Published and Ongoing Research
In addition to my dissertation research, I have been involved in a number of other completed and on-going research. With John Aldrich, I co-authored a book chapter entitled, “Political Participation, Polarization, and Public Opinion: Activism and the Merging of Partisan and Ideological Polarization,” which was recently published in the edited volume, Facing the Challenge of Democracy. I am also currently involved in other research projects spanning the topics of repeat presidential donations, candidate voice pitch and gendered attributions, the role of source bias on the persuasiveness of political messages, and the stability and constraint of issue attitudes in the public.
“Static Stability and Evolving Constraint: Attitude Stability, Consistency, and Influence in the American Electorate.” With Jacob M. Montgomery. Working paper.
“Protecting the Party: Party Identity Threat and Evaluation Polarization.” Presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA, Aug. 30 – Sept 2
“Political Participation, Polarization, and Public Opinion: Activism and the Merging of Partisan and Ideological Polarization.” With John Aldrich. In Facing the Challenge of Democracy: Explorations in the Analysis of Public Opinion and Political Participation, eds. Paul M. Sniderman, and Benjamin Highton. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 2011.
“Who Said That: Source Bias and Discounting Negative Political Messages.” With John H. Aldrich, Amanda Grigg, and Wendy Wood. Presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association, New Orleans, LA, Jan. 12-14.
“Distinguishing the Map from the Terrain: Improving Measurement with Multitrait-Multimethod Techniques in Political Science Research.” With Jacob M. Montgomery. Presented at the 2010 Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.
“Candidate Evaluations, Negative Messages, and Source Bias.” With John H. Aldrich and Wendy Wood. Presented at the 2009 Meeting of the International Society for Political Psychology.
“The Changing Donor Pool, 1976-2004.” With John H. Aldrich and Jacob M. Montgomery. Presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
— John Donne —
In my dissertation, Rallying Around the Party: A Theory of Party Identity Linkage, I consider the self as paramount to understanding when and why political evaluations and emotional responses become polarized. I develop a party identity linkage theory which proposes party identities link the self with a party and, when sufficiently strong, allow the positive self-illusions and self-enhancement motivations to spread to the party. I predict motivated reasoning and biased responses will fluctuate in response to changes in the level of party identity linkage or party identity threat where party identity threat is defined as possible or actual change in the relative standing of political parties that threaten the positive value of a party identity. When politics become personal, group level threat is expected to produce individual-level emotional responses and coping strategies. To test this theory, I draw on both survey and experimental research.
Drawing on inclusion of self-in-group theories (Smith and Henry 1996, Swann 2010), I create a novel measure designed to capture how linked an individual’s self-concept is with his or her conceptualization of a political party. I use this measure to show strong partisans as indicated by traditional party identification measures are more psychologically linked to political parties than weak partisans and independents (see Figure 1).
Having established strong partisans, as measured traditionally, are unique in their psychological linkage to political parties, I first examine how they respond to changed party linkage with political figures. Using a hierarchical model, I show strong partisans do indeed appear more polarized in their evaluations of a candidate in years where the candidate held a prominent party status. Even when controlling for ideological proximity and awareness, party identity strength remains a strong predictor of changed polarization levels.
Another portion of my dissertation capitalizes on the pre-post panel design for most of the American National Election Studies (ANES). I show that while presidential candidate evaluations tend to converge following most elections as the threat of inter-party competition and linkage of the losing candidate is lessened, evaluations of the presidential candidates during the post-2000 election stand as a clear contrast. As is seen in Figure 3, the mean change in pre to post election candidate evaluation polarization is only positive (indicating more post-election polarization) when the legitimacy of the election results was contested in 2000 and the positive value of partisans’ party identity was threatened. Also, while some argue party identity strength leads to greater attitude stability, it is interesting to note that strong partisans’ evaluations across all the years are actually more dynamic than individuals who only weakly identify with a party or self-identify as independent.
Also see my cv.