“The Intersection of Racial and Partisan Discrimination: Evidence from a Correspondence Study of Four-Year Colleges.” Forthcoming. The Journal of Politics. With James N. Druckman.
Social decisions are often imbued with various types of biases. The consequence can be discrimination against certain groups of people. One of the more widely documented types of discrimination is race-based – racial minorities frequently find themselves at a disadvantage. Recent work also reveals partisan bias such that members of one political party unfairly favor their co-partisans or discriminate against members of the other party in social and economic decisions. In this paper, we use a correspondence study to explore the independent and intersectional impact of racial and partisan discrimination in higher education. Specifically, we investigate responsiveness to e-mail requests for information sent to admissions departments at four-year colleges in the United States. While we find some evidence for partisan discrimination, our central finding is that African-Americans who reference politics of any sort receive substantially fewer responses. This coheres with the theory of racial threat: members of a majority group are averse to minorities who might threaten their political, economic, or social status.
“Political Considerations in Nonpolitical Decisions: A Conjoint Analysis of Roommate Choice.” Forthcoming. Political Behavior.
Research shows the increasing tendency of partisan considerations to influence decisions outside the context of politics, including residential choice. Scholars attribute this tendency to affective distaste for members of the other party. However, little work has investigated the relative influence of political and nonpolitical factors in these situations—and it has not sufficiently ruled out alternative explanations for these phenomena. Do people mainly choose to socially avoid members of the other party for political reasons, or is partisanship simply perceived to be correlated with relevant nonpolitical considerations? In some settings, political affiliation may serve primarily as a cue for other factors. As a result, studies that manipulate partisanship but fail to include other individuating information may exaggerate partisanship’s importance in these decisions. To address this shortcoming, I assess the impact of political and nonpolitical considerations on roommate selection via conjoint analysis. I find that partisanship strongly influences this social decision even in the presence of nonpolitical-but-politically-correlated individuating information. Partisan preferences are also moderated by roommates’ perceived levels of political interest. Finally, other social traits do matter, but how they matter depends on partisanship. Specifically, partisans report increased willingness to live with counter–stereotypic out-partisans. This suggests that partisan social divides may be more easily bridged by individuals with cross-cutting identities.
“Political Consequences of Partisan Prejudice.” 2020. Political Psychology 41(1): 35-51.
Political conflict sometimes spills over into unrelated areas of our lives. A growing literature documents examples of partisan considerations influencing judgments and behaviors in ostensibly nonpolitical contexts such as the workplace, academia, and dating, among others. To date, the focus has been on demonstrating these phenomena, with scant consideration of their downstream effects. When politics spills over into nonpolitical settings—that is, when political considerations influence nonpolitical judgments or behaviors—what are the consequences? I address this question with a novel theory and a nationally representative survey experiment. I find that norms exist regarding the spillover of political considerations into nonpolitical matters—and that spillover can have its own political consequences. When one’s copartisans discriminate against members of the other party, it can lead to decreased partisan identification and depolarization. Partisan discrimination in nonpolitical settings can—in some sense ironically—reduce affective polarization. That said, partisans also appear to hold a double standard: They expect copartisans to give an edge to fellow copartisans.
“Partisan Polarization and Representation.” 2020. In Voting and Political Representation in America: Issues and Trends, ed. Mark P. Jones. ABC-CLIO.
“Pigeonholing Partisans: Stereotypes of Party Supporters and Partisan Polarization.” 2019. Political Behavior 41(2): 423-443. With Adam Howat, Ethan Busby, and Jacob Rothschild.
What comes to mind when people think about rank-and-file party supporters? What stereotypes do people hold regarding ordinary partisans, and are these views politically consequential? We utilize open-ended survey items and structural topic modeling to document stereotypes about rank-and-file Democrats and Republicans. Many subjects report stereotypes consistent with the parties’ actual composition, but individual differences in political knowledge, interest, and partisan affiliation predict their specific content. Respondents varied in their tendency to characterize partisans in terms of group memberships, issue preferences, or individual traits, lending support to both ideological and identity-based conceptions of partisanship. Most importantly, we show that partisan stereotype content is politically significant: individuals who think of partisans in a predominantly trait-based manner—that is, in a way consistent with partisanship as a social identity—display dramatically higher levels of both affective and ideological polarization.
“Advances and Opportunities in the Study of Political Communication, Foreign Policy, and Public Opinion.” 2017. Political Communication 34(4): 634-643. With Jacob Rothschild.
We review contemporary research at the intersection of political communication and foreign policy, highlighting four themes: 1) new, more realistic and psychologically-nuanced approaches that account for limited information and issue framing; 2) the question of whether the flow of communication between the state and the public is best conceived as a closed system, or one that is open to outside influences such as foreign elites; 3) how variations in political or governmental structures, patterns of media access or ownership, and other institutional factors can alter the relationships between foreign policy and communication processes; and 4) whether or not it is useful to distinguish between foreign and domestic policymaking when analyzing the role of political communication. We also suggest avenues for further research in each section and conclude by summarizing these opportunities for continued theoretical development.
“The Conditional Nature of the Local Warming Effect.” 2017. Weather, Climate, and Society 9(1): 15-26. With James N. Druckman.
The local warming effect occurs when perceived deviations in the day’s temperature affect individuals’ global warming beliefs. When people perceive the day to be warmer than usual, they tend to overestimate the number of warm days throughout the year, and to report increased belief in and worry about global warming. For many, this is normatively concerning because a single day’s perceived temperature fluctuation is not representative of longer-term, large-scale climate patterns. It thus makes for a poor basis for global warming judgments. Recent work shows that the local warming effect might disappear when people receive a reminder to think about weather patterns over the past year (i.e., a correction). This paper employs a survey experiment that extends past research by exploring the generalizability, conditionality, and durability of the corrective information. It identifies the conditions under which a local warming effect is more or less likely to occur.
“The Partisan Next Door: Stereotypes of Party Supporters and Consequences for Polarization in America.” Book manuscript. With Adam Howat, Ethan Busby, and Jacob Rothschild.
Contemporary politics has become both tribal and personal, with opposing partisans often unwilling to enter interpersonal relationships with each other or even to live alongside one another. What explains this troubling reality? The answer may lie in the ways people think about partisanship itself and their resulting impressions of party supporters.
Such stereotypes about social groups—that is, generalizations about group members’ characteristics—often help people to navigate the complex political and social world. However, they may also reinforce group divisions and engender prejudice, exacerbating intergroup conflict. The stakes of mass-level partisan identity and stereotypes are therefore both high and far-reaching. What images come to mind when ordinary people think of these ordinary partisans? Moreover, what are the consequences for polarization of holding different images of mass partisans in one’s head?
Using both observational and experimental data, our book provides answers to these questions. We demonstrate that citizens hold qualitatively different kinds of partisan stereotypes—some defining party supporters primarily by political issues, others by coalitions of other social groups, and still others by individual-level character traits. Furthermore, these different conceptions of mass-level partisans have a profound effect on the way citizens relate to one another and the depth (both actual and perceived) of partisan divisions in the U.S.
“Let’s Agree to (Not) Disagree: A New Look at Conflict Orientations and Participation.” With Ethan Busby and Josh Pasek.
Conflict and politics go hand in hand, as different sides negotiate, compete, and compromise over political issues, programs, and goals. Prior work thus connects conflict aversion to diminished political participation. However, while this relationship has sometimes been taken for granted, it has a mixed record across various strands of research. Further, different studies make different measurement choices regarding conflict aversion, leading to additional ambiguity. To clarify this literature, we use two separate surveys conducted in 2014 and 2017 and multiple measures of conflict aversion to attempt to replicate the oft-cited negative relationship between conflict aversion and participation. Using various operationalizations of conflict aversion and participation and both surveys, we are completely unable to do so – we either observe a null or a positive association between conflict aversion and political participation. This remains the case even when specifying a variety of possible moderating relationships. Finally, we explore the psychometric properties of several measures of conflict aversion; the results of these analyses suggest they are not all tapping the same underlying construct. Our findings show the need to reconsider conclusions drawn by prior research in this area. At the least, conflict aversion seems to have a variable relationship with participation, sometimes motivating political action and sometimes discouraging it. Researchers should make careful measurement choices in this area and revisit the concept of conflict aversion.
“The ‘Politics of Envy’? Exploring Envy’s Relationship with Partisanship, Policy Preferences, and Participation.”
When the national debate turns to issues of economic inequality, conservative commentators and politicians often rebut calls for redistribution with references to envy: liberals, they say, are simply jealous of the rich. It is clear that there are stark differences between liberals and conservatives in terms of economic policy preferences, but are there real differences in terms of envy? Does envy correlate with liberalism, and do individuals high in dispositional envy disproportionately favor redistributive policies? When envy enters the conversation, is it an effective counter-argument to calls for redistribution – do references to envy delegitimize concerns about inequality? Finally, is the emotional experience of envy mobilizing, demobilizing, or does it have no effect on participation? This paper draws on survey and experimental evidence to examine the political impact of envy.
“Neither ‘Us’ nor ‘Them’: Stereotypes of Political Independents.” With Ethan Busby, Adam Howat, and Jacob Rothschild.
Research on partisanship has begun to explore the social-psychological dynamics of party affiliation, including the role played by stereotypes of rank-and-file party supporters. For the most part, however, this work has focused on partisan identifiers, with less attention paid to those who eschew party labels. We help to fill in this gap with a series of novel surveys measuring top-of-the-head considerations regarding both partisans and political independents. We utilize open-ended survey items and structural topic modeling to document stereotypes of people who identify as political independents. We present a descriptive overview of the stereotypes people hold about independents and examine their correlates among other political perceptions and outcomes.
“The Nature of Partisan Stereotypes and Mass Polarization, 1984-2016.” With Ethan Busby and Adam Howat.
Recent research suggests that people’s mental images of the parties matter for partisan polarization. While important, this work has not yet considered trends over time, or how party images might fluctuate with different political environments. We look to fill this gap and explore what the public thinks about the two major American political parties, how those images vary with, time, and how these ideas relate to mass polarization. To do so, we employ structural topic modeling to examine open-ended responses regarding both major political parties from the 1984-2016 American National Election Studies. While some people have little to say about either party, we uncover themes relating to the values of the parties, relevant issue positions, references to elites, and mention of class-based groups. We consider the ways in which these themes correlate with key political and demographic variables. This research advances our understanding of partisan polarization by helping to clarify mass conceptions of partisanship itself, the relationship between stereotypes of the parties and attitudes toward those parties, and the temporal dimension of these relationships. We discuss the implications of this research for the study of partisanship, polarization, and political behavior.
“Partisan Bias in Social Science Graduate Programs.” With James N. Druckman.
Sizeable literatures demonstrate racial and partisan discrimination in a host of social domains. We assess whether such biases exist when it comes to Ph.D. programs in the social sciences. Specifically, we use a correspondence study to explore responses to informational inquiries from potential doctoral students. Despite widespread concerns, we find little evidence of direct racial or political bias. The one exception is ambiguous evidence of an intersectional bias – specifically against African-American Republicans. Perhaps more interestingly, we find that faculty and staff rely on different criteria in making response decisions, suggesting that the institutional structure of doctoral programs could affect enrollments. Overall, our results accentuate the importance of non-results, particularly in light of the burgeoning literature on partisan spillover and frequent claims of liberal bias in the academia.
“The Normative Boundaries and Conceptual Scope of the Political.”
“Partisan Preferences in the Rental Housing Market: Evidence from Craigslist.”