Here is a list of my ongoing research projects. Completed projects are listed under Publications.
Socially-Sorted Partisans Are More Affectively Polarized: Evidence from the United States and Elsewhere
Scholars are increasingly concerned about affective polarization among partisans in the United States and elsewhere. This concern has led to numerous studies attempting to explain this phenomenon and also searching for means to reduce it. However, while there is evidence that some partisans are more polarized than others, research on affective polarization rarely considers heterogeneity among partisans. Recent research by Mason suggests a source of heterogeneity: social sorting. Using US data from the American National Election Studies (ANES) and cross-national data from the Comparative Study of Electoral systems (CSES), I show that there is considerable heterogeneity in levels of affective polarization among partisans. I also show that partisans whose partisanship is rooted in social groups are more affectively polarized. These findings have major implications for our interpretation of the phenomenon of affective polarization and for attempts to reduce it.
Still Not Important Enough? COVID-19 Policy Views and Vote Choice
Scholars have long been skeptical of citizens' ability to vote on the basis of their policy views. Voters lack incentives to pay attention to politics and so are often unaware of the policy stances adopted by candidates and parties. However, some scholars have suggested that voter attention may increase when policy issues become important to them, such as when a crises disrupts their lives. The coronavirus pandemic provides a compelling test of this proposition. The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the most severe crises the United States has faced. Many voters also know people who have tested positive and in some cases died from the virus. It is thus salient and important to many if not most voters. Despite this context, we assess voters' knowledge about the candidates' positions on coronavirus issues and find low levels. In the absence of knowledge, voters project their own policy views onto their preferred candidate.
What Do Analyses of Elections Tell Us About Voters? Evaluating Election Models for Assessing Policy Voting (under review)
Recent studies of elections have largely focused on identifying policy attitudes that predict vote choice in a given election or on comparing how well a policy attitude relates to vote choice at two points in time. While appropriate for characterizing elections, it is unclear what these analyses tell us about voters' behavior. Results from cross-sectional models as well as priming models using panel data reflect a combination of policy voting during the period of interest, policy voting in the past, and persuasion in the past. I argue that, if scholars are interested in how policy attitudes influence voting behavior, they should identify policy attitudes that predict changes in vote choice with a lagged dependent variable model. This model allows scholars to identify the influence of policy preferences on vote choice during a period of interest. Conclusions about voters are strongly dependent on the model used.
Policy Preferences Do Influence Vote Choice: Evidence from the 2017 French Presidential Election (with Romain Lachat, under review)
Scholars have long debated whether policy preferences motivate vote choice, as expected in models of policy representation. This debate has persisted for so long because nearly all analyses of vote choice are liable to the critique that the policy preferences in question are endogenous to party preferences. We leverage the unique context of the 2017 French presidential election in which a candidate lacking a long-standing party, Emmanuel Macron, rose to prominence and won. Using a differences-in-differences design applied to multi-wave panel date, we find strong evidence that the campaign led voters with centrist preferences to support him. We conclude that policy preferences clearly do matter to vote choice and that this effect is most visible when a new party emerges.
Issue Voting and Government Responsiveness to Policy Preferences (with Mikael Persson, under review)
Does citizens' voting behavior influence government policy? Conventional models of democratic representation assume that issue voting by citizens induces government responsiveness to their preferences. However, existing research has not tested whether voting behavior makes any difference to responsiveness. We present a theoretical model of issue voting and policy responsiveness. We leverage Swedish election study panels and a corresponding dataset on policy implementation to empirically evaluate the influence of issue voting on the adoption by governments of popular policies. We find that parties that enter government are more likely to implement popular policies if supporters of a policy shift their votes towards those parties. Thus, issue voting does lead to government responsiveness as long as it does not force parties to be inconsistent with their prior positions.
The Impact of the Economy on Presidential Elections throughout US History (with Gabriel Lenz and Jeffrey Myers)
Numerous studies document that, since World War II, voters have held US presidents accountable for the national economy. Research into economic voting before World War II, however, has been limited by the absence of economic data. Using economic measures now available back to the 1790s, we study economic voting back to the earliest days of the Republic. We find that the economy appears to shape presidents' decisions to run again and whether they won all the way back to George Washington. It may have also shaped the extent of their victories since the 1820s. These results suggest that voters held presidents accountable for the economy before presidents had Keynesian tools to manage the economy. They also suggest an intriguing explanation for the peaceful turnover of power in early US history: early presidents faced frequent mild recessions well-timed to encourage them to step down, including Washington, Jefferson, and Madison.