Henrik Schatzinger, Yuan Wang present at national political science meeting

Henrik Schatzinger, professor of political science, and Yuan Wang, assistant professor of political science, presented new research at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association held Aug. 31 through Sept. 3 in Los Angeles.

Schatzinger presented “The Effects of Outside Money on City Council Elections in Los Angeles.” The U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. FEC has greatly affected the financing of campaigns for federal and state offices, and also is increasingly shaking up local races around the country, Schatzinger says. However, prior research has primarily focused on the effects of independent expenditures on congressional and presidential races without paying sufficient attention to local elections.

“I seek to partially fill this gap by examining the effects of outside money on various types of local offices in urban elections,” Schatziner says. “This chapter examines the influence of outside money on city council elections in Los Angeles, the second largest city in the United States.”

Schatzinger says that, despite a number of substantial differences between Los Angeles and New York City, both in terms of electoral rules and types of independent groups involved in city council campaigns, the findings about outside money are similar: outside money in support of candidates in primary elections has a statistically significant, positive effect on a candidate’s vote share.

“Also, I find that the higher the ratio of a candidate’s outside opposition in a primary election, the higher the candidate’s vote share for the candidate, demonstrating that outside opposition is a useful sign of candidate viability,” he says. “Overall, the results presented here indicate that outside money plays a critical role in Los Angeles’ primary elections and that the goal by independent groups in these nonpartisan elections is more focused on affecting the election outcome.

“This is different from New York City, where outside groups in primaries are often focused on supporting the perceived frontrunners and involvement is often based on long-term relationships and policy interests rather than affecting the direction of a campaign.”

Wang’s presentation was titled “Priming for Griming: How China’s Media Mobilizes Civic Participation in Diplomatic Wars.”

She says authoritarian states such as China often rely on media outlets to ratchet up relevant news coverage in response to domestic or international challenges. Such coverage is meant to prime the domestic audience into partaking in state-promoted nationalist campaigns against diplomatic rivalries.

In her research, Wang examines how the party-state achieves this, how priming varies and whether propaganda strategies vary according to the rivalries the state encounters.

“I investigate China’s priming tactics during the deployment of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) dispute with South Korea and the cross-strait frictions with Taiwan through systematically analyzing more than 60,000 quantitative media entries published by both state-run and commercialized media outlets on both printed and digital platforms,” Wang says.

“Findings of the computer-aided content analysis of the keywords, cues and topics of these media entries suggest that to raise the readers’ awareness to certain agenda, China’s propaganda practitioners prime their audience with the issues or themes (both political and nonpolitical) the government desires to emphasize while downplay the agenda it aims to underestimate to signal resolve.”

She adds, “This article suggests that media outlets play an indispensable part in priming the audiences of the political themes the government desires to emphasize. … and helps paint a more complete, nuanced picture of Chinese politics in garnering more domestic supports and achieving diplomatic ambitions, contributing to China studies.”

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