Selected Research Projects
"Do Felony Disenfranchisement Laws (De-)Mobilize? A Case of Surrogate Participation" (with Allison Anoll). Forthcoming, Journal of Politics.
Recent studies provide conflicting accounts of whether indirect contact with the American carceral state mobilizes or not. We revisit this controversy, using a large national survey of African Americans that includes a novel measure of social connections to people with felony convictions to examine spillover dynamics. We find that while ties to the carceral state are widespread, the impact of these connections on participation is moderated by the severity of state-level felony disenfranchisement laws. In states with the most severe disenfranchisement policies, close ties to people with felony convictions increase both voting and non-voting participation, but there is no effect in states with more moderate laws. The findings suggest surrogate participation may be at work, whereby formally removing the rights of one group in a way that seems extreme or unjust mobilizes those close to them, and highlight the importance of policy context on political behavior.
"Is Sexism for White People? Gender Stereotypes, Race, and the 2016 Presidential Election" (with Ana Bracic and Allyson Shortle) Forthcoming, Political Behavior.
On November 8, 2016 Donald Trump, a man with no office-holding experience, won the Electoral College, defeating the first woman to receive the presidential nomination from a major party. This paper offers the first observational test of how sexism affects presidential vote choice in the general election, adding to the rich literature on gender and candidate success for lower-level offices. We argue that the 2016 election implicated gender through Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and Donald Trump’s sexist rhetoric, and activated gender attitudes such that sexism is associated with vote choice. Using an Election Day exit poll survey of over 1,300 voters conducted at 12 precincts in a mid-size city and a national survey of over 10,000 White and Black Americans, we find that a politically defined measure of sexism—the belief that men are better suited emotionally for politics than women—predicts support for Trump both in terms of vote choice and favorability. We find the effect is strongest and most consistent among White voters. However, a domestically defined measure of sexism—whether men should be in control of their wives—offers little explanatory power over the vote. In total, our results demonstrate the importance of gender in the 2016 election, beyond mere demographic differences in vote choice: beliefs about gender and fitness for office shape both White men and women’s preferences.
"Does Shared Social Disadvantage Cause Black-Latino Political Commonality?" (with Ariela Schachter). 2019. Journal of Experimental Political Science, 6(1): 43-52.
Shared social disadvantage relative to Whites is assumed to motivate inter-minority political behavior, but we lack causal evidence. Using a survey experiment of 1200 African-Americans, we prompt respondents to consider group social position when evaluating political commonality with Latinos. The experiment describes racial disparities in a randomized domain (education or housing), varies the description of inequality (either Black versus White, Latino versus White, or Black and Latino versus White), and offers half of the respondents a political cue to test whether shared social disadvantage causes Blacks’ perceptions of political commonality with Latinos. We find little evidence of a causal relationship. We conclude that cross-racial minority political coalitions may be more difficult to activate than previously thought.
"Exit Polling: Field Research and Pedagogical Benefits of Community Engagement" (with Ana Bracic and Allyson Shortle). 2017. Oklahoma Politics, 27: 27-54.
This article explores how bringing students into the research process provides pedagogical benefits for undergraduate students, while also offering faculty original data collection opportunities to further their research agendas. The data described in the article come from an Election Day exit poll fielded by sixty-one students in twelve diverse precincts in Oklahoma City and capture over 1200 voters. Response papers from students demonstrate the educational benefits of involving students in research, which cannot be easily replicated in a traditional classroom environment. Bivariate regression analysis of several 2016 state questions demonstrates the quality and utility of the data collected by students: the analysis shows that voters’ support for reclassifying certain non-violent felonies as misdemeanors is negatively associated with anti-Black racial attitudes; that preferences for lower levels of regulation did not drive support for the so-called alcohol modernization initiative; and that the repeal of the ban on spending public money on religion was not particularly popular—even among the most religiously observant voters in the sample. In total, this article shows that when faculty merge their research agendas with their teaching priorities, they can accrue significant gains in both areas.
"The Double-Edged Sword of Disaster Volunteerism: A Study of New Orleans Rebirth Movement Participants" (with Caroline Heldman). 2012. Journal of Political Science Education, 8: 311-332.
We examine the political and personal effects of disaster volunteerism with participants of the New Orleans Rebirth Movement (NORM) using four waves of pre- and post-surveys and qualitative analysis of participant journals. Significant increases are found in internal political efficacy, desire to be active in politics, and value placed on social justice issues, but disaster volunteerism also dramatically increases cynicism and emotional distress. Nearly every NORM participant in the study experienced emotional stress, and 1-in-5 self-medicated as a coping strategy upon one’s return. Disaster volunteerism holds the potential to rapidly accelerate social justice consciousness and activism, even among those already inclined to be active, but the cost is high. Further research on this unique and increasingly popular type of community-based learning is needed.
"Mobilizing Fears: Perceptions of Deportation Risk and Political Participation in 2016" (with Allyson Shortle). Winner of 2017 Best Paper Award on Latina/Latino Politics, WPSA.
Scholarship suggests that anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy can encourage political participation. This work has largely examined Latino behavior across states with differing levels of anti-Latino threat. The 2016 presidential election provides a unique opportunity to test how national-level anti-immigrant rhetoric shapes political behavior. Using the 2016 Collaborative Multiracial Post-Election Survey (CMPS), which surveyed citizens and non-citizens in five languages, we test how perceptions of threat to both the social network and the self affect political participation. We find that while perceived social network threat is unrelated to self-reported turnout, there is a significant and positive relationship between network fears and non-voting participation. We also demonstrate that while deportation fears for one’s social network are mobilizing, personal fears of deportation are not. Our findings advance the literature on threat and political participation by directly capturing perceptions of threat and including forms of participation open to non-citizens.
"The Continuing Link between Racial Attitudes and Punishment in the Time of Heroin" (with Allyson Shortle)
Drug policy has long been racialized and attitudes toward African Americans shape punitive preferences. However, the shift from crack cocaine toward opioids/heroin has emphasized rural Whites rather than urban Blacks, and many observers suggest this has changed the racialization of the issue. We test competing hypotheses derived from the literature. The first posits a simple race of user effect, whereas the second develops a theory of racial norm violation to explain punitive attitudes toward drug use. We argue that Whites who use illegal drugs are viewed as violating positive norms of Whiteness by behaving in a way that is linked to negative stereotypes of Blacks; therefore anti-Black attitudes continue to explain punitive preferences even targeting White heroin users. To test our hypotheses we first analyze two survey experiments that test how both the race and gender of policymaking targets shape support for punitive drug law. Second, we examine the relationship between racial attitudes and punitive preferences, both on our survey experiments and using a state proposition vote to reclassify nonviolent drug felonies as misdemeanors. We find that while respondents are significantly less punitive toward White women who break drug law, there is substantial support for punishment regardless of target group. Additionally, we find that stereotypes of African Americans as violent and racial resentment are predictive of punitive attitudes. Our findings indicate that racialization remains strong for attitudes toward drug use, despite the increasing association with rural Whites.