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 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 political trust and political efficacy, among other normative outcomes. Within the same realm as anxiety, I also have a current project on disgust and how it affects attitude formation. My work utilizes a mixed methods approach, employing experiments, surveys, observational studies, and other unique approaches.
Other research interests of mine include network science and the collaboration networks formed between congressional campaigns. A paper under review with Dr. Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier and others is below.
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.
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.
Anxiety Among Marginalized Groups Most Prone to Anxiousness and What it Means for Politics
Previous studies theorize a de-politicized thought process under the influence of anxiety, which inhibits cognitive biases from coloring political decision making. Furthermore, these studies imply at a minimum that anxiety can be beneficial for the anxious, leading individuals to engage in normatively positive behaviors they might not otherwise engage in absent their anxiety. But anxiety is not always normatively warranted or personally beneficial. Consider African Americans living in urban areas and welfare (food stamp and Medicaid) recipients. Government policy (or politics more generally) can be at the root of or cause much of their anxiety. Members of these groups are chronically taxed by politics, which rewires neural networks in the brain and which leaves them with less available mental bandwidth to conduct themselves civically and politically; and they are more likely to have lower internal loci of control and self-esteem. Taken together, members of marginalized groups will respond differently to anxiety inducing primes than members of non-marginalized groups. While members of non-marginalized groups will respond to these primes with increased participation, members of marginalized groups will respond to these same primes with the opposite. I launch three preregistered survey experiments to test my theory.
Disgust: Attitude Formation Among Those with Contempt for Politics
Research has focused limited attention to disgust and its relationship with political attitude formation. The causal pathway moving someone from feeling positive valence emotions like enthusiasm to feeling negative valence emotions like anxiety or disgust differs between different emotions like anxiety and disgust. Anxiety and fear come from a sense of threat, detected through the surveillance system, whereas disgust is visceral and comes from a sense of contempt or hatred or anger. This important difference, the prominence of contempt as opposed to threat, leads to differing theoretical expectations vis-a-vis what disgust means for civic and political outcomes. Furthermore, anger leads to rage — the urge to lash out — while disgust leads to apathy or aversion. Although a behavioral response to disgust is to distance oneself from the source, the degree of withdrawal from politics may be conditional upon prior political knowledge/sophistication. The most capable political operators are the most sophisticated partisans, and they may be inclined to approach rather than avoid in an attempt to mitigate their lev- els of disgust. Overall, the importance of political knowledge/sophistication and the differing causal mechanism between disgust and its cousins are how disgust should be different from other negative emotions. I probe the conditionality of prior political involvement and level of political knowledge/sophistication for attitude formation among those disgusted about politics.