Divisive, Polarising, or Energising? Primary Election Competition and Candidate Performance in U.S. Congressional Elections
The Journal of Legislative Studies (2020)
How do primary elections influence general election outcomes? The conventional wisdom in American Politics predicts a ‘primary penalty’ that harms a party or candidate’s chances of winning the ensuing general election. I present and test an alternative theory inspired by comparative studies of Latin America: primary election competition results in a ‘primary bonus’ which may make candidates more likely to win the general election that follows. Despite potential for polarisation and divisiveness, robust primary competition encourages campaigns to professionalise and mobilise voters, weeds out unfit candidates, and provides a testing ground for messages and policies. Furthermore, the nature of the primary electorate and incumbency advantage may mitigate the proposed sources of the penalty. Analysis of data collected from multiple sources on all U.S. congressional elections (2008-2016) lends strong support to the Primary Bonus hypothesis. Primary elections strengthen candidates for the general election, contrary to extant theories in American politics. This study is the first to find a primary bonus in U.S. congressional elections.
White Identity Politics: Linked Fate and Political Participation
Politics, Groups, and Identities (2019)
Hopes that Barack Obama’s election in 2008 would usher in a post-racial America were dashed by the rise of the Tea Party and the 2016 presidential contest. Despite renewed attention to White political behavior following the campaign of Donald Trump and rise of the “Alt-Right,” the identity-to-politics link for Whites remains under-explored in the field of political science. Analysis of data from the 2012 American National Election Study and the 2016 Collaborative Multi-racial Post-election Survey indicates that Whites, despite their privileged majority status, feel their fate is tied to members of their racial group at levels comparable to Black, Latinx, and Asian Americans.
Human rights institutionalization and U.S. humanitarian military intervention
International Interactions (2020)
Are human rights a core value of US foreign policy? If so, how does the United States enforce human rights standards? Extant studies maintain that mass media, public opinion, and/or political concerns drive US decisions to engage in humanitarian military interventions. In this study, we explore the extent to which “human rights institutionalization” through the State Department’s human rights reporting affects the likelihood of US humanitarian interventions. We find that human rights institutionalization is a viable, and perhaps even the best, explanation for the robust connection between human rights violations and deployment of the US military. These findings suggest that the United States is willing to undertake costly action to enforce international standards of human rights, but with some important caveats. Overall, we provide large-N, quantitative support for the broader shifts in US humanitarian intervention described by qualitative scholars and experts in US strategy and security policy.
with Vladimir Enrique Medenica
In this paper, we examine the factors associated with public attitudes toward foreign policy among white Americans and argue that racial attitudes play a central role in the attitude formation of white Americans on issues of foreign policy. To analyze this hypothesis, we perform three quantitative studies across three iterations of the ANES. While the independent variable (racial resentment) remains constant across studies, Study 1 focuses on the 2012 ANES, which includes dependent variables of interest regarding public opinion on Iranian nuclear development, the Global War on Terror, and the military and economic impact of China. Study 2 uses the 2016 ANES which allows for further analysis which extends to public opinion on the so-called “Islamic State”, whether the U.S. should accept refugees from the Syrian Civil War. In addition, Study 2 will look at two of the same items as Study 1 – the GWOT and the perception of China as a military power. Study 3 turns to the ANES Cumulative survey, which covers 1986-2016. Here, we analyze the connection between racism and more universal attitudes pertaining to U.S. foreign policy: defense spending levels, foreign aid, isolationism, feelings about the military, and whether the U.S. should use military force to solve problems in the world. Overall, we find strong evidence that racial attitudes play an important yet understudied role in the foreign policy attitudes of white Americans.
Politics is Something We Do Together: Identities and Institutions in U.S. Politics
While the conventional wisdom among both academics and pundits is that foreign policy is of secondary, if any, concern to the American voter except in extreme circumstances of war and peace, the U.S. has the most expensive and expansive military in world history. While the impact of racialization in American domestic politics is well-established in the literature, my project is one of the first to theorize and empirically test how race and racism influence support for military spending and military intervention in the U.S. public. Moreover, this dissertation presents a framework which we can use to better understand the political behavior and attitudes of Americans when it comes to foreign policy. In line with theoretical expectations, I find that both out-group racism and in-group racial bias help explain historically persistent and bipartisan support among U.S. voters for record levels of spending and global projection of military power. Furthermore, my findings indicate that given the globalized economy, voters increasingly see “the economy” as more than just a domestic enterprise. When it comes to China, Americans were more likely to view the rising nation as both a significant military threat and a significant economic threat to the U.S. if they expressed racist views or strong racial identities.
In addition to social identities, political institutions also help guide national political outcomes. While my expectations on this project question the current literature, they are informed in part by my experience working on professional political campaigns. Despite expectations that primaries are divisive for the electorate, costly for candidates, or a source of elite polarization, I find that competitive primary elections help produce candidates more likely to win their general elections. Primary elections are a social process by which parties, candidates, and voters gain knowledge and form beliefs about one another. I theorize therefore, that robust primary competition is likely to result in candidates advancing to the next phase with policies, personalities, and campaigns that have been informed and improved through both experience and interaction with their potential constituencies and donors. Furthermore, I find that institutional design at the primary phase can strongly impact the competitiveness of general elections: the Top-2 system, recently adopted in California, may foster a more competitive electoral environment.