John T. Gasper    
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Carnegie Mellon University
5032 Forbes Avenue #1070
Pittsburgh, PA 15289
Voice: (862) 438-5841



Abstract: Are election outcomes driven by events beyond the control of politicians? Democratic accountability requires that voters make reasonable evaluations of incumbents. Although natural disasters are beyond human control, the response to these events is the responsibility of elected officials. In a county-level analysis of gubernatorial and presidential elections from 1970 to 2006, we examine the effects of weather events and governmental responses. We find that electorates punish presidents and governors for severe weather damage. However we find that these effects are dwarfed by the response of attentive electorates to the actions of their officials. When the president rejects a request by the governor for federal assistance, the president is punished and the governor is rewarded at the polls. The electorate is able to separate random events from governmental responses and attribute actions based on the defined roles of these two politicians.


Abstract: This paper proposes a formal model of the market for political news. Under reasonable market conditions and when the audience has psychological biases, it may be profitable for outlets to differentiate their coverage. Moreover, the implications of the model speak to a deeper impact of political polarization of the electorate.


  • Shifting Ideologies? Re-examining Media Bias Research Note. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, Vol 6, No 1, (2011) pp 85-102
    • I'm indebted to Markus Prior for pointing out an error in Table 2 of the published paper (p. 99). An erratum is forthcoming but an updated table may be found here.
    • Previously titled "Ideological Shift: Explaining the Liberal Media Myth"
    • Previous drafts and additional analyses available upon request.

Abstract: This research note engages the current research on measuring media bias. I present a reanalysis of the results found in Groseclose Milyo (2005) and show that the original parameter estimates of the ideological positions of media outlets are not stable over time. Using the same data but analyzed over different periods of time, I find a different conclusion than the previous article. I examine four-year rolling time periods and find that the data produce different parameter estimates in the early- to mid-1990s as compared to after 2000, with all analyzed outlets appearing more moderate or conservative in later time periods. My results indicate that the estimated positions are sensitive observations in the data and the time period of observation of the outlet. .


Abstract: One of the primary monitors of the political process is the fourth estate. If media outlets provide any oversight of the political process, then the question of what is investigated is paramount. While the choice of what to cover is often thought about in terms of the agenda setting power of the media, and while fundamentally important, this by and large neglects the internal process by which an outlet chooses what issues to investigate. At its core the choice of what stories to cover remains mysterious. This paper develops a formal model of the an organization's calculus and provides conditions where general market competition leads to an under supply of investigation.


Abstract: What motivates governors as they request federal aid? We argue that governors act opportunistically by leveraging their states' electoral importance when requesting presidential disaster declarations, which provide dollars to states and potential votes for presidents. We explore two aspects of gubernatorial requests. First, we hypothesize that only reelection eligible governors, especially sensitive to fiscal balance, will behave opportunistically. Second, we examine if battleground state governors' requests are influenced by the partisanship of the president. Since disaster declarations yield presidential votes, requesting from an other party president could influence presidential election outcomes. Analyzing monthly declaration requests from 1972 to 2006, we find that political variables influence governors to ask above and beyond objective measures of need, and battleground state governors do not hesitate to request from other party presidents. The electoral dynamics between governors and presidents influence the allocation of federal resources beyond actual need.


Abstract: Federal disaster aid provides resources to affected victims and potential votes for both governors and presidents, but the denial of aid can especially painful for all parties involved. This paper examines whether political factors contribute to which areas are denied federal disaster aid. Analyzing county-level data from 1992 through 2005, I find that political factors do shade a president's decision to deny aid, but that some of these factors are only present during presidential elections years.


  • Gambling on the Issues (with Scott Moser) (work in progress, please email for a current draft)

Abstract: The prominence of fringe issues such as gay marriage or national language in political rhetoric has become commonplace. What are the strategic reasons for appealing to divisive and risky issues? When during a campaign would candidates make these appeals? Which candidates are more likely to rise them? We develop a formal model of issue raising to rigorously address these questions. The equilibrium predictions of our model yields several empirical implications that comport with recent findings of candidate campaign behavior.


  • Why did they march? (with Cristina Bicchieri) (work in progress, please email for a current draft)

Abstract: One of the ongoing puzzles of political economy is political protest. Unlike voting, however, what needs to be explained is not large turnout, but how small numbers can sometimes have a large impact. We develop a computational (signaling) model where individuals are privately informed yet also communicate with their `neighbors,' or friends. Properties of this communication, or social network can give rise to different levels of information aggregation. Different amounts of information can lead to different aggregate turnout. Hence, both the leader's and individuals' beliefs about the structure of the social network can have policy implications.