Do Shark Attacks Influence Presidential Elections? Reassessing a Prominent Finding on Voter Competence

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Authors Anthony Fowler, Andrew B. Hall
Journal/Conference Name THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS
Paper Category
Paper Abstract We reassess Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels’s prominent claim that shark attacks influence presidential elections. First, we assemble data on every fatal shark attack in US history and county-level returns from every presidential election between 1872 and 2012, and we find no systematic evidence that shark attacks affect elections. Second, we show that Achen and Bartels’s county-level finding for New Jersey in 1916 becomes substantively smaller and statistically weaker under alternative specifications. Third, we find that their town-level finding in Ocean County significantly shrinks when we correct errors and does not hold for the other beach counties. Finally, implementing placebo tests in settings where there were no shark attacks, we demonstrate that Achen and Bartels’s result was likely to arise even if shark attacks do not influence elections. Overall, there is little compelling evidence that shark attacks influence presidential elections, and any such effect—if one exists—is substantively negli...
Date of publication 2018
Code Programming Language R
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