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Article

Performance Management in Public Administration  

Johabed G. Olvera and Claudia N. Avellaneda

As one of the reforms supported by the New Public Management movement, Performance Management Systems (PMSs) have been implemented worldwide, across various policy areas and different levels of government. PMSs require public organizations to establish clear goals, measure indicators of these purposes, report this information, and, ultimately, link this information with strategic decisions aimed at improving agencies’ performances. Therefore, the components of any PMS include: (1) strategic planning; (2) data collection and analysis (performance measurement); and (3) data utilization for decision-making (performance management). However, the degree of adoption and implementation of PMS components varies across both countries and levels of government. Therefore, in understanding the role of PMSs in public administration, it is important to recognize that the drivers explaining the adoption of PMS components may differ from those explaining their implementation. Although the goal of any PMS is to boost government performance, the existent empirical evidence assessing PMS impact on organizational performance reports mixed results, and suggests that the implementation of PMSs may generate some unintended consequences. Moreover, while worldwide there is a steady increase in the adoption of performance metrics, the same cannot be said about the use of these metrics in decision-making or performance management. Research on the drivers of adoption and implementation of PMSs in developing countries is still lacking.

Article

The Problems of Economic Data in Africa  

Morten Jerven

The study of economic development in African countries is facing a basic problem of lack of reliable data and statistics. These problems of economic data are best addressed under three main categories: design, capacity, and politics. The focus is on gross domestic product (GDP), but the relevance goes beyond GDP statistics because the aggregate of GDP requires economic data on all sectors of the economy, including expenditures and consumption, which gives the basis for discussing levels and trends in monetary poverty as well as having a correct count of the total population. The problem of design refers to the fact that many, if not most, of the statistical categories that are in use in international organizations disseminating statistics on social and economic affairs are categories that were designed as appropriate for developed countries. Indicators such as “unemployment” work better in a formalized labor market. The problems of design translate into problems of capacity. Because most economic transactions are not recorded in informal economies, this means that they are not reported as a rule and that therefore such recordings require a lot more resources. Many statistics that are readily available from administrative sources in higher-income countries need to be collected in more expensive surveys in low-income countries. Budgets for official services may already be constrained, and thus resources for statistical offices to collect these data are less than the resources needed to do so. Finally, politics of data matter. When statistics are based on missing data, the estimates will invariably be soft, and therefore malleable. Thus, when incentives are clearly identifiable before reporting or aggregation, the final estimates may be biased.

Article

Real-Time Responses to Campaign Communication  

Marcus Maurer

Real-time response measurement (RTR), sometimes also called continuous response measurement (CRM), is a computerized survey tool that continuously measures short-time perceptions while political audiences are exposed to campaign messages by using electronic input devices. Combining RTR data with information about the message content allows for tracing back viewers’ impressions to single arguments or nonverbal signals of a speaker and, therefore, showing which kinds of arguments or nonverbal signals are most persuasive. In the context of applied political communication research, RTR is used by political consultants to develop persuasive campaign messages and prepare candidates for participation in televised debates. In addition, TV networks use RTR to identify crucial moments of these debates and sometimes even display RTR data during their live debate broadcasts. In academic research most RTR studies deal with the persuasive effects of televised political ads and especially televised debates; the studies sometimes include hundreds of participants rating candidates’ performances during live debate broadcasts. In order to capture features of human information processing, RTR measurement is combined with other data sources like content analysis, traditional survey questionnaires, qualitative focus group data, or psychophysiological data. Those studies answer various questions on the effects of campaign communication including which elements of verbal and nonverbal communication explain voters’ short-term perceptions of campaign messages, which predispositions influence those perceptions, and the extent to which voters’ opinions are explained by short-term perceptions versus long-term predispositions. In several such studies, RTR measurement has proven to be reliable and valid; it appears to be one of the most promising research tools for future studies on the effects of campaign communication.

Article

Measuring Attitudes Toward LGBT Individuals: Theoretical and Practical Considerations  

Melanie C. Steffens and Sabine Preuß

Over the last decades, in many so-called Western countries, the social, political, and legal standing of lesbians, gay men, and bisexual and trans* individuals (henceforth, LGBT* individuals) has considerably improved, and concurrently, attitudes toward these groups have become more positive. Consequently, people are aware that blatantly prejudiced statements are less socially accepted, and thus, negative attitudes toward LGBT* individuals (also referred to as antigay attitudes, sexual prejudice, or homonegativity) and their rights need to be measured in more subtle ways than previously. At the same time, discrimination and brutal hate crimes toward LGBT* individuals still exist (e.g., Orlando shooting, torture of gay men in Chechnya). Attitudes are one of the best predictors of overt behavior. Thus, examining attitudes toward LGBT* individuals in an adequate way helps to predict discriminatory behavior, to identify underlying processes, and to develop interventions to reduce negative attitudes and thus, ultimately, hate crimes. The concept of attitudes is theoretically postulated to consist of three components (i.e., the cognitive, affective, and behavioral attitude components). Further, explicit and implicit attitude measures are distinguished. Explicit measures directly ask participants to state their opinions regarding the attitude object and are thus transparent, they require awareness, and they are subject to social desirability. In contrast, implicit measures infer attitudes indirectly from observed behavior, typically from reaction times in different computer-assisted tasks; they are therefore less transparent, they do not require awareness, and they are less prone to socially desirable responding. With regard to explicit attitude measures, old-fashioned and modern forms of prejudice have been distinguished. When it comes to measuring LGBT* attitudes, measures should differentiate between attitudes toward different sexual minorities (as well as their rights). So far, research has mostly focused on lesbians and gay men; however, there is increasing interest in attitudes toward bisexual and trans* individuals. Also, attitude measures need to be able to adequately capture attitudes of more or less prejudiced segments of society. To measure attitudes toward sexual minorities adequately, the attitude measure needs to fulfill several methodological criteria (i.e., to be psychometrically sound, which means being reliable and valid). In order to demonstrate the quality of an attitude measure, it is essential to know the relationship between scores on the measure and important variables that are known to be related to LGBT* attitudes. Different measures for LGBT* attitudes exist; which one is used should depend on the (research) purpose.

Article

Issue Salience and Political Decisions  

Philip Moniz and Christopher Wlezien

Salience refers to the extent to which people cognitively and behaviorally engage with a political issue (or other object), although it has meant different things to different scholars studying different phenomena. The word originally was used in the social sciences to refer to the importance of political issues to individuals’ vote choice. It also has been used to designate attention being paid to issues by policy makers and the news media, yet it can pertain to voters as well. Thus, salience sometimes refers to importance and other times to attention—two related but distinct concepts—and is applied to different actors. The large and growing body of research on the subject has produced real knowledge about policies and policy, but the understanding is limited in several ways. First, the conceptualization of salience is not always clear, which is of obvious relevance to theorizing and limits assessment of how (even whether) research builds on and extends existing literature. Second, the match between conceptualization and measurement is not always clear, which is of consequence for analysis and impacts the contribution research makes. Third, partly by implication, but also because the connections between research in different areas—the public, the media, and policy—are not always clear, the consequences of salience for representative democracy remain unsettled.

Article

Typology of Media Systems  

Daniel C. Hallin

Typologies are a central tool of comparative analysis in the social sciences. Typologies function to identify common patterns in the relationships among elements of a media system and wider social system, and to generate research questions about why particular patterns occur in particular systems, why particular cases may deviate from common patterns, and what the consequences of these patterns may be. They are important for specifying the context within which particular processes operate, and therefore for identifying possible system-level causes, for specifying the scope of applicability of particular theories and for assessing the validity of measurements across systems. Typologies of media systems date to the publication of Four Theories of the Press, which proposed a typology of authoritarian, libertarian, social responsibility, and Soviet Communist media systems. Hallin and Mancini’s typology of media systems in Western Europe and North America has influenced recent work in comparative analysis of media systems. Hallin and Mancini proposed three models differentiated on the basis of four clusters of variables: the development of media markets; the degree and forms of political parallelism; journalistic professionalism; and the role of the state. Much recent research has been devoted to operationalizing these dimensions of comparison, and a number of revisions of Hallin and Mancini’s model and proposals for alternative approaches have been proposed. Researchers have also begun efforts to develop typologies including media systems outside of Western Europe and North America.

Article

Partisan Identity and Political Decision Making  

Alexa Bankert

Democracy depends upon citizens’ ability and motivation to make political decisions: the decision to turn out and vote, to protest, or simply to support or oppose certain policies. Political scientists have dedicated significant attention to the study of individual political decision-making. This type of research was primarily shaped by the rational choice paradigm, which assumes the individual acts as a rational agent and attempts to explain and predict political behavior by examining the costs and benefits associated with it. This approach, however, does not account for people’s decision to become politically active in the face of high costs and low returns. Whereas some researchers have tried to further develop rational choice theory by expanding its parameters, political psychologists have explored alternative avenues including genetics, neuroscience, and personality and social psychology. Social psychology in particular has gained recognition among political scientists as the concept of social identity has spread throughout the discipline. Social identity theory focuses on the part of an individual’s self-concept that is derived from perceived membership in a social or political group. In the political realm, race, religion, and ethnicity, as well as ideology and partisanship, represent some of the most consequential identities for people’s political preferences. In particular, an abundance of research has shown partisanship to be one of the strongest predictors of political attitudes, turnout, and voting behavior. Notably—and breaking with some of the axioms of rational choice—this string of research demonstrates that partisanship is not necessarily grounded in ex-ante political preferences and carefully considered party platforms but instead drives people’s political attitudes and behaviors. From that vantage point, the social identity approach reverses the causal arrow that was originally posited by rational choice: Rather than being the outcome of stable political preferences, partisanship serves as their origin. To explain this reversed causation, social identity researchers postulate that partisans utilize their group membership as an anchor to navigate the political word. Motivated by the desire to be good team players and advance the party’s status, partisans fall in line with their party, thereby aligning their political attitudes with the party’s platform. Using surveys and field experiments, political psychologists have provided convincing evidence for the validity of these psychological dynamics. Especially in the United States, partisan identity is a key factor in explaining mass political polarization and interparty hostility. Contrary to many expectations, however, the social identity approach’s utility goes beyond the United States’ two-party system and extends to European multiparty systems despite the substantial variations across political systems. In addition to its value for empirical political behavior research, Social identity theory also comes with heavy normative implications. If partisans blindly follow their party’s stances on crucial political decisions, how can one ensure accountability, increase citizens’ understanding of complex political issues, and encourage partisans to reach across the aisle and engage with their political rivals?

Article

Ambivalence in Political Decision Making  

Dane Warner and Jason Gainous

Behavioral research largely treats attitudinal ambivalence as a component of attitude strength. Specifically, attitudinal ambivalence exists when someone simultaneously possesses positive and negative evaluations of a single attitude object. Ambivalent individuals do not have a single “true” attitude about political issues but rather a store of multiple and sometimes conflicting attitudes that they might draw upon at any given time when making a decision. Research has suggested that such ambivalence is quite common when it comes to political attitudes. Thus, understanding the measurement of ambivalence, the sources of ambivalence, and the consequences of ambivalence is critical to understanding political decision making. Ambivalence measures largely fall within one of two types: Meta-attitudinal measures where individuals assess their own ambivalence and operative measures where researchers construct indicators that assess ambivalence without individuals’ cognizance that it is being measured. Most research suggests that operative measures perform better. Research generally assumes that the causes of ambivalence are rooted in individual differences in attitude strength that may result from a host of individual or combined sources. The most common sources of ambivalence researchers focus on are value conflict, differences in political knowledge, Context/Political Environment, and Cross-Cutting Information/Conflicting Networks/Groups. Finally, some of the most prevalent consequences of ambivalence are an increase in susceptibility to influence, an effect on the rate of political participation, and increased variance in vote choice. It is here, in the consequences of ambivalence, where the most direct connection to political decision making is evident. In a democratic society, the decision centered on for whom one votes, is perhaps, the quintessential political decision.

Article

Psychophysiology in Political Decision-Making Research  

Mathew V. Hibbing, Melissa N. Baker, and Kathryn A. Herzog

Since the early 2010s, political science has seen a rise in the use of physiological measures in order to inform theories about decision-making in politics. A commonly used physiological measure is skin conductance (electrodermal activity). Skin conductance measures the changes in levels of sweat in the eccrine glands, usually on the fingertips, in order to help inform how the body responds to stimuli. These changes result from the sympathetic nervous system (popularly known as the fight or flight system) responding to external stimuli. Due to the nature of physiological responses, skin conductance is especially useful when researchers hope to have good temporal resolution and make causal claims about a type of stimulus eliciting physiological arousal in individuals. Researchers interested in areas that involve emotion or general affect (e.g., campaign messages, political communication and advertising, information processing, and general political psychology) may be especially interested in integrating skin conductance into their methodological toolbox. Skin conductance is a particularly useful tool since its implicit and unconscious nature means that it avoids some of the pitfalls that can accompany self-report measures (e.g., social desirability bias and inability to accurately remember and report emotions). Future decision-making research will benefit from pairing traditional self-report measures with physiological measures such as skin conductance.

Article

Measuring Religion in Terms of Belonging, Beliefs, and Behavior  

Corwin E. Smidt

Religion is a multi-dimensional phenomenon, and scholars have taken different approaches to measuring religion in seeking to study religion’s influence on political attitudes and behavior. One analytical strategy for assessing the influence of religion politically among members of the mass public has been to adopt what is known as the “3B” approach. Though this approach can be applied across different cultural contexts, it has been widely adopted in the American context because of the multiplicity of denominational affiliations present in American life. Associated with this approach in the American context is the concept of religious traditions, particularly the presence of subtraditions within the Christian faith, and the associated measurement strategy for assigning such affiliations to their specific religious tradition. The approach offers various analytical advantages, but it constitutes an analytical strategy and not a specific theoretical explanation about how different facets of religious life necessarily shape political attitudes and behavior.

Article

Stereotype Measurement in Political Decision Making  

Angela L. Bos, Heather Madonia, and Monica C. Schneider

Stereotypes are a set of beliefs a person holds about the personal attributes of a group of people. The beliefs are commonly held and understood, which allows people to use them as automatic shortcuts when making evaluations and decisions. Because the beliefs are so broadly understood and easily accessible, they can subconsciously influence opinion formation. In the realm of politics, citizens may use stereotypes to guide evaluations of candidates from stereotyped groups (such as African Americans or women) or as they formulate opinions about a policy that may have a particular group as its perceived beneficiary. Because many commonly held stereotypes—such as that African Americans are lazy or violent—are not socially desirable, they pose a challenge to researchers attempting to measure them effectively. Thus, as social scientists examine the effects of stereotypes on citizen decision-making, it is important that they carefully consider how to best measure stereotypes. The goal should be to create reliable (consistent) and valid (accurate) measures that minimize social desirability in responses. Measures should reflect clear understanding of the content of the stereotype under examination and incorporate a full range of content to reflect it. One part of understanding the content of a stereotype is considering whether the group under examination is a subtype or subgroup of a larger stereotype category. For example, female politicians as a group constitute a subtype of the larger stereotyped group, women, where female politicians share little overlap in terms of stereotype content with women. Similarly, Black politicians are a subtype of Blacks, sharing little stereotype content. Male politicians, in contrast, form a subgroup of men, where they share many characteristics with the larger group, men. Stereotype content has implications for the link between stereotypes and evaluations of political actors or public policies. The ability to accurately measure stereotypes is a necessary step in understanding when and how people use stereotypes to navigate the political arena. The intersection of two stereotypes is another important consideration, particularly since the combination of two stereotypes may be more than the sum of its parts. When researchers consider the content of stereotypes, the relationship between one stereotype to others (e.g., subtypes or subgroups), and the intersection of stereotypes, they can create improved measures of stereotypes that optimize reliability and validity. A variety of explicit and implicit measures exist for researchers to consider, including explicit measures, such as semantic differential scales and open- and closed-ended identification of stereotype content, and implicit measures, such as the Implicit Association Test (IAT) and affective attitude measures. Two-step measures can be used to examine stereotype activation and application. While each of these measures has strengths and weaknesses, all are designed to help researchers better measure stereotypes en route to understanding how stereotypes influence peoples’ attitudes and behaviors. Reliable and valid measures of stereotypes—both implicit and explicit—can help us create more accurate understandings of the political world.