2014 S. Cowan and  D. Baldassarri “ “It could turn ugly”: Selective Disclosure of Political Views and Biased Network Perception,” R&R at American Sociological Review


ABSTRACT: This article documents individuals selectively disclosing their political attitudes and the consequences of these communication patterns for social influence and the democratic process. Using a large, diverse sample of American adults, we find Americans are more likely to share their opinions with friends and family rather than co-workers and they are more likely to share their opinions on more salient topics. Further, they withhold their political attitudes specifically from those with whom they disagree in an attempt to avoid conflict. This produces the experience of highly homogeneous social contexts, in which only liberal or conservative views are voiced, while dissent remains silent, and often times goes unacknowledged. This experience is not the result of homogeneous social contexts but the appearance of them. Paradoxically, the mechanism of selective disclosure, whose goal is to prevent conflict at the micro-level, might lead to the perception of greater division in the larger society. 


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2004 D. Baldassarri and H.M.A. Schadee “Il fascino della coalizione. Come e perche' le alleanze elettorali influenzano il modo in cui gli elettori interpretano la politica,” Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, 34, 2: 249-276 . En. title: “The Appeal of Coalitions: How and Why Electoral Alliances Affect Voters’ Political Understanding.

ABSTRACT: Changes in the electoral and party system at the beginning of the ’90s had several effects on the attitudes and behavior of ordinary Italian citizens. Based on public opinion surveys, the article studies how voters perceive and interpret the political landscape and electoral competition. Three main results can be shown. First, with respect to the self-placement on the left-right dimension, Italian voters “discovered the right”. Second, party locations on the left-right continuum became an unsettled aspect of the electoral competition: in particular, citizen's perception of party placement changes according with the overall pattern of their alliances. Finally, several cues suggest that the center-left and center-right alliances (and their candidates) have become important reference objects. Specifically, at least a fourth of Italian voters deploy a judgmental logic based on a “amicus/hostis” criterion: they are positively biased in favor of parties and leaders affiliated with the coalition they prefer, and, specularly, they are negatively biased toward those that belong to the opposite alliance. We suggest this being an easy, although effective shortcut for reducing the complexity of electoral choice.

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2005 “Oltre il free rider: l’utilizzo di modelli formali nello studio dell’azione collettiva,” Rassegna Italiana di Sociologia, 40,1: 125-156. En. title: “Beyond Free Riding: On the Use of Formal Models for the Study of Collective Action.”

ABSTRACT: Since Olson’s The Logic of Collective Action appeared, several formal models of collective action have been proposed. Although maintaining the same analytical approach, scholars working on this vein have strongly relaxed Olson’s rational choice assumptions, even shifting toward a relational or structural perspective. Current models of collective action consider the interdependence among actors; the effect of norms, sanctions and mutual influence; population heterogeneity in resources, interest and power; social position and the impact of the network structure; and processes of adaptive and backward looking decision making. By reviewing recent literature, this paper shows the possibilities of mathematical modeling and introduces some basic notions about computer simulations, with a specific focus on agent-based models.

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2006 D. Baldassarri and H.M.A. Schadee “Voter Heuristics and Political Cognition in Italy: An Empirical Typology”, Electoral Studies, 25: 448-466.

ABSTRACT: Within a framework of reasoning voters who use various cognitive shortcuts –heuristics– to arrive at decision, we classify Italian voters on the basis of the information they possess, how information and judgment are organized and whether preferences match actual vote. By using only two sets of variables present in nearly all election surveys, we distinguish four types of voters: Utilius, a sort of Downsian voter that uses the lefteright dimension in order to reduce the complexity of politics to a unidimensional space; Amicus, who conceives politics as an arena in which two main coalitions fight; Aliens, a detached voter that is strongly disinterested in–or even disappointed by–politics and its protagonists; and Medians, who belongs to a residual category. By distinguishing voters according to their actual knowledge and style of political reasoning, we provide a classification that is both able to grasp actual differences in the level of political cognition and sophistication, and suggestive with respect to the kind of information that are pertinent for the task at hand. We demonstrate that people follow multiple strategies and rely selectively on different kind of available information. It follows that parties, leaders, coalitions and media affect voter behavior, but they have different leverage on different types of voters.

We conclude that a proper account of voter behavior needs to move from the search of the determinants of vote to the search of multiple mechanisms through which voters perceive, represent and evaluate the political landscape. 

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2007 D. Baldassarri and P. Bearman “Dynamics of Political Polarization,” American Sociological Review, 72: 784-811. 

Outstanding Article Award from the Mathematical Sociology section of the ASA.


ABSTRACT: This article accounts for two puzzling paradoxes. The first paradox is the simultaneous absence and presence of attitude polarization—the fact that global attitude polarization is relatively rare, even though pundits describe it as common. The second paradox is the simultaneous presence and absence of social polarization—the fact that while individuals experience attitude homogeneity in their interpersonal networks, their networks are characterized by attitude heterogeneity. These paradoxes give rise to numerous scholarly arguments. By developing a formal model of interpersonal influence over attitudes in a context where individuals hold simultaneous positions on multiple issues, we show why these arguments are not mutually exclusive and how they meaningfully refer to the same social setting. The results from this model provide a single parsimonious account for both paradoxes. The framework we develop may be generalized to a wider array of problems, including classic problems in collective action.

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2007 D. Baldassarri and M. Diani “The Integrative Power of Civic Networks,” American Journal of Sociology, 113(3): 735-80.

ABSTRACT: This article analyzes integrative dynamics within civil society by looking at civic networks—the web of collaborative ties between participatory associations acting on behalf of public and collective interests. Drawing upon evidence from Glasgow and Bristol, the authors identify a polycentric model of civic coordination based on horizontal solidarity, in which associations form dense clusters of strong identity ties (“social bonds”) bridged by fewer instrumental ties (“transactions”). Basic relational mechanisms, consistent across localities, provide the basis for both micro- and macro integration: they generate networks tight enough to embed civic associations in a distinctive environment, but open enough to connect them to a broader range of civic organizations. While contributing primarily to the understanding of political networks, the authors’ findings also have implications for current debates on associational social capital and the impact of political contexts on the structure of collective action.

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2008 D. Baldassarri and A. Gelman “Partisans Without Constraint: Political Polarization and Trends in American Public Opinion,” American Journal of Sociology, 114(2): 408-46.


ABSTRACT: Public opinion polarization is here conceived as a process of alignment along multiple lines of potential disagreement and measured as growing constraint in individuals’ preferences. Using NES data from 1972 to 2004, the authors model trends in issue partisanship—the correlation of issue attitudes with party identification—and issue alignment—the correlation between pairs of issues—and find a substantive increase in issue partisanship, but little evidence of issue alignment. The findings suggest that opinion changes correspond more to a resorting of party labels among voters than to greater constraint on issue attitudes: since parties are more polarized, they are now better at sorting individuals along ideological lines. Levels of constraint vary across population subgroups: strong partisans and wealthier and politically sophisticated voters have grown more coherent in their beliefs. The authors discuss the consequences of partisan realignment and group sorting on the political process and potential deviations from the classic pluralistic account of American politics.

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2009 “Collective Action” in P. Hedström and P. Bearman (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Analytical Sociology.

ABSTRACT: The chapter outlines new directions for future research on formal models of collective action. It invites scholars to move beyond the ‘free rider’ problem and to apply analytical tools for the understanding of a broader set of aspects that are distinctive of collective action phenomena: Namely, the formation of collective identities and interests; the interplay between individual attitudes and social networks, and between multiple levels of decision making (individual, organizational and inter-organizational); and finally, the interdependence of individual and collective interests. Despite empirical research provided evidence of their importance, these aspects have been rarely incorporated into analytical models. The chapter suggests various ways to do it, and thus systematically investigate the generative mechanisms that underline these phenomena.

In general, the chapter moves from the study of problems of coordination and aggregation of individual choices to problems of identity construction and social influence. In doing so, it gives primacy to micro-relational patterns of interaction over the study of individuals and their monadic characteristics. 

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2011 “Partisan Joiners: Associational Membership and Political Polarization in America (1974-2004),Social Science Quarterly, 92(3): 631-655. 

Outstanding Academic Publication on Membership Organizations Award of the ASAE Foundation

ABSTRACT: Objectives. Associational life may foster political integration or amplify division, depending on how individuals partition themselves into groups and whether their multiple affiliations embed them into concentric or cross-cutting social circles. Starting from this premise, I relate trends in associational membership to political partisanship, and ask if there is any evidence of increased political polarization in the associative patterns of Americans.

Methods. Using GSS data (1974–2004) on affiliations to 16 types of groups, I plot trends and run multilevel models to examine changes over time in the partisan allegiances of group members and patterns of overlapping memberships.

Results. The often-lamented decline in group membership affects primarily the category of single-group members and is limited to a few types of groups. The density of the network of overlapping memberships has remained stable over time and there are no real changes in the patterns of shared memberships between group types, nor do Republicans and Democrats differ in their patterns of preferential affiliation. Although political partisanship does not drive patterns of group affiliation, group members, especially those affiliated with multiple groups, are more radical in their partisan identification than nonmembers, and most types of groups have become politically more heterogeneous over time.

Conclusion. The puzzling finding that group types are not becoming more partisan, while group members are, leads to the hypothesis (to be tested in future research) that civil society polarization is occurring at the level of actual groups, and not group types.

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2013 D. Baldassarri and G. Grossman “The Effect of Group Attachment and Social Position on Prosocial Behavior. Evidence from Lab-in-the-Field Experiments,” PLoS ONE, 8(3) e58750. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0058750.

GroupAttachment PLOSONE.png

ABSTRACT: Social life is regulated by norms of fairness that constrain selfish behavior. While a substantial body of scholarship on prosocial behavior has provided evidence of such norms, large inter- and intra-personal variation in prosocial behavior still needs to be explained. The article identifies two social-structural dimensions along which people's generosity varies systematically: group attachment and social position. We conducted lab-in-the-field experiments involving 2,597 members of producer organizations in rural Uganda. Using different variants of the dictator game, we demonstrate that group attachment positively affects prosocial behavior, and that this effect is not simply the by-product of the degree of proximity between individuals. Second, we show that occupying a formal position in an organization or community leads to greater generosity toward in-group members. Taken together, our findings show that prosocial behavior is not an invariant social trait; rather, it varies according to individuals' relative position in the social structure.

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2014 G. Manzo and D. Baldassarri “Heuristics, Interactions, and Status Hierarchies: An Agent-Based Model of Deference Exchange,” Sociological Methods and Research.

ABSTRACT: Since Merton’s classical analysis of cumulative advantage in science, it has been observed that status hierarchies display a sizable disconnect between actors’ quality and rank and that they become increasingly asymmetric over time, without, however, turning into winner-take-all structures. In recent years, formal models of status hierarchies tried to account for these facts by combining two micro-level, counterbalancing mechanisms: ‘‘social influence’’ (supposedly driving inequality) and the desire for ‘‘reciprocation in deferential gestures’’ (supposedly limiting inequality). In the article, we adopt as empirical benchmark basic features that are common to most distributions of status indicators (e.g., income, academic prestige, wealth, social ties) and argue that previous formal models were only partially able to reproduce such macro-level patterns. We then introduce a novel agent-based computational model of deferential gestures that improves on the realism of previous models by introducing heuristic-based decision making, actors’ heterogeneity, and status homophily in social interactions. We systematically and extensively study the model’s parameter space and consider a few variants to determine under which conditions the macroscopic patterns of interest are more likely to appear. We find that specific forms of status-based heterogeneity in actors’ propensity to interact with status-dissimilar others are needed to generate status hierarchies that best approximate these macroscopic features.


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M. Abascal and D. Baldassarri 2015 “Love thy Neighbor? Ethnoracial Diversity and Trust Reexamined”, American Journal of Sociology, 121(3): 722-782.

AbascalBaldassarri Diversity.jpg

ABSTRACT: According to recent research, ethnoracial diversity negatively affects trust and social capital. This article challenges the current conception and measurement of “diversity” and invites scholars to rethink “social capital” in complex societies. It reproduces the analysis of Putnam and shows that the association between diversity and self-reported trust is a compositional artifact attributable to residential sorting: nonwhites report lower trust and are overrepresented in heterogeneous communities. The association between diversity and trust is better explained by differences between communities and their residents in terms of race/ethnicity, residential stability, and economic conditions; these classic indicators of inequality, not diversity, strongly and consistently predict self-reported trust. Diversity indexes also obscure the distinction between in-group and out-group contact. For whites, heterogeneity means more out-group neighbors; for nonwhites, heterogeneity means more in-group neighbors. Therefore, separate analyses were conducted by ethnoracial groups. Only for whites does living among out-group members — not in diverse communities per se — negatively predict trust.

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D. Baldassarri and A. Goldberg 2014 “Neither Ideologues, nor Agnostics: Alternative Voters’ Belief System in an Age of Partisan Politics,” American Journal of Sociology 120(1): 45-95.


Abstract: How do Americans understand politics? This paper argues that party polarization and the growing prominence of moral issues in recent decades have catalyzed different responses by different groups of Americans. The paper investigates systematic heterogeneity in the organization of political attitudes using Relational Class Analysis, a graph-based method for detecting multiple patterns of opinion in survey data. Three subpopulations, each characterized by a distinctive way of understanding politics, are identified: Ideologues, whose political attitudes strongly align with either liberal or conservative categories; Alternatives, who are instead morally conservative but economically liberal, or vice versa; and Agnostics, who exhibit weak associations between political beliefs. Individuals’ sociodemographic profiles, particularly their income, education, and religiosity, lie at the core of the different ways in which they understand politics.

Results show that while Ideologues have gone through a process of issue alignment, Alternatives have grown increasingly apart from the political agendas of both parties. The conflictual presence of conservative and liberal preferences has often been resolved by Alternative voters in favor of the Republican Party.

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D. Baldassarri 2015. “Cooperative Networks: Altruism, Group Solidarity, Reciprocity and Sanctioning in Ugandan Farmer Organizations,” American Journal of Sociology, 121(2): 355-395. [lead article]


ABSTRACT:  Repeated interaction and social networks are commonly considered viable solutions to collective action problems. This article identifies and systematically measures four general mechanisms— that is, generalized altruism, group solidarity, reciprocity, and the threat of sanctioning— and tests which of them brings about cooperation in the context of Ugandan producer organizations. Using an innovative methodological framework that combines “ lab-in-the-fi eld”  experiments with survey interviews and complete social networks data, the article goes beyond the assessment of a relationship between social networks and collective outcomes to study the mechanisms that favor cooperative behavior. The article first establishes a positive relationship between position in the network structure and propensity to cooperate in the producer organization and then uses farmers’ behavior in dictator and public goods games to test different mechanisms that may account for such a relationship. Results show that cooperation is induced by patterns of reciprocity that emerge through repeated interaction rather than other-regarding preferences like altruism or group solidarity. 

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2011 “Centralized Sanctioning and Legitimate Authority Promote Cooperation in Humans", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(27): 11023-11027 (with Guy Grossman).

ABSTRACT: Social sanctioning is widely considered a successful strategy to promote cooperation among humans. In situations in which individual and collective interests are at odds, incentives to free-ride induce individuals to refrain from contributing to public goods provision.