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.
Learning During the 2020 US Presidential Election: More Information Does Not Mean Better Voting Decisions
Scholars typically think that more information will help voters make better decisions. Current evidence suggests that voters do learn about candidates' policy stances during election campaigns but that their newly-acquired knowledge fails to lead them to change their vote preferences. However, neither the evidence for learning nor the evidence that learning does not lead to changes in vote preferences is flawless. Evidence that learning occurs could in fact reflect voters reinforcing their existing preferences by projecting their own positions onto their preferred candidate. Evidence that learning policy stances fails to lead to changes in vote preferences could reflect measurement error in policy questions or issues that do not matter to voters. Using an original panel survey from the 2020 US Presidential election, we address these shortcomings and confirm that learning does occur but that it does not lead voters to change their candidate preferences, even on issues as important to voters as the coronavirus pandemic. Our findings thus cast doubt on the notion that information helps voters. Voters already learn a great deal during campaigns, but that information simply leads them to reinforce their pre-existing preferences.
What Do Analyses of Elections Tell Us About Voters? Evaluating Election Models for Assessing Policy Voting
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.
The Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Vote in a More Tolerant Canada
Research on the political preferences of lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) voters shows that they are more progressive than heterosexuals. However, only rarely have these studies considered distinctions among voters within the LGB collectivity---thus far, no Canadian research considers differences between heterosexual, gay/lesbian, and bisexual men and women. Furthermore, little is known about how these preferences have changed as society has become more accepting of homosexuality. We offer an analysis of Canadian LGB voters' distinct political preferences a decade and a half after same-sex marriage was legalized. To clarify whether LGB voters' preferences have changed in response to increasing tolerance of homosexuality and rights for LGB people, we assess differences across generations between distinct groups within the LGB community and between LGB and heterosexual voters. As a final contribution, we estimate the causal effect of marriage on LGB voters using a matching algorithm.