Thursday, September 26, 2013

Surprised Losers -- First Look at the Data

My present research project really has two primary questions:
  • Are losers in prez elections who were surprised they lost (expected their guy to win) less trusting of government and democracy than losers who expected to lose, or winners?
  • Two competing media hypotheses: (1) people selectively expose themselves to news that supports their beliefs, thus enhancing the "surprised loser" effect above; or (2) news consumption exposes one to polls that makes you less surprised you lost, thus depressing the "surprised loser" effect above.
So those two bullet points above, that's the gist of my study. It's a lot more complicated than that, and I'm using data from the 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012 U.S. presidential elections, so it's a lot of variable recoding and wrestling and cursing. Especially the cursing part.

Okay, so how about a first blush of the results?

These are rough results. Really rough. And all they do is look at how winners in the elections (2000 thru 2008 so far, sorry) differ from two kinds of losers -- the expected losers, and the surprised ones.  The dependent variables are trust in government, the perceived responsiveness of government (cares about people like you think), and satisfaction with democracy. Oh, and whether the election was fair.

Political Trust -- Not much here so far. In 2004 winners had higher trust than surprised losers (but not expected losers). That's it.

Responsiveness -- Mostly working here. Winners higher than losers, but not a lot of difference between surprised losers and expected losers. Damn.

Satisfaction with Democracy -- Yes, working here, kinda. In 2004 surprised losers far below expected losers and winners. Woo hoo! In 2008, both kinds of losers below winners. Damn.

Election Fair -- Only two times was this asked, 2000 and 2004. In general surprised losers much lower than expected losers and winners. So a good start.

I've only begun toying with media variables and so far it's too early to say which hypothesis, if either of them, wins.

I'm putting off the 2012 data because it's still messy and I'm working to get an updated version, somewhat cleaner, before tackling the initial analyses. Plus I'm stumped by my media variables and exactly how to test my competing hypotheses above. 

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