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eScholarship
Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Charles H. Percy Undergraduate Grant for Public Affairs Research is awarded to U.C. Berkeley undergraduate students who are conducting research on an aspect of American politics, including public opinion, electoral behavior, civic participation, government institutions, social movements, and public policy. Students from a broad range of disciplines are encouraged to apply to the IGS Center for the Study of Representation.

Cover page of The Great Shift: Analyzing the Effect of Public Safety Realignment on Crime in California Between 2009-2013

The Great Shift: Analyzing the Effect of Public Safety Realignment on Crime in California Between 2009-2013

(2016)

In 2011, the United States Supreme Court mandated California to reduce its severely overcrowded prison population. In an effort known as Public Safety Realignment, Assembly Bills 109 and 117 shifted the responsibility to house individuals convicted of non-serious, nonviolent, and non-sex felony offenses from state prisons and parole to local jails and probation in each of the 58 California counties. Using a multivariate regression model controlling for county-specific population factors, this thesis examines the extent to which Public Safety Realignment has impacted crime in California, both at the state and county levels. Additionally, through in-depth interviews of county officials, examples of “best practices” for accommodating realigned prisoners while keeping crime low are determined. The results of this study indicate significant changes in both FBI Part I violent crimes (murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault) and FBI Part I nonviolent property crimes (motor vehicle theft, larceny, arson, and burglary) in some counties, but not at the state-level. Based on the results of interviews of select county officials, counties that responded to Realignment by implementing or expanding evidence-based programs to prevent crime, target offenders’ criminogenic tendencies, and improve re-entry outcomes were generally able to keep instances of both violent and nonviolent crime fairly stable. This study suggests that with the right practices and priorities, shifting the responsibility to house offenders from the state to the county level can be done without significantly compromising public safety, making California a role model for other states with overcrowded prison populations.

Cover page of The Supreme Court, Public Opinion, and the Affordable Care Act: The Stability of Partisan Cleavage over Health Care

The Supreme Court, Public Opinion, and the Affordable Care Act: The Stability of Partisan Cleavage over Health Care

(2016)

A fundamental challenge surrounding the role of the United States Supreme Court in American democracy concerns the Court’s countermajoritarian status. Much of the existing research has attempted to “resolve” the countermajoritarian difficulty by examining the link between the Supreme Court and public opinion, particularly whether public opinion can influence the outcome of Court decisions. Interestingly, however, little has been studied about the reverse relationship—that is, whether the Supreme Court can influence public opinion. This paper investigates the Court’s ability to win popular support for its rulings, specifically in the case of NFIB v. Sebelius that ruled on the constitutionality of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. By analyzing various public opinion polls through multivariate analysis, this study finds that the Supreme Court decision has not resulted in an increased public support of the Affordable Care Act but rather bolstered a pre-existing trend of partisan polarization over the issue. With two-sided media coverage of polarized elite opinion of the Court decision, the public too becomes polarized.

Cover page of Remembering the Alamo: Demographic Change and Texas Politics

Remembering the Alamo: Demographic Change and Texas Politics

(2016)

In today's American politics, there may be no place perceived as more "red"(Republican-voting) than the Lone Star State. Texas, the home of the Alamo, the gun rack,and the 72-ounce steak, hasn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since beforeRonald Reagan; George W. Bush won the state by over 20 percentage points, twice (ANES,2015). But demographic forces are changing the face of Texas, and it may not be long beforeits voting hue changes as well. Migration of African-Americans and Hispanics in search ofwork, and differential birth rates in those populations, have made Texas a majority-minoritystate, and state population growth is expected to come almost entirely from minoritypopulations. From 2010-2014, Hispanic population rose by 9.4%, African-American by 8.9%,and White non-Hispanic by just 2.6% (U.S. Census, 2015). Despite voter ID laws aimed atdisenfranchising minority voters, the trend lines are clear; it is only a matter of time beforeTexas becomes more likely to vote for a Democrat than a Republican for president. Onemitigating factor is that Hispanics typically have low voting rates, but in other border stateslike Arizona and New Mexico, anti-immigrant rhetoric has helped encourage turnout amongHispanic voters, which could accelerate the transition. The Republicans would bewell-advised to remember the Alamo, where poor treatment caused an immigrant populationto join the revolution against the ruling party.

Cover page of Why They Voted: Youth Political Participation in the 21st Century

Why They Voted: Youth Political Participation in the 21st Century

(2015)

Following the historical 2008 presidential election, academics and pundits alikemarveled over the high voter turnout among youth. In 2008, 51 percent of those under the ageof 30 turned out to vote. This compares with a mere 40 percent youth turnout rate in 2000. Inthe 2008 presidential election, 66 percent of youth votes were cast for Barack Obama. Whileit is clear from these figures that young people are becoming a more powerful political force,why they are becoming more engaged remains unclear. This study seeks to address why youthturned out in greater numbers in 2008 by examining three important variables: the impact ofthe 9/11 attacks, intensity of candidate preference, and voter contact. I track these variablesusing the American National Election Studies (ANES) times series data, drawing comparisonswith 2000, when youth turnout was historically low. An analysis of these variables amongdifferent age groups in 2000 and 2008 reveals that the Millennial generation displayed anoverwhelming candidate preference for Barack Obama and was directly targeted by theDemocratic Party during the campaign, although the impact of the 9/11 attacks appears to bemarginal at best. However, given that the Millennials are still in their youth, it is unclearwhether their voting trends will be sustained, or whether the high turnout in 2008 was simplya phenomenon unique to Barack Obama’s candidacy.

Cover page of Occupational Hazard: Ballot occupation as a proxy for party in low-information elections

Occupational Hazard: Ballot occupation as a proxy for party in low-information elections

(2013)

Researchers have long viewed ballot cues as key factors in vote choice unrelated to a pure evaluation of a candidate’s merits. In this study, I investigate the role of ballot occupation— that is, the title often included with a candidate’s name on a ballot. Ballot occupation is more malleable by candidates than other cues, like ethnicity or ballot order, and could be manipulated to produce an electoral benefit. I evaluated a difference in occupation preference between respondents of the two major United States political parties. I conducted an Internet- based survey of 610 individuals, varying the cues presented—occupation, party, or both. The results suggest that listing occupations historically and logically associated with one of the political parties has an effect similar to, but weaker than, the effect of listing the corresponding party. Further, when both a party and an occupation inconsistent with that party are listed (e.g., a “Republican college professor”), the results most clearly reflect those of the party-only group (but are somewhat weaker). This suggests that ballot occupation can act as a proxy for the candidate’s political party when no party information is provided, but that occupation has nearly no effect when a party is listed. 

Cover page of Conservationism is not Conservatism: Do Interest Group Endorsements Help Voters Hold Representatives Accountable?

Conservationism is not Conservatism: Do Interest Group Endorsements Help Voters Hold Representatives Accountable?

(2013)

Much research assumes that voters know or can learn the positions their representatives take on key issue. Arthur Lupia found that voters could learn such information through advertisements and interest group endorsements. We examine whether these cues improve voters’ ability to infer their representative’s voting behavior and find that most interest groups fail to do so. In a follow-up study, we find that voters are ignorant of which positions the interest groups take on issues. Finally, we run a similar experiment for representatives’ party affiliation and find that it is similarly uninformative; voters are unclear on where the parties stand on issues as well.

Cover page of Articulations of National Membership on Debates about the DREAM Act and the AgJOBS Act

Articulations of National Membership on Debates about the DREAM Act and the AgJOBS Act

(2013)

How is legal membership framed by American political elites? I address this question through a comparative analysis on debates surrounding the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act and the Agricultural Job Opportunities, Benefits and Security (AgJOBS) Act. I define framing legal membership as the conception and articulation of national membership through the law. Literature has stressed three types of ideologies framing citizenship in the United States: republican membership, liberal membership and ‘ascriptive Americanism’. However, there are other ideologies that come into play when it comes to framing who deserves to be a legal member of the United States. I examine the importance cultural, economic, and national security arguments in making the case for undocumented migrants’ access to legal status based on data sets of Congressional hearings on the DREAM Act and the AgJOBS Act. I argue that Dreamers are constructed as deserving of citizenship because they are already part of American society and they need to unleash their full potential while AgJOBS’ beneficiaries are constructed as deserving of citizenship because American society needs their labor. I show this by demonstrating how Dreamers are framed as culturally American, patriotic and contributing to cultural diversity. Secondly, I discuss how market citizenship is racialized in discussions about the AgJOBS Act. Lastly, I show how under the DREAM Act, presence is not seen as a crime because Dreamers did not chose to come to the US, and how food production becomes a matter of national security in the AgJOBS Act. By analyzing two different types of immigrant populations – undocumented youth who will gain permanent residence through the military or education and undocumented farmworkers – I contribute to an understanding of current trends on boundary-making based on national membership through immigration law.