Conglomerates at the Court: The Political Consequences of Mergers & Acquisitions.
Lucas Boschelli, Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier and Dino P. Christenson
Increasingly, corporations expand through the creation or acquisition of new subsidiary companies. Despite the commonality of the practice, little is known regarding how it influences corporations’—and by extension, their subsidiaries’—political behavior. This paper analyzes how subsidiaries shape corporations’ political interests and collaborations as they seek to influence the Supreme Court. To accomplish this, we construct a historical dataset of the acquisitions and mergers of a politically active sample of Fortune 500 corporations (spanning various industries and sizes) that we combine with their history of filing amicus curiae briefs to the Court. Through social network and longitudinal analyses, we analyze whether and how corporations change their targeted issue areas, collaborations and political success following consolidation. While mergers and acquisitions have no effect on the quantity of actions or success before the Court, they expand the issues of political interest for corporations, making them information brokers in their new political network.
Deal or No Deal: Voting on Multiple Provision Ballot Measures.
Lucas Boschelli and Dino P. Christenson
Ballot measures provide a unique instance of direct democracy in which voters have a say in a state’s legislative process. However, voters vary in how they understand and evaluate these measures, many of which can be relatively complicated and comprised of multiple provisions. Are voters deliberate legislators, or do they instead rely on heuristics to guide their final decision? When multiple provisions exist, how do voters weigh their varying support in their calculus of overall support for the measure? To examine these questions, we conduct a novel survey utilizing three real ballot measures under consideration during the 2022 Missouri midterm election cycle. By experimentally assigning how we ask respondents for their support of a given ballot, we garner insight into how voters approach voting on ballots and their greater decision-making process. We find evidence of a negativity bias, which is strongest on the most complex and least polarized issue
Is a More Accessible Local Government a More Representative One? The Effects of Online Public Meetings
Is a more accessible local government a more representative one? In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many local governments opted to host their public meetings—at least in part—virtually, a practice many continued even after the worst of the pandemic subsided. Despite the theorized increase in accessibility, previous research has found limited effects on either participation or the diversity of participants following this shift to online format meetings; however, most of this work has only examined local participation in the vacuum of municipal governments. Policy issues often involve multiple overlapping local institutions, each with its own governing body and, importantly, each with its own opportunities for civic engagement. This paper attempts to expand our understanding of political participation within local politics by analyzing whether the shift to more accessible online meetings promotes healthy democratic participation or amplifies pre-existing inequities in local political participation. To accomplish this, I first construct a novel dataset of public meeting minutes from 2018 until 2022 for county, municipal, and school board governments within the St. Louis region. I then combine public participation data from these minutes with existing political and demographic datasets. Through a time-series crosssectional analysis, I find that virtual meetings significantly increased participation in some local contexts but did not affect or decreased participation in others. Importantly, I find evidence that while virtual meetings experience similar inequalities in who participates as in offline meetings, they garner greater participation from women in both county and school board governments. Overall this paper adds to our understanding of how individuals navigate and participate within their interlocking spheres of local governments and how public meeting formats may shape local political representation.
Expanding Our Coverage Of Local Politics: An Application of Named-Entity Recognition to Public Meeting Minutes
Beyond voting records, public meeting minutes have become a key source of political participation data for many researchers within local politics. Their ability to provide records of individual participation and identifying characteristics such as one’s name, address, and original comment has made them invaluable to the study of urban politics. However, finding, scraping, and transforming these meeting minutes into sufficiently detailed and usable data has historically been a labor-intensive task due to how meeting minutes are recorded and stored. This paper attempts to accomplish two goals. The first goal is to set a framework for using public meeting minutes and provide an initial guide for researchers trying to use them. The second is to present a streamlined process to parse meeting minutes through an application of named-entity recognition. To contextualize both goals, I provide a case study from St. Louis County that examines public meeting participants across three distinct levels of local government.
Is it All Good in the Neighborhood? How Partisanship May Distort Evaluations of Municipal Services
Do voters retrospectively evaluate municipal services? Previous work within local politics would suggest that voters form their evaluations based on the quality of the service and their access to it. Instead, I argue that voters evaluate associated services through a partisan lens rather than objective performance due to the nationalization of a particular state and local political issues. This process occurs when local services become polarized at the national level, with the two parties being associated with distinct and opposing views on those services. I attempt to test this argument through a cross-sectional analysis of local school and police evaluations. The results confirm that for polarized services such as policing, individuals have a systematic bias in favor of their party’s position regardless of the service’s objective performance. Additionally, I find that this bias exists regardless of the partisan control of state and local governments. These findings provide insight as to how nationalization shapes retrospective evaluations of government performance and carry with them implications for the future of local accountability.