Research and Research Interests

My research is primarily at the nexus of American politics and social psychology, examining the role of affect and emotion and how they relate to the political outcomes of interest to contemporary scholars of American politics. My dissertation considers the role of anxiety among members of marginalized and disadvantaged subgroups. Namely, how political anxiety among members of these groups has a unique influence on their levels of civic and political participation. Within the same realm as anxiety, I also have a current project on political disgust and how it affects attitude formation. My work utilizes a mixed methods approach, employing experiments, surveys, and observational studies.

Other research interests of mine include network science and the collaboration networks formed between congressional campaigns. A co-authored paper with Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier (and others) is forthcoming at the American Journal of Political Science and is available below.

 
 
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Anxiety Among Marginalized Groups and What it Means for Politics

Previous studies report on anxiety’s potential to mobilize the electorate. Anxiety has been shown to bring political activation, to help sustain the collective action needed for civic and political participation, to increase willingness for compromise, to encourage political learning, and to increase trust in experts. But for many, government and politics underlies much of their anxiety. Consider members of marginalized groups, many of whom are chronically taxed by politics, which can rewire neural networks in the brain and which leaves them with less available mental bandwidth to conduct themselves civically and politically. Taken together, I predict members of marginalized groups respond differently to anxiety than members of non-marginalized groups. While non-marginalized persons can muster their cognitive resources to channel anxiety into action, the precarious situations of many marginalized people merits devoting their cognitive resources elsewhere, leaving them demobilized by their anxiety. I launch a series of preregistered survey experiments to test my theory among African Americans. Findings offer preliminary support for a heterogeneous understanding of anxiety’s effects. Higher levels of anxiety caused black respondents, but not white respondents, to be less likely to vote. Furthermore, anxiety was more civically mobilizing for whites than it was for blacks. The findings have broad implications for how government and politics can foster anxiety among the masses, but in particular the negative consequences it has for civic and political participation among the marginalized.

 
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Beyond Disgust as Pathogen: Disgust in an Interpersonal Framework 

Scholarship in political science uses the disgust-as-pathogen framework to measure general disgust attitudes about public health issues and what the downstream effects are for politics (ex. government response to an Ebola outbreak or the creation of policies to address homelessness). General disgust is being measured rather than political disgust, as the disgust objects are non-political in nature. Political disgust exists when the object of disgust is a political actor, political processes, or political institution. I design a study to measure interpersonal disgust for politics and to explore the political behaviors causing and resulting from such disgust. I predict that although a behavioral response to disgust is to distance oneself from the source, the degree of withdrawal from politics is conditional upon prior political involvement and level of political knowledge. The most capable political operators may be inclined to approach rather than avoid in an attempt to mitigate their levels of disgust. Analysis using survey data from the ANES provides preliminary support for the hypotheses. A research design for further experimental study is presented.

 
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I Get By With a Little Help from My Friends: Leveraging Campaign Resources to Maximize Congressional Power

Co-Authored with Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, Benjamin W. Campbell, and Seth J. Walker.

Forthcoming at the American Journal of Political Science.

Central to the study of Congress is the study of relationships among members. Electoral collaboration is a function of a member’s position in the broader congressional power network. It allows members to leverage their campaign resources to achieve the four classic goals of members of Congress: reelection, making good public policy, obtaining power within the institution, and having one’s party in the majority. Using nearly 3.2 million FEC records from 2010-2016, we explore the dynamics that influence electoral collaboration. We find members are most likely to collaborate electorally with other members from the same state, party, and committee, and the most electorally vulnerable. Further, that party leaders share most frequently with the rank and file. These findings build upon our expanding understanding of congressional collaboration, the networks members of Congress form, and the congressional power structure members operate within.