Current Research Projects
Choosing to be Changed: How Selection Conditions the Effect of Social Networks on Political Attitudes (NSF supported dissertation project)
My research seeks to answer if and how an individual’s social environment, including the relationships and contexts that constitute it, affect the formation and persistence of individual political beliefs. My dissertation proposes a theory of how the social environment affects individual political beliefs that incorporates how the interaction between previously established political beliefs, the selection and structure of the social context, and the strengthening or conversion of political attitudes in social groups dynamically contributes to the process of social influence on politics. Read the award abstract here.
Is the ‘Dark Side’ of Disagreement Born by Women? (under review)
Recent scholarship suggests that exposure to disagreement in the social environment can foster participation in politics for some even if it dampens it for others. This paper explores the extent to which gender conditions the relationship between disagreement and participation across three presidential elections. It advances a theory of gendered difference in the construction of social networks and response to political disagreement in the social environment. Results demonstrate that men and women construct remarkably different social worlds and these differences affect how men and women respond to information from their networks. When disagreement is present, women are more likely to become ambivalent toward politics than men because they are more likely to want to seek cooperation and avoid conflict with individuals in their social networks. Results suggest that the trade-off between a participatory and tolerant citizenry is largely born by women.
Cutting in Line: The Role of Interest Group Networks in Executive Branch Nominations: with Janet Box-Steffensmeier and Dino Christenson (under review)
What role do interest group coalitions play in presidential appointments to the executive branch? This paper uses an original dataset that combines almost 3,000 executive branch appointments from the 106th-111th Congressional Sessions, a record of formal and informal interest group involvement in those nominations, and power scores of interest group coalitions based on their activity before the Supreme Court. We hypothesize that all interest groups are not created equal. That is, if we are evaluating interest group influence in Congress, we cannot rely on the number of interest groups alone, we need to account for the power of interest groups in coalitions.
Athletic Democracy: On the Compatibility of Deliberation and Participation: with Michael Neblo, William Minozzi, Anand Sokhey, and David Lazer (in preparation for submission)
Many people worry that deliberative democracy saps the vitality of politics. Such critics argue, moreover, that such an approach to politics demobilizes average citizens – one cannot have both cross-cutting deliberation and robust participation. We argue, to the contrary, that democracies can and do have it both ways. We first reanalyze the main evidence against the compatibility of deliberative and participatory democracy and show that the results are quite fragile, and that they fail to replicate in subsequent elections. In addition we analyze a unique whole network data set and a field experiment of our own design, neither of which support the incompatibility hypothesis.
Information Diffusion and the Formation of Political Opinions: with Skyler Cranmer, Robert Bond, Eloise Kaizar, David Sivakoff, and Elias Assaf (in preparation for submission)
Previous research has shown that information and misinformation can profoundly affect the beliefs of others. Research has also shown that social networks may impact individuals’ behavior and attitudes. The study’s objective is to conduct a lab-based experiment to understand how individuals consume, process, and share information related to political questions. Because this experiment is conducted on social networks, the study will also reveal how that information diffuses across social networks, and how individuals subsequently change their related attitudes. We plan to study participants’ knowledge about political facts and their political beliefs regarding political structures and space policy. The lab experiment will be conducted in such a way that participants will be placed in a social network during the experiment, asking them to communicate their beliefs to one another during the experiment. The project aims to test the hypothesis that beliefs about politics and political policy are socially influenced by the beliefs of others to whom the participant is connected through their social network.
Social Networks and Vote Choice: with Paul A. Beck (forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Political Networks, 2016)
All papers are available upon request.