The classic works in the study of presidential and legislative decision-making and strategic choice are strongly focused on individual differences between presidents, but these differences are difficult to incorporate into our models of institutional behavior. I am working to develop new measures and theoretical frameworks for capturing and modeling individual differences in political elites. I hope to use this framework to measure differences between political elites in key parameters that influence decision-making, such as risk, delay, and social preferences, and variance and bias in expected utility beliefs. This will bring the rich literature on individual differences in leadership back into the institutional models of elite political behavior which have been so useful to the field over the past three decades.
My main areas of focus are the public presidency and interest groups within the American political system. I am working to develop theories that incorporate targeted appeals to the president's copartisans, indirect attempts at mass persuasion through allies, and electoral tradeoffs to lobbying into existing frameworks for understanding the public presidency. New data from presidential grassroots lobbying organizations offer new options to test the implications of these theories. Furthermore, I am working on lab and field experiments that will build stronger microfoundations for each link in the causal chain that starts with a president's decision to use a particular lobbying tactic and ends with changes in legislative behavior after citizens are reached and persuaded.I am currently exploring these areas of study through the following projects:
Computer science, experimental economics, and personality psychology have made advances in recent years that, when combined, allow scholars to passively measure individual personality traits, and tie those traits to individual parameters which are cardinal in decision-theoretic analysis of behavior. I am working with Adam Ramey and Gary Hollibaugh to incorporate these modelable individual differences into the spatial model and existing rational choice theories of institutional processes. We are working on a number of projects to extend these emerging theories and new tools to the behavior of political elites in institutional contexts.Our book-length treatment of this project, ``More Than a Feeling: Personality, Polarization, and the Transformation of the U.S. Congress," is forthcoming with the University of Chicago Press, expected to be in print in April 2017.
Measuring Elite Personality Using Speech with Gary Hollibaugh and Adam Ramey (forthcoming in Political Science Research and Methods).
Don't Know What You Got: A Bayesian Hierarchical Model of Neuroticism and Nonresponse with Gary Hollibaugh and Adam Ramey (conditionally accepted with Political Science Research and Methods).
What I Like About You: Legislator Personality and Legislator Approval with Gary Hollibaugh and Adam Ramey.
Our presentation of the elite behavior in institutions project at Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management for the Fifth Annual Text-as-Data Conference:
Over the past fifteen years, presidents have become increasingly aggressive in utilizing contact lists from election campaigns to help achieve policy ends. Voters on these contact lists, as strong partisans, are uniquely responsive to efforts by the president to alter the salience of chosen issues. The grassroots lobbying organizations which are created from these campaign lists (such as GOP Team Leader and OFA) are used to directly contact members of Congress, raise public awareness of issues, as well as persuade undecided citizens on a mass level. I am engaged in identifying the circumstances under which these efforts are worth the opportunity costs to the president required to achieve success, and incorporating these tools into existing frameworks for understanding the public presidency and presidential lobbying.
Political Capital in the 21st Century: Presidential Grassroots Lobbying in the Obama Administration.
A number of important and selective life experiences appear to be linked to enduring changes in political attitudes, such as attending university, marriage, military service, and participating in a political movement. The broad impact of personality traits on behavior suggests that personality should have some mitigating effect on how formative experiences shape later political attitudes. I have a significant interest in exploring the overall mechanism that links the Big Five personality traits and formative experiences with attitude change in specific issue areas, not just changes in ideological attitudes. The connection between volunteer military service, Conscientiousness, and attitudes linked with duty is a matter I am currently examining with Tyson Chatagnier.
Are You Doing Your Part? Veterans' Political Attitudes and Heinlein's Conception of Citizenship at Armed Forces and Society with J. Tyson Chatagnier.
The Development of Political Attitudes and Behaviour Among Young Adults at the Australian Journal of Political Science with Richard G. Niemi.