Research

Publications

“Pigeonholing Partisans: Stereotypes of Party Supporters and Partisan Polarization,” with Richard Shafranek, Adam Howat, and Ethan Busby. Forthcoming in Political Behavior.

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.

“Gender Policy Feedback: Perceptions of Sex Equity, Title IX, and Political Mobilization Among College Athletes,” with James N. Druckman and Elizabeth A. Sharrow. Political Research Quarterly 71(3): 642-653.

Public policies invariably confer or deny benefits to particular citizens. How citizens respond to relevant policies has fundamental implications for democratic responsiveness. We study the beliefs of a core constituency of one of the most celebrated sex non-discrimination policies in U.S. history: Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Using a novel survey of college student-athletes, we find strong support for the spirit of the policy, with the vast majority of respondents reporting the opinion that there “should” be equity. Concurrently, student-athletes also perceive maldistribution among status quo resources and opportunities and believe that redistribution is needed. Furthermore, they are willing to take political action to improve equality. Consistent with our expectations, these beliefs are  particularly salient for women and those who perceive persistent sex discrimination in society. Our results reveal “positive policy feedback” among policy beneficiaries of Title IX who mobilize to seek equity in athletics. The dissatisfaction among policy beneficiaries raises questions about democratic responsiveness (e.g., to whom are policymakers and leaders in college athletics responding?) and highlights the political nature of college athletics.

“Political Protesting, Race, and College Athletics: Why Diversity Among Coaches Matters,” with James N. Druckman and Adam J. Howat. Forthcoming in Social Science Quarterly.

Athletes have long used their platform to stage political protests on issues ranging from racial oppression to athlete compensation. For college student-athletes, protesting is complicated by their amateur status and dependence on their schools. As a result, college coaches hold particular power over student-athletes’ decisions in this realm. We seek to better understand the determinants of coaches’ attitudes toward student-athlete protests. We use a novel survey to study what college coaches think when student-athletes participate in various forms of political protests. We find that African-American coaches exhibit greater support for protests and are more likely to believe protests reflect concern about the issues, rather than attention-seeking behavior. Our results isolate a major driver of opinions about athletic protests and reveal why the relatively low number of minority college coaches matters: greater diversity in the coaching ranks would lead to more varied opinions about the politicization of student-athletes.

“Advances and Opportunities in the Study of Political Communication, Foreign Policy, and Public Opinion,” with Richard Shafranek. Political Communication 34(4): 634-643.

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.

Ongoing Research

“Social Interactions and Two-Step Identity Priming: Extending Elite Influence” (under review).

Citizens have many politically relevant social identities, including partisanship, nationality, race, and others. These identities matter as they often shape citizens’ attitudes. A long-standing question concerns which identity citizens rely upon when forming an attitude. One factor is elite priming – if elites emphasize partisanship, citizens rely on that identity. If elites instead focus on nationality, that identity drives preferences. In this paper, I argue that such elite influence may be more extensive than previously appreciated. Specifically, I propose a two-step identity priming process where elite identity priming is contagious between individuals via interpersonal interaction. People who are not exposed to elite primes nonetheless may be affected via interpersonal discussion. I offer evidence for this identity priming contagion with a laboratory experiment that includes elite messages and interpersonal interactions. The results reveal the potential of elite identity influence and provide a framework for studying identity politics more broadly.

“Identities, Interest Group Coalitions, and Intergroup Relations” (working paper).

Interest groups are well known for lobbying and for providing information to citizens. However, no extant scholarship explores how the actions of interest groups affect intergroup relations, even though these organizations represent a variety of social identities. I argue that the decisions of interest group leaders to work together or reject collaboration send signals to everyday members of the identity groups they represent about their relations to other groups. In a survey experiment with a nationally representative sample of African-Americans, I vary whether respondents receive information about a successful coalition or a rejected coalition between African-American interest groups and organizations representing another identity. I find that when African-American interest groups successfully form a coalition with a high-solidarity outgroup (e.g., Hispanics), individuals develop greater feelings of closeness with the outgroup and express greater support for policies that benefit that group. However, when leaders of the outgroup organizations reject the coalition, it creates a backlash effect of lower closeness and weaker policy support. This backlash effect does not occur for low-solidarity outgroups (e.g., atheists). These findings suggest that interest groups are an understudied source of elite influence on identity-based perceptions, which can either promote or obstruct harmonious intergroup relationships.

“What are They Like? Stereotypes of Party Supporters,” with Ethan Busby, Adam Howat, and Richard Shafranek (ongoing project).

This ongoing book project incorporates our published research into stereotypes of everyday partisans with additional elements of partisan stereotypes. We use American National Election Studies data to examine individuals top-of-the head considerations of the parties themselves, as well as stereotypes that individuals hold about political independents. Lastly, we incorporate experimental studies of partisan stereotypes to document causal evidence of how different stereotype content impacts political polarization.

“Gun Ownership as a Social Identity: Estimating Behavioral and Attitudinal Relationships,” with Matthew Lacombe and Adam Howat (working paper).

Interest groups are well known for lobbying and for providing information to citizens. However, no extant scholarship explores how the actions of interest groups affect intergroup relations, even though these organizations represent a variety of social identities. I argue that the decisions of interest group leaders to work together or reject collaboration send signals to everyday members of the identity groups they represent about their relations to other groups. In a survey experiment with a nationally representative sample of African-Americans, I vary whether respondents receive information about a successful coalition or a rejected coalition between African-American interest groups and organizations representing another identity. I find that when African-American interest groups successfully form a coalition with a high-solidarity outgroup (e.g., Hispanics), individuals develop greater feelings of closeness with the outgroup and express greater support for policies that benefit that group. However, when leaders of the outgroup organizations reject the coalition, it creates a backlash effect of lower closeness and weaker policy support. This backlash effect does not occur for low-solidarity outgroups (e.g., atheists). These findings suggest that interest groups are an understudied source of elite influence on identity-based perceptions, which can either promote or obstruct harmonious intergroup relationships.

“Economic and Social Populism in the 2016 Presidential Election,” with Thomas Ferguson, Benjamin I. Page, and Arturo Chang (ongoing project).

Recently many established ideas, officials, and governments have been threatened or overturned by populist revolts from the Left or the Right. In Europe, right-wing populist parties have risen and the European Union has been shaken. In the United States, the Sanders and Trump rebellions of 2016 overwhelmed both major parties and culminated in the shocking election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. Why? How could this happen? We propose to use a variety of data from close-ended survey questions and scales; from ANES open-ended “likes” and “dislikes” of parties and candidates; and from aggregate-level statistics on economic and social changes within U.S. counties and congressional districts, to sort out the complex interplay between economic and social factors that fed into Trump’s electoral victories. Scholars and observers continue to debate whether Trump’s ascendancy was “really” due to social resentments – racism, sexism, xenophobia – or whether it owed more to economic distress – lost jobs, stagnant wages, vanishing factories, and hollowed-out communities. We bring a new perspective and new data to this debate. We suggest that – over the course of several decades – certain social and economic changes caused increasing social and economic distress, each of which fed into the other. Of course certain factors mattered much more than others. But we seek an understanding of historical processes, not just a partition of variance.

“Playing with Pain: Social Class and Pain Reporting Among College Student-Athletes,” with James N. Druckman (under review).

Socio-economic class affects a variety of health outcomes – this includes the experience of pain. Little work, however, explores how class affects pain experiences of college student-athletes. This gap is notable given injuries frequently occur in this population. We argue that lower class student-athletes will ironically be more likely to experience pain but less likely to report it. We find evidence for this claim with a large survey of student-athletes from a major National College Athletic Association conference. We further present evidence that class may influence pain reporting via identity, experiential, and social pathways. Our results highlight how potentially vulnerable student-athletes may “play with pain.” They also highlight the importance of practitioners paying particular attention to self-reports of pain by lower class student-athletes.

Advertisements