The Effects of Elite Decision Making
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Decision making is a central concept in the study of both politics and organizations. Although much research has examined how individuals make decisions, there has been substantially less work on the consequences of these decisions. My dissertation focuses on two groups of decision makers, candidates running for office and public managers, and the effect of their decisions on the electorate and organization, respectively. The dissertation explores the impact of candidates' decisions regarding their campaigns on the electorate by examining campaign advertising during the 2000 Presidential Election. I focus on two candidate decisions. The first is to focus on certain issues as a way to prime the public to see the candidate as having certain traits, namely empathy, morality, and leadership ability. The second is to show voters that the candidate is like them by activating (i.e. priming) feelings of social identity among women, African-Americans, and Latinos. Using campaign advertising data and public opinion data, I analyze the effect of campaign advertising on voters' evaluations of the candidates to determine the effectiveness of these strategies. Results find that an effective strategy was for the candidates to air ads describing themselves as having certain traits. Talking about issues does not have much of an effect on voters' candidate evaluations. Appeals to women were not effective. Appeals to African-Americans were only effective for the Democratic candidate, and appeals to Latinos were only successful for the Republican candidate. I examine the decisions of public managers by focusing on middle level bureaucrats and the consequences of their decisions on their agencies. The agencies are public schools in Texas and the middle managers are principals. From a dataset of over 1,000 Texas school districts, I create a measure of principal quality which I then use to explore the impact of middle management on multiple school performance measures and to compare the influence of principals and superintendents on performance. I also examine the effect of principals within in the organization, namely how principals affect the turnover of the workers under them. Results find that principals have a direct and beneficial influence on organizational performance measures such as standardized test scores, college readiness, and turnover. To summarize the results more generally, the dissertation finds that the decisions actors make within the political process matter in important and significant ways.
Johansen, Morgen S. (2009). The Effects of Elite Decision Making. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from