Has the Tea Party movement been electorally effective?

There is a new paper (pdf) from Harvard, by Andreas Madestam, Daniel Shoag, Stan Veuger, and David Yanagizawa-Drott, and it seems the answer is yes, the Tea Party has been effective in electoral terms:

This paper examines the impact of political protests on citizens’ political behavior and policy. We study the effect of the Tea Party movement protests in the United States on voting in elections and on legislation by representatives. To identify the causal effect of protests, we use an instrumental variables approach that exploits variation in weather on the rally day. We find that the protests increase turnout in favor of the Republicans in congressional elections, and decreases the likelihood that incumbent Democratic representatives run for reelection. Incumbent policymaking is also affected: representatives respond to large protests in their district by voting more conservatively in Congress. In addition, we provide evidence that these effects are driven by a persistent increase in the movement’s strength. Protests lead to subsequent protests, as well as an increase in membership, monetary contributions, and media coverage. Finally, the estimates imply significant multiplier effects: for every protester Republican votes increase by at least eight votes. Together our results show that political protests can build political movements that ultimately affect policy.

How this translates into policy outcomes, of course, is another story.  And this is effectiveness at a very micro level.  It is entirely possible to believe these results about local mobilization, and think that the Tea Party overall makes Republicans less electable or less effective once in office.

Addendum: A revised and improved version of the paper is here.


Can we get some clarification here what is the LATE? I'm not sure how I feel about the identification restriction either. But I would love to hear what others think.

A clever and interesting paper! Although I have a few (petty?) concerns about the identification as well. Namely that rainfall isn't really random, and some regions of the country have a much higher probability of a rainy day than others (say, southwest=low prob of rain, northeast=high). If these regions have different trends in political preferences their IV could be picking this up.

Yeah I still have no idea what the LATE is also. Are we saying groups of individuals who would not have voted unless the weather is better this year. I just don't know what your really getting out of that.

Since there has only been one election cycle, the statment "think that the Tea Party overall makes Republicans less electable or less effective once in office" should read "re-electable".

With high turnout elections, you may be right.

The other thing that happens is that the Tea Party label bleeds over onto other Republicans, making them possibly less re-electable as well, particularly if they are perceived as "not moderate" and unwilling to compromise to reduce the deficity with a combination of tax increase and spending cuts.

Time will tell. Some people like theatre.

I think the 99% theme is the theme of this election. As is deadlock.

IV regressions always make me laugh.

One of my econometrics professors said when introducing IVs, "Up until this point, in order to perform well in this course it was a necessary and a sufficient condition to be economically and mathematically inclined so as to understand these derivations and proofs as well as their applications. At this point, there is another necessary condition: you have to be clever."
Then he told us about the Caroline Hoxby paper (http://bit.ly/ukAmQk) where she used the number of streams in an area as an instrument for the degree of choice in public schools in an area.

Clever is more than coming up with an instrument (some of the "best" are based on geography) but it also requires applying it in a sensible way (an instrument may be great in one analysis and awful in another). And we have to be careful about the inference...it could end up being a localized effect based and that does not generalize. With the posted paper (which I have not had time to read), I find "multipliers" of eight a bit much to stomach. I would love to see fiscal multipliers like that...

I think their use of the term "multiplier" is a bit misleading. It brings to mind a comparison with fiscal and money multipliers, but really what they find is that for ever one person that protests, there are 8 or more people who vote along the same lines. This is a little easier to handle because obviously not everyone who believes a certain way is going to protest, and sometimes the protesters are a minority within a movement. In this case they find that the protesters represent from 6-12% of people who are willing to vote along a certain line.

Is there another link Tyler? It currently doesn't work.

use google's cached version:

Or could it be that people are realizing that real change is needed and it has nothing to do with protests?

I agree, I think it really makes more sense to view protests as a bellwether of voter passion, rather than a driver, though there might be some feedback effect.

The evidence is in Obama's passion index among likely voters, which has been deeply negative ever since PPACA, and averaged something around -20 over the last month. Those are landslide election loss numbers, even given the bump we should expect from the demonization of the GOP candidate in the increasingly partisan MSM -- to put that in perspective, they are actually even worse than the Nov 2010 numbers which saw the biggest GOP gains in modern history. I think it's harder to argue that passion is driven by the Tea Party rather than vice versa.


the study finds that the protests are effective in getting more people to vote _where those protests take place_ so no, that can't explain the paper's results.

If you have questions about how they did this, what an instrumental variable is etc. feel free to ask, there are plenty of people here that can explain.

Same applies for TallDave - the whole point of the paper is that they use _random_ variation in protests (as caused by rain vs. no rain) to be able to assess the impact of protest on votes.

Real change would be finding treatment for MRSA.

Get out of the Starbucks and occupy a micropipetter you geniuses.

Not persuasive. It makes sense that the protests happen in the places with people that don't like Dem policies, who then also voted in higher numbers against those policies. Correlation =/= causation.


please at least try to understand the basic argument of the paper before trying to critique it. Again, the whole effort involved in the paper is to get around the concern that "It makes sense that the protests happen in the places with people that don’t like Dem policies, who then also voted in higher numbers against those policies." That's where the whole "rainfall", "instrumental variable" etc. comes in.

Read the paper, heck, even reading WP on Instrumental Variables would probably do, and then you can join in some of the informed critiques of the paper above (or decide that you're convinced after all). But right now what you're writing just shows that you're missing the point.

I think I understand the paper better than you understand my point. I agree there may be a feedback, I just see the protests as more bellwether than driver.

The basic argument seems to be that rain on protest days meant less GOP votes in that area.

"The basic argument seems to be that rain on protest days meant less GOP votes in that area."
basically. And how do you square that with your point that protesters are bellwether rather than driver?

As opposed to the protests arising ex nihilo?

It's an interesting study, but let's not over-interpret a social networking effect into an explanation of the protests themselves.

Can the same be said for OWS?

Yes, and that is what is interesting with the idea of using protest movements as a way to stir your base.

To give you an idea, the term "99 percent" has a well recognized meaning in a poltical/economic context today that it did not have in January 2011.

Who does OWS vote for? They've been protesting Obama.

They certainly trend left, or just extremely confused (like the guy who was against private property but for personal property), and the protests have sufficiently ugly and violent that it's hard to see voters supporting them. Is it even remotely plausible to imagine Dems fielding "OWS candidates" the way the GOP ran Tea Party candidates?

The Tea Party is not the base. However, I get the feeling that OWS is, as well as a me-too reaction to The Tea Party.

"just extremely confused (like the guy who was against private property but for personal property)"

This distinction is very well established in the socialist doctrines, for almost 2 centuries.

No doubt that sort of well-thought-out distinction helps explain the historical success of Communism.

Your own not having thought out a distinction does not mean a distinction is not well-thought-out.

The OWS is more about resentment of the massive bailouts that wall street got, and the total lack of prosecutions [1]. The Democratic Party will never in a billion years push an OWS candidate because both the D and R parties are lackies of the finance industry.

There will never be any OWS candidates, there will never be an American Spring either. Freedom for Egypt and Libya, but none for us.

1 - that the MA attorney general decided finally to start prosecuting banks is a good sign. A little late, but it sends a strong signal that the "50 state AG plan" was gutless, toothless and not even a slap on the wrist. The "50 state plan" would have exempted the banks from all criminal and civil penalties/prosecution in exchange for less than 1% of the damage they did.

The next study comes out Nov 6, 2012.

What does "electorally effective" mean? Getting more people to vote? Or something more?

It helps to have a network not only broadcasting a non-stop stream of propaganda, but to have many of the leading, well, leading whatever, members of the Tea Party on the payroll. Reading how that network was created, and for what purposes, would make a much more interesting document in terms of electoral success for a subset of partisan candidates.

Oh wait - one can, since Ailes did write memos, back in the days when the Southern Strategy was still the latest word in Republican political thinking -
'Republican media strategist Roger Ailes launched Fox News Channel in 1996, ostensibly as a "fair and balanced" counterpoint to what he regarded as the liberal establishment media. But according to a remarkable document buried deep within the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, the intellectual forerunner for Fox News was a nakedly partisan 1970 plot by Ailes and other Nixon aides to circumvent the "prejudices of network news" and deliver "pro-administration" stories to heartland television viewers.

The memo—called, simply enough, "A Plan For Putting the GOP on TV News"— is included in a 318-page cache of documents detailing Ailes' work for both the Nixon and George H.W. Bush administrations that we obtained from the Nixon and Bush presidential libraries. Through his firms REA Productions and Ailes Communications, Inc., Ailes served as paid consultant to both presidents in the 1970s and 1990s, offering detailed and shrewd advice ranging from what ties to wear to how to keep the pressure up on Saddam Hussein in the run-up to the first Gulf War.'

Here is a summary of what awaits anyone willing to read the blueprint's origin -
'"A Plan for Putting the GOP on TV News" (http://gawkernet.com/ailesfiles/ailes1.html) is an unsigned, undated memo calling for a partisan, pro-GOP news operation to be potentially paid for and run out of the White House. Aimed at sidelining the "censorship" of the liberal mainstream media and delivering prepackaged pro-Nixon news to local television stations, it reads today like a detailed precis for a Fox News prototype. From context provided by other memos, it's apparent that the plan was hatched during the summer of 1970. And though it's not clear who wrote it, the copy provided by the Nixon Library literally has Ailes' handwriting all over it—it appears he was routed the memo by Haldeman and wrote back his enthusiastic endorsement, refinements, and a request to run the project in the margins.'

The Tea Party is just a product being sold on a network run by a man that seemed to feel that a new network - funded by the White House itself, hopefully, and directly tied into the GOP - was just the sort of thing he should be heading up. And except for the direct White House funding, it looks like Ailes was able to execute that vision.

For anyone actually wanting to read the original material, they are all conveniently located here - http://gawkernet.com/ailesfiles/ailesfiles.html

About what? The role of Fox News in the Tea Party would seem to be a major aspect of whatever success the Tea Party has had. Having a national network explicitly founded and run by a man determined to ensure a certain political viewpoint being presented continually to an electorate would seem to ensure a measure of political success, at least if the network can meets the goals its creator was interested in. Which, if the Tea Party is used as a measure of that success, seems to be the case. Or, as was alluded to in the post, not - the current Republican presidential primary clown show can also be convincingly attributed in major part to the same informational politics dynamic which Fox has played a major role in establishing.

As for me? I don't live in the U.S. I enjoy living in what a number of posters here seem to think is a nightmare - being able to hop an ICE or TGV train, in a Bundesland that elected a Green government, with its unemployment hovering around 3.9%, and a successful industrial economy based on education and unions, with a health care system that means I can walk to one of the 2 dentists or 3 doctors (2 of whom who actually live in the building where their practice is) - in a town of roughly 6,000 people.

But the continual presentation of American facts without context is getting a bit wearing - the role of Fox News in creating whatever electoral force the Tea Party has to date would seem quite relevant in any discussion the Tea Party's electoral success. Very few apparent protest movements come equipped with a national 24 hour network presence, with many of that movement's leading personages on that network's payroll.

The Tea Party is an interesting thing to study - starting with that 1970 memo from the Nixon Library.

Out of curiosity, do you know what your state's PPP GDP per capita looks like in dollars? I would guess you are in Baden-Württemberg.

If my guess is correct, that would appear to put your state in the bottom 1/3 of U.S. states.


Now don't get me wrong, Germany is a wonderful place, but I would bet German-Americans are considerably above even the higher American average. So we're quite happy to have you keep your unions and TGV trains and socialized medicine back in the old country.

Very few apparent protest movements come equipped with a national 24 hour network presence

Heh, you clearly do not remember the Iraq War protests. Cindy Sheehan would camp out in a ditch in Texas and be outnumbered 5:1 by the media.

I think it was George Will who said "We have Fox News and the Washington Times, they have CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, WaPo, NYT, NPR, Time, Newsweek..." The Pew polling on this is very, very clear and it goes back decades, from the bureau chiefs on down they skew way to the left of the U.S. public.

The current good state of German economy contrasts with the situation 10 years ago, when Germany was considered the sick man of the continent.

You also didn't mention the Hartz reforms, which brought massive opposition demonstrations into the streets. Many credit them with unemployment reduction - after Hartz, it is no longer comfortable being on the dole for a long time.

Oh no! Nakedly partisan news coverage!

Wake me up when the GOP controls 90% of the MSM, like the Dems do now.

again - this isn't relevant to the paper. If Fox News were the whole story, they wouldn't find the type of variation they do, where places with more protest see higher turnout in following elections.

It's about freaking time that a decent academic paper on the Tea Party came out. I'm working on analyzing their monetary policy framework, and it's nice to at least have something other than interviews and news articles an the volume of google searches to back up the relevancy of my question.

OWS 99% is actually the .00000099 and has a negative multiplier. OWS this year was only practice to network and prepare the unions for street protests next summer and raise a million or so, they put in banks.

btw - Most US banks had little to do with the real estate bubble and financial credit contraction. Wall Street made the problems worse but they are mostly liberal, some far left.

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