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 have long argued that partisanship is rooted in social groups. Early research by the Columbia School found that supporters of the majority party in a group are more loyal to that party than supporters of a party without majority support from social groups. The Columbia authors explained that such partisans are exposed to messages supporting their party from people who are socially similar to them. This argument should also apply to affective polarization. Partisans of the majority party in social groups should more strongly prefer their party to other parties. 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 partisans whose partisanship is rooted in social groups are more affectively polarized and that affective polarization is greater in countries with more socially-rooted partisans. These findings point to the pervasiveness and limitations of affective polarization.
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.
How big of a challenge to democracy are far-right parties?
Far-right parties are present in most advanced democracies. They have been extensively studied. However, only a small number of studies have considered their influence on citizens’ attitudes. If far-right parties influence citizens’ attitudes instead of simply articulating them, they constitute a significantly greater challenge to democracy. In this paper, I leverage panel studies from Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, the United States, and the United Kingdom and use a differences-in-differences design to assess the influence of far-right parties’ emergence on citizens’ attitudes. I consider their policy preferences, their levels of affective polarization, and their support for democracy.