey experiment delivered to a nationally representative cross-section of Americans. Each participant received a 250-word article about that highlighted the issue of childhood obesity, implicated school lunches as a significant cause and proposed tighter nutritional standards for school lunches as a remedy. All three articles said the same thing except for one small variation: the source advocating the policy. One-third of the survey respondents were informed that Michelle Obama was proposing these tighter nutritional standards, another third were told the proposal was from the U.S. military and a final third were told that proposal came from scientific experts.

Overall, support for improving school lunch nutrition was highest when the proposals were attributed to the U.S. military and scientific experts and lowest when Michelle Obama was tied to the proposal.

Political preferences mattered too: Support for tighter nutrition standards was highest among strong Democrats, averaging around 95 percent regardless of its source. However, support trended steadily downward the more conservative respondents got, with the lowest support found among strong Republicans, regardless of source.

Source cues began to matter more the more conservative respondents got, as well. Among the most conservative respondents—the strong Republicans—60 percent supported tighter nutritional standards when the source cue was the U.S. military and 56 supported it when the source was scientific experts, while only 33 percent supported it when the proposal was attributed to Michelle Obama.

Because of Michelle Obama’s role as the nation’s first African American first lady, Kam also tested respondents to see if their attitudes were influenced by her race and/or gender. She found that racism reduced support somewhat—about 10 percentage points—for the proposal regardless of who the source was. However, sexism had a profound effect on support, reducing it by as much as 45 percentage points in the military group, 60 percentage points in the scientific experts group and 90 percentage points in the Michelle Obama group.

“I was really struck by how many people honed in on the messenger over the message.”

Finally, Kam asked all respondents to reflect on what they recalled from the proposal they’d just read. The open-endedness of the question gave Kam a glimpse into not only what they remembered but what they thought about it. “I was really struck by how many people honed in on the messenger over the message, even though the messenger took up only 3 percent of the words in the article,” she said. Thirty-five percent in the Michelle Obama group mentioned her name, while 45 percent in the military group mentioned the military and 11 percent in the scientific experts group mentioned scientists.

“Source cues matter, even on seemingly uncontroversial topics,” Kam said. “We know that there are many complicated political issues that are easily framed and attributed to different sides. We also know that people take cues to simplify their understanding of complicated issues and to decide where to stand on the issue.  My study shows that cue-taking extends even to a seemingly uncontroversial issue with which many people have first-hand experience. Although cues give us information shortcuts, they also divide us—even on issues where we might otherwise agree.”

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Researchers say this simple trick could stop the spread of misinformation on social media | Vanderbilt News

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Woman with laptop looks upward, considering her options.
(Getty Images)

The proliferation of false news stories is a big problem in social media, but there may be a very simple remedy, according to a new Vanderbilt University study published in Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review.

headshot of Professor Lisa Fazio
Lisa Fazio (Vanderbilt University)

For most people, clicking “share” happens almost involuntarily, especially when a headline triggers an emotional response or reinforces something they already believe, says Lisa Fazio, an expert on how the brain processes truth and misinformation. She conducted a study to see if asking people to explain why a headline is true or false affected their intention of sharing it on social media.

In the online experiment, 501 participants were presented a series of headlines and some were asked to pause to consider why they believed the headline was true or false before deciding if they would share it. Fazio found that taking this pause significantly reduced the participants’ intention to share false headlines, and did not affect their intention to share the true headlines.

“People may initially be willing to share false information, but with a pause, they are better able to resist that tendency.”
–Lisa Fazio

“Taking that pause likely helped participants consult their prior knowledge and realize that the false headlines were incorrect,” said Fazio, assistant professor of psychology and human development at Vanderbilt Peabody College of education and human development. “It also may have slowed people down and encouraged them to think more deeply about their actions rather than simply relying on their gut instinct.”

Prior research shows that providing an explanation helps people realize gaps between their perceived knowledge and actual knowledge, and improves learning in classroom settings. Instagram implemented the concept recently when it began prompting users, “Are you sure you want to post this?” when a post contains potentially bullying comments. Fazio believes that a similar prompt could help decrease shares of false information on social media.

“We suggest that social media companies should encourage these pauses to help people to consider the accuracy and quality of what they are posting,” she said. “People may initially be willing to share false information, but with a pause, they are better able to resist that tendency.”

She adds that users can also commit to share content responsibly. “Individuals can implement this on their own by pausing to think about the truth of a story before sharing it with others,” she said.

Read the article “Reducing shares of false news stories: “Pausing to consider why a headline is true or false can help reduce the sharing of false news.”

This research was funded by a gift from Facebook Research.

Follow Fazio on Twitter at @lkfazio.



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Meals combat: How a group in Mexico used meals to withstand the Aztec empire | Vanderbilt Information

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Impressed by an historic individuals’s use of meals to withstand defeat, PhD scholar Keitlyn Alcantara now makes use of meals to withstand cultural loss amongst Latin American center schoolers in Nashville.

Historical meals traditions

As a bioarchaeologist, Alcantara research how Tlaxcallan, an historic metropolis in Mexico, was in a position to withstand the dominant energy of the Aztec empire. Alcantara has found that meals was key.

“Components are a part of recipes and recipes are a part of tradition and group,” stated Alcantara.

With Tlaxcalla’s location on a significant commerce route, one would anticipate finding proof of quite a lot of items introduced in from as distant because the gulf coast. As a substitute, nevertheless, Alcantara has discovered proof that Aztecs financial blockades might have restricted their entry to commerce.

In Vanderbilt’s Secure Isotope Lab within the Division of Anthropology, Alcantara examines the isotopic make-up of archeological samples of bone and tooth to find out the diets of those historic individuals. The findings counsel that Tlaxcalla diets have been excessive in C4 meals and low within the isotope 15N.

Alcantara’s isotope analysis illuminates basic tendencies, however by oral histories she has been in a position to develop the that means behind these tendencies. It appears seemingly that the C4 food plan signifies meals of corn, amaranth, chia and cacti (all regionally grown merchandise). Low N15 values present an absence of seafood or different gulf coast merchandise.

An understanding of native components and shared foodways allowed Tlaxcallan to take care of independence. Reasonably than changing into economically strangled by Aztec enlargement into surrounding areas, Tlaxcallan relied on native meals and group knowledge to outlive.

Tlaxcala right now

At present Tlaxcala continues to exemplify this decided loyalty towards conventional meals methods. Regardless of being the smallest state in Mexico, Tlaxcala is dwelling to the widest variety heirloom corn. Many grassroots organizations have refused to offer into the political and financial push to specialize and mass produce. As a substitute, annual corn festivals and weekly farmers markets, such because the Mercado Alternativo de Tlaxcala, encourage residents to share data, have a good time traditions and construct group.

“Speaking to the group members of Tlaxcala provides me a mannequin of group motion that emphasizes the facility of coming collectively,” stated Alcantara.

Constructing group in Nashville

Impressed by Tlaxcala’s instance of resistance and group, Alcantara based Sazón Nashville to help children in sustaining their Latin American heritage. Sazón’s aim is to empower native center faculty college students to discover the experiences, recollections, traditions and identities that make them distinctive as a Nashville Latinx group.

For Alcantara, who skilled firsthand the cultural loneliness of rising up Mexican-American, “I bought to heal lots of the sentiments of being unnoticed, or placelessness that I felt as a child by meals. Although cooking collectively and sharing meals, significantly when everybody had completely different origin tales, we might unite across the thought of making group.”

Given the current local weather surrounding immigration, Alcantara has discovered that now it’s extra necessary than ever to assist younger college students hook up with their heritage. “Preserving cultural traditions alive reminds you that you’re a part of one thing larger and that you just’ve bought a complete group of ancestors whose experiences you possibly can flip to to make sense of the world.”

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Meals battle: How a neighborhood in Mexico used meals to withstand the Aztec empire | Vanderbilt Information

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Impressed by an historic individuals’s use of meals to withstand defeat, PhD pupil Keitlyn Alcantara now makes use of meals to withstand cultural loss amongst Latin American center schoolers in Nashville.

Historical meals traditions

As a bioarchaeologist, Alcantara research how Tlaxcallan, an historic metropolis in Mexico, was ready to withstand the dominant energy of the Aztec empire. Alcantara has found that meals was key.

“Elements are a part of recipes and recipes are a part of tradition and neighborhood,” mentioned Alcantara.

With Tlaxcalla’s location on a significant commerce route, one would look forward to finding proof of quite a lot of items introduced in from as far-off because the gulf coast. As an alternative, nonetheless, Alcantara has discovered proof that Aztecs financial blockades could have restricted their entry to commerce.

In Vanderbilt’s Steady Isotope Lab within the Division of Anthropology, Alcantara examines the isotopic make-up of archeological samples of bone and enamel to find out the diets of those historic individuals. The findings recommend that Tlaxcalla diets have been excessive in C4 meals and low within the isotope 15N.

Alcantara’s isotope analysis illuminates normal tendencies, however by oral histories she has been capable of increase the which means behind these tendencies. It appears possible that the C4 food regimen signifies meals of corn, amaranth, chia and cacti (all domestically grown merchandise). Low N15 values present an absence of seafood or different gulf coast merchandise.

An understanding of native components and shared foodways allowed Tlaxcallan to keep up independence. Reasonably than changing into economically strangled by Aztec enlargement into surrounding areas, Tlaxcallan relied on native meals and neighborhood knowledge to outlive.

Tlaxcala as we speak

Right now Tlaxcala continues to exemplify this decided loyalty towards conventional meals methods. Regardless of being the smallest state in Mexico, Tlaxcala is house to the widest variety heirloom corn. Many grassroots organizations have refused to provide into the political and financial push to specialize and mass produce. As an alternative, annual corn festivals and weekly farmers markets, such because the Mercado Alternativo de Tlaxcala, encourage residents to share data, rejoice traditions and construct neighborhood.

“Speaking to the neighborhood members of Tlaxcala offers me a mannequin of neighborhood motion that emphasizes the ability of coming collectively,” mentioned Alcantara.

Constructing neighborhood in Nashville

Impressed by Tlaxcala’s instance of resistance and neighborhood, Alcantara based Sazón Nashville to help children in sustaining their Latin American heritage. Sazón’s objective is to empower native center faculty college students to discover the experiences, recollections, traditions and identities that make them distinctive as a Nashville Latinx neighborhood.

For Alcantara, who skilled firsthand the cultural loneliness of rising up Mexican-American, “I acquired to heal lots of the sentiments of being disregarded, or placelessness that I felt as a child by meals. Although cooking collectively and sharing meals, notably when everybody had completely different origin tales, we may unite across the thought of making neighborhood.”

Given the latest local weather surrounding immigration, Alcantara has discovered that now it’s extra necessary than ever to assist younger college students connect with their heritage. “Retaining cultural traditions alive reminds you that you’re a part of one thing greater and that you simply’ve acquired a complete neighborhood of ancestors whose experiences you’ll be able to flip to to make sense of the world.”

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How peer stress does—and doesn’t—affect our decisions | Vanderbilt Information

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It’s a well-known situation: You exit to eat with a buddy, and she or he orders a Caesar salad. Your buddy’s selection evokes you to order a salad, too—solely you resolve to combine issues up a bit of and select a chef salad as an alternative. This situation sits on the middle of a persistent advertising puzzle: Why are we extra prone to copy our pals in sure domains however not in others?

A brand new principle developed by Kelly Haws, Anne Marie and Thomas B. Walker, Jr. Professor of Advertising at Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate College of Administration, means that we are likely to wish to match traits that may be measured or ranked, comparable to measurement or worth, however be happy to diverge on traits that may’t, comparable to taste or form. And we do that to keep away from awkwardness.

Her findings are reported in Conscious Matching: Ordinal Versus Nominal Attributes, forthcoming within the Journal of Advertising Analysis. Peggy Liu of the College of Pittsburgh and Brent McFerran of Simon Fraser College are her co-authors.

By way of a collection of 11 experiments, Haws and her co-authors explored numerous nuances that govern these choices. Whereas they targeted on meals decisions, additionally they checked out a charitable giving situation to check whether or not their findings may prolong to different decision-making areas.

Broadly talking, we are likely to match the alternatives of others alongside ordinal traces. These may be numerical traits comparable to measurement, worth or quantity, but additionally extra summary value-based ideas like perceived healthiness, status or authenticity.

“Ordinal attributes are ones through which we imagine on the whole that there’s a selected order through which they exist,” Haws mentioned. “So in different phrases, one is healthier than one other.”

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Kelly Haws (Vanderbilt College)

We don’t really feel the identical stress to match what the researchers name nominal attributes. These are subjective traits, comparable to form or taste. Within the donation experiment, the charity selection served because the nominal attribute, and the researchers discovered that the identical impact—matching donation quantities however not charities—persevered.

Moreover, Haws and her co-authors discovered that we didn’t simply match our pals’ ordinal decisions, we matched retailer workers’, too. When requested, individuals who selected to match mentioned their choices have been pushed by a need to keep away from social discomfort.

“For those who order a double-scoop ice cream cone, I would infer that that is an event the place we’re celebrating or indulging collectively,” Haws mentioned. “However for those who order a single-scoop ice cream cone, I would as an alternative assume, ‘Nicely we’re having fun with a deal with, however we don’t wish to get too carried away with it.’ And that is an occasion the place I’m going to go for the smaller measurement. It’s a lot much less snug to mismatch on that dimension.”

Haws mentioned her findings can assist managers make higher choices about how you can form customers’ decisions by retailer signage, worker interactions and different cues. “There are various totally different areas through which these underlying nominal-versus-ordinal attributes may play out within the market.”

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Public choices can strengthen society: Vanderbilt legislation professor | Vanderbilt Information

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Sturdy public choices for retirement, banking, baby care and different broadly helpful providers – past well being care – would place extra Individuals to take part equally in society, argues Vanderbilt legislation professor Ganesh Sitaraman in his new guide, The Public Possibility.

Public choices are authorities supplied items or providers which can be common and inexpensive and that coexist with personal options. “Now we have had public choices throughout us for generations—from public faculties to public swimming swimming pools—we simply don’t consider them that approach,” mentioned Sitaraman. “Public choices have all the time been a strong method to increase alternative and improve equality, whereas retaining area for competitors and markets.”

Coauthored with Yale legislation professor Anne Alstott, the guide presents an in depth examination of public choices, previous and current, in addition to proposals for different domains the place a public choice might deal with essential gaps, comparable to baby care.

Sitaraman mentioned that we have a tendency to think about public choices as options to market failures—packages the federal government implements to make sure equal entry for everybody. However he added that they will additionally promote wholesome competitors in areas the place restricted personal choices can be found.

“In a few quarter of rural America, there isn’t moderate-speed web,” Sitaraman mentioned, “and in an enormous a part of the nation there’s no competitors in terms of high-speed web.” Utilizing the profitable instance of Chattanooga, Tenn., Sitaraman and Alstott suggest a public choice for broadband, arguing that it could add competitors, enhance entry and assist native companies.

Along with well being care, public choices already being mentioned by policymakers embrace expanded faculty tuition financing and a revival of banking by way of the Publish Workplace.

“Public choices present a method to navigate between our curiosity and dedication to markets and competitors and our want for larger equality and freedom within the nation,” he mentioned. “They permit us to attain each of this stuff on the identical time and I feel that’s why they’re so compelling at present.”

Sitaraman is Chancellor College Fellow, professor of legislation, and director of the Program on Legislation and Authorities at Vanderbilt.

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High standards of female songbirds could be driving their mates to evolve | Vanderbilt News

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Hearing longer love songs from songbirds in your backyard? Chalk it up to sexual preference – and high standards.

New research on songbirds from Biological Sciences researchers at Vanderbilt suggests that females, who are choosing males with the most elaborate songs as their potential partners, are influencing male songbirds to evolve toward learning (and practicing) songs throughout their lives – an evolutionary occurrence previously believed to be mainly a result of changes in a bird’s environment, breeding season, or migration. 

The paper, published this week in the journal eLife by Vanderbilt Biological Sciences professor Nicole Creanza and graduate students Cristina Robinson and Kate Snyder, is the first study to demonstrate that songs, which are sexually selected, coevolve with how long the birds can learn, and may even drive evolutionary changes in birds’ brains. 

“We were curious as to why some birds learn throughout their lives and why others only learn when they’re juveniles,“ said Creanza. “Researchers have thought about this question for a while, but usually linked their findings back to those other environmental aspects of the birds’ lives. We had a hypothesis that sexual preference for songs could also be a factor.”

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Nicole Creanza (Vanderbilt University)

Song, a learned vocal behavior in songbirds that develops in a similar way to how humans learn language, is a relatively rare feature in the animal kingdom. It serves multiple purposes for birds, helping them recognize their own species, defend their territory and attract mates. While some songbirds continue to learn their songs throughout their entire lives, many species are finished learning by the time they reach sexual maturity – just as we humans learn more easily during our formative years.

The team compiled data on 67 different songbird species as part of their study, and compared various factors for each song including overall length of songs and their “vocabulary size” – or number of different syllables that each species can sing.

According to Creanza and her team, the findings demonstrate a link between how songs sound and how birds learn them. This could change the way scientists think about lifelong learning in birds. It could also hold significant implications for how we think about lifelong learning in other species – even humans. 

“As we learn more about these time-windows for learning in birds and what causes them to evolve and lengthen, we may be able to apply those findings to how and why human learning windows may have evolved over time. One day, if researchers understand what happens in the brain when a bird maintains its ability to learn, it might shed new light on how to help the brain repair itself in humans.” 

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When legislatures can and may’t examine government powers | Vanderbilt Information

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Sharece Thrower (Vanderbilt College)

A persistent puzzle amongst political scientists is the counterintuitive discovering that chief executives train their unilateral powers to realize their coverage targets much less typically beneath divided authorities—no more.

A brand new empirical evaluation just lately printed in Legislative Research Quarterly by Sharece Thrower, assistant professor of political science at Vanderbilt College, helps clarify why.

“We hear a typical narrative that presidents and governors may wish to challenge extra government orders as a approach to get round legislatures that don’t agree with them,” mentioned Thrower, “And positively they’ve incentives to try this, however on this paper we present why that doesn’t all the time occur. And the reply is that it depends upon the legislature’s capability to retaliate.”

Working with Michael Barber of Brigham Younger College and Alexander Bolton of Emory College, Thrower analyzed greater than 24,000 government orders issued between 1993 and 2003—the most important such evaluation of gubernatorial unilateralism thus far. As a result of all 50 states have comparable—however not similar—governments, they functioned as a pure experiment for Thrower and her colleagues, permitting them to check government habits beneath quite a lot of situations.

All states, after all, have governors and legislatures. However some legislatures had very small political majorities whereas others had supermajorities. Some legislatures had been extra politically polarized than others. Some legislatures had majorities from the identical occasion because the governor whereas others didn’t. And a few legislatures had been endowed with sure policymaking powers that allowed them to push again towards their governors’ orders whereas others didn’t.

The researchers discovered that governors had been much less prone to act unilaterally when the legislature was nicely outfitted to push again. “For example, a legislature that has a big opposing majority, or a legislature with a smaller majority however low polarization could also be higher capable of work collectively to oppose the governor by means of the lawmaking course of,” Thrower mentioned. “Likewise, a legislature that has the flexibility to assessment or overturn laws may constrain a governor’s energy.”

Nevertheless, she mentioned, some legislatures are too polarized to cooperate sufficient to override a veto or retaliate by means of new legal guidelines, for instance, whereas others aren’t empowered with the instruments to weaken or reject insurance policies issued by the governor. Beneath these circumstances, executives have a tendency to make use of unilateral energy extra freely.

These variations assist clarify why executives don’t all the time make use of their unilateral energy when dealing with an opposition authorities. “When executives face empowered legislatures, their unilateral powers are constrained,” she mentioned. “However after they face legislatures that lack the flexibility to behave by means of the policymaking course of, that is the place we see government energy actually flourish.”

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The momentum fable: Staggering primaries didn’t have an effect on end result of 2016 nominating contests | Vanderbilt Information

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One of many many tales to emerge from the raucous 2016 presidential major season centered on the idea of momentum: who had it, who didn’t, and what all of it meant for major outcomes. Did racking up a collection of early wins make voters in later primaries extra more likely to shift their help to the early winners? And in that case, may the social gathering’s nomination have gone to a special candidate if completely different states had voted sooner?

New analysis by Josh Clinton, Jon and Abby Winkelreid Professor of Political Science, means that the reply isn’t any.

The outcomes of this examine, “Knockout Blows or the Standing Quo? Momentum within the 2016 Primaries,” has simply been printed within the Journal of Politics. Vanderbilt graduate college students Andrew Engelhardt and Marc Trussler co-authored the peer-reviewed analysis.

“In the course of the 2016 election, the phrase ‘momentum’ was typically used to foretell or clarify the end result of a major election, but it surely was by no means actually clear whether or not voters had been really casting votes based mostly on a candidate’s earlier efficiency,” Clinton mentioned. “Regardless of the time period getting used so typically, we wished to see if voters had been altering their votes to help winners. Have been New Hampshire voters actually extra more likely to help the candidate who received the Iowa caucuses just because that candidate received? Or had been voters making their choices based mostly on the candidate they favored finest?”

To reply this query, the researchers mined an enormous trove of survey information—greater than 325,000 interviews, or almost 1,700 per day—collected almost each day beginning in December of 2015 and persevering with all through the 2016 major election utilizing NBC Information/SurveyMonkey monitoring polls that they helped write. The unprecedented measurement and scope of the info allowed them to trace candidates’ help all through the first season for a demographically balanced pattern of the U.S. voters.

To measure whether or not voters had been extra more likely to change their thoughts to help profitable candidates, the researchers in contrast the help for every candidate earlier than and after every state major to the day-to-day variation in help that occurred within the absence of major election occasions.

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Josh Clinton (Vanderbilt College)

“If profitable a major created momentum amongst voters, we might anticipate to see a large fraction of voters’ altering their thoughts and supporting the profitable candidate after every major,” Clinton defined. “However in virtually each case, the shifts we see are largely indistinguishable from the atypical ebb and move we observe in public opinion.”

The researchers additionally checked out whether or not different major occasions corresponding to debates had been in a position to change voters’ minds. “We once more discovered no proof that voters had been reacting to debate performances in the course of the time interval we examined,” Clinton mentioned. “By the point of the Iowa caucuses, most voters appeared to have a very good sense of who they supported. Voters weren’t supporting candidates as a result of they had been profitable.”

When candidates did win a number of primaries in a row, Clinton mentioned, the explanation was often as a result of these states had related electorates, not as a result of the voters in later primaries had been drawn to profitable candidates. And when a candidate did begin to win a better share of the vote, he mentioned, it was as a result of different candidates had dropped out and the sphere was smaller.

Clinton cautioned that his findings don’t imply that staggered state primaries don’t make a distinction. Early efficiency can and does influence fundraising and media consideration–components that actually permit a candidate the flexibility to maintain campaigning.  “However, at the least in 2016, we don’t see a complete lot of proof that voters had been altering their help based mostly on who received,” he mentioned.

“The truth that California is voting on Tremendous Tuesday in 2020 might certainly have giant penalties for the flexibility of candidates to stay viable, however our analysis means that its end result is unlikely to be impacted by who received South Carolina two weeks earlier than,” he mentioned. “Voters make choices based mostly on who’s working, not who’s profitable.”

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