(2022) “Diploma Divide: Educational Attainment and the Realignment of the American Electorate,” forthcoming in Political Research Quarterly  

Educational attainment has become a critical determinant of partisanship. The divide between college graduates and non-college graduates is a crucial political cleavage in contemporary American politics. In this paper, I document the rise of the diploma divide on the micro and macro levels. First, I use ANES and CES data to assess the relationships between educational attainment, partisanship, and vote choice. I find that post-2000, educational attainment is an increasingly strong predictor of partisanship and, in turn, vote choice. I then show that the increasing political salience of education at the individual level has reshaped macro-level political alignments. Next, I demonstrate that between 2000 and 2020, the percentage of a county’s population with a BA is one of the strongest predictors of changes in vote share, with highly educated counties becoming more Democratic and less educated counties becoming more Republican. Finally, I demonstrate that county-level educational context shapes the effect of degree-holding on individual-level behavior. Having a BA is a stronger predictor of Democratic partisanship in counties’ where a larger proportion of the population holds a college degree. Overall, these results demonstrate the diploma divide is one of the dominant political cleavages in contemporary American politics.

(2021) “How Social Group Memberships Interact to Shape Partisanship, Policy Orientations, and Vote Choice” forthcoming in Political Behavior

Individuals are members of multiple social groups (race, class, religion, etc.). Intersectionality theory contends we cannot understand the influence of a group in isolation because group identities interact to influence outcomes collectively. This assertion challenges the typical approach in the political behavior literature, which assumes the effects of group memberships are additive. In this paper, I correct this shortcoming. I test how racial and ethnic group memberships condition the impact of gender, religion, region, and social class on policy attitudes, partisanship, and vote choice. Using pooled ANES (2000-2016) and the 2016 CMPS data, I show that these group memberships’ effects are conditional upon race and ethnicity. They shape Whites, Blacks, Latinos, and Asians’ political attitudes in diverse and, in some cases, opposite ways. The results imply that behavioral studies must be careful not to assume that group identities are additive instead of interactive. I conclude that quantitative scholars should account for the interactions of group identities in theoretical and empirical models.

(2020) “On the Measurement of Social Class and its Role in Shaping White Vote Choice in the 2016 U.S. Presidential ElectionElectoral Studies, 64: 102119

In this paper, I assess how social class influenced white vote choice in the 2016 election. I use 2016 ANES data to create a measure of class that is based on an individual’s income, education, occupation, and wealth. I then use a structural equation model to show that an individual’s social class both directly and indirectly shaped vote choice. I demonstrate that low class standing was a significant predictor of support for Trump in the general election. I also show that social class exerted an indirect effect. Lower class standing is associated with higher levels of racial resentment and authoritarianism, which were in turn strong predictors vote choice. I conclude that social class was one of the primary determinants of white vote choice.

(2019)An Analysis of the Changing Social Bases of America’s Political Parties: Group Support in the 2012 and 2016 Presidential ElectionsElectoral Studies, 102042.

In this note I address two questions: 1.) what were the group bases of the U.S. electoral coalitions in 2012 and 2016? 2.) how have the group bases of support changed in the past decades? I determine social group memberships significantly influence individual partisanship with a multivariate analysis using ANES data. I then measure how many votes each politically relevant social group contributed to the party coalitions in each presidential election from 1972-2016. I go on to discuss how group contributions have changed and discuss the demographic and behavioral forces driving these changes. The defection of college educated whites from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party was the most pronounced change from 2012 to 2016, but the Democratic Party’s steadily increasing reliance on ethnic and racial minority groups remains the most important long-term trend. Overall, I find that the party coalitions in 2012 and 2016 were relatively stable and most changes were continuations of decades long trends, despite perceptions there has been a sudden realignment.

(2019) “Does Polarization Affect Even the Inattentive? Assessing the Relationship Between Political Sophistication, Policy Orientations, and Elite CuesElectoral Studies, 57: 131-142 (with Michael E. Flynn)

In this paper we focus on how individuals’ level of political sophistication conditions how they respond to growing elite polarization. The party coalitions in the electorate have become increasingly ideologically sorted. We assess whether all citizens have sorted into the ideologically “correct” partisan camp or whether this phenomenon is limited only to the highly sophisticated. Using a combination of ANES and DW-NOMINATE data we show that individuals of all sophistication levels have become more likely to identify with and vote for the party that best matches their policy orientations as a function of increasing elite-level polarization. Our findings suggest that the effects of increasing polarization are felt throughout the electorate.

(2019) “Polarization and the Nationalization of State Legislative ElectionsAmerican Politics Research, 47(5): 1036-1054 (with Jesse Richman )

The electoral fortunes of state parties are partly shaped by the positions adopted by national parties. This creates the potential dilemma: the position that is best for the national party might be too extreme for the electorate in some states. Some state parties attempt to address this problem by adopting more moderate positions than their national level counterparts. We argue that the efficacy of state party moderation hinges on the degree of polarization at the national level. We develop theory and examine empirical evidence that higher relative polarization at the national level exacerbates the degree to which national party positions and loyalties determine outcomes in U.S. state elections. When relative national polarization is high, we find evidence that state legislative election outcomes are determined by states’ orientations towards the national parties rather than the positions taken by state legislative parties.

(2019) “The Power of Place? Testing the Geographic Determinants of African American and White Voter Turnout “Social Science Quarterly, 100(4): 1056-1071 (with Eric M. Moore)

Objective: This paper evaluates the geographic determinants of both white and African American voter turnout in presidential elections. We argue that perceptions of threat posed by African Americans influences white turnout, although the possibility of interracial contact can ameliorate these attitudes. Conversely, we contend the size of the co-ethnic population and segregation drives variations in African American turnout. Method: We utilize ArcGIS mapping software in conjunction with Census and turnout data from the state of Louisiana. We test our hypotheses using a series of hierarchical linear regressions. Results: We find that African American turnout is highest in parishes where African Americans represent a majority and segregation levels are low. White turnout is highest among whites in racially segregated, predominately white precincts. Conclusion: We conclude that different demographic factors drive variations white and African American turnout. (Online Appendix)

(2019) “A Global Analysis of How Losing an Election Affects Voter Satisfaction with DemocracyInternational Political Science Review, 40(4): 518-534 (with Benjamin Farrer)

In this paper, we argue that a better understanding of citizen satisfaction with democratic elections requires a global perspective. Prior research argues that a gap in satisfaction with democracy emerges after an election, between those who supported winning parties and those that did not, and crucially that this gap can be reduced under proportional electoral institutions. In this article we argue instead that these theories of the winner-loser gap actually apply to only a narrow set of countries. We use a comprehensive global dataset to show that the predictions of this theory about the effects of proportional institutions are accurate for Western Europe, but not outside it. Beyond a small cluster of established democracies in Western Europe, the electoral environment is characterised by more fundamental uncertainty. This uncertainty alters the incentives created by proportional institutions. We conclude that the winner-loser gap and “losers’ consent” are concepts that vary systematically around the world. We discuss the implications of this for democratic stability.

(2018) “Polarization, Demographic Change, and White Flight from the Democratic PartyJournal of Politics, 80(3): 860-872. 

Whites have become decreasingly likely to support the Democratic Party. I show this shift is being driven by two mechanisms. The first mechanism is the process of ideological sorting. The Democratic Party has lost support among conservative whites because the relationships between partisanship, voting behavior, and policy orientations have strengthened. The second mechanism relates to demographic changes. The growth of liberal minority populations has shifted the median position on economic issues to the left and away from the median white citizen’s position. The parties have responded to these changes by shifting their positions and whites have become less likely to support the Democratic Party as a result. I test these explanations using 40 years of ANES and DW-NOMINATE data. I find that whites have become 7.7-points more likely vote for the Republican Party and mean white partisanship has shifted .25 points in favor of the Republicans as a combined result of both mechanisms (Online Appendix).

(2018) “Explaining the nomination of ethnic minority candidates how party level factors and district level factors interact” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, 28(4): 467-487 with Benjamin Farrer).

In this paper, we explain the nomination of ethnic minority candidates for lower house elections. We argue that these nominations are explained by the incentives that different parties face in different districts. Center-left parties reap greater electoral rewards when they offer descriptive representation, and that they also experience fewer difficulties in recruiting ethnic minority candidates. Therefore we argue that center-left parties have a greater incentive and ability to make their nominations more responsive to district demographics. More specifically, our hypothesis is that district-level ethnic diversity will increase the probability that any party will nominate an ethnic minority candidate, but this increase will be greatest for center-left parties. We look at multiple elections in Australia, the UK, and the US, and find consistent evidence in favor of this hypothesis. Even when center-left and center-right parties are nominating similar overall numbers of ethnic minority candidates, center-left parties’ descriptive representation patterns are more closely connected to district demographics. We argue that this helps explain how descriptive representation effects political competition more broadly. (Online Appendix)

(2018) “From on High: The Effect of Elite Polarization on Mass Level Attitudes and Behaviors” British Journal of Political Science, 48(1): 23-45 (with Michael E. Flynn).

There is widespread agreement that American political elites have become increasingly ideologically polarized.  However, there is disagreement about how the mass electorate has responded to the increase in polarization at the elite level.  We argue that individuals’ expressions of ideology and partisanship respond to changes in elite-level polarization.  Because party elites have become more polarized, individuals are better able to the party that best matches their own ideological positions, thereby contributing to polarization at the mass level.  We test this argument using 36 years of ANES and DW-NOMINATE data.  Placing voters in policy space using a measurement model, we assess whether or not elite-level factors condition how individuals’ underlying ideology translates into political behavior.  We find that the relationship between a voter’s position in policy space and their political behavior is indeed conditional upon polarization at the elite level (Online Appendix).

(2016) “The Relationship Between Bias and Swing Ratio in the Electoral College and the Outcome of Presidential Elections: 1872-2012”Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, 26(2): 232-252.

There have been three instances (1876, 1888 and 2000) since the end of the Civil War where the party that lost the popular vote won the Electoral College.  But just how representative are these cases?  Is partisan bias a consistent and powerful force in American presidential elections?  Or only an occasional and ephemeral factor?  In this paper, I assess how the outcomes of presidential elections are affected by the presence (or lack) of partisan bias in the Electoral College.  I do this by first constructing an estimate of partisan bias using Tufte’s (1973) logged odds method to estimate the relationship between votes and seats (in this case Electoral College electors) in each presidential election between 1872-2012.  My estimates reveal that the Electoral College is biased in favor of one party over the other in roughly two-thirds of the 36 elections analyzed, but the direction and size of this partisan bias varies considerably from election to election.  I then use these estimates of partisan bias and swing ratio to assess how a party’s odds of winning a presidential election are affected by the presence of partisan bias.  I find that the presence of partisan bias provides a sizable, but not insurmountable, obstacle for the disadvantaged party (Online Appendix).

(2016) “On Demographic Change and Competitive Equilibrium in American Politics”American Review of Politics, 35(2): 26-46.

In their seminal analysis of American elections, Stokes and Iversen (1962) demonstrated that each party’s share of the vote never strays very far from a competitive equilibrium. However, it is difficult to envision how this equilibrium will maintain amid changing demographics. The Republican leaning white proportion of the electorate is shrinking while the Democratic leaning Latino and Asian proportion is rapidly growing. These demographic changes threaten to tip the partisan balance in favor of the Democrats. Can the competitive equilibrium hold amid changing demographics? I answer this question in three steps. First, I analyze presidential election returns since the end of the Civil War. I confirm the presence of a competitive equilibrium. I then use a set of simulations to establish that demographic changes will tip the partisan balance in favor of the Democrats. I then assess how much the Republican Party will have to increase its level of support among whites and/or other groups to remain competitive. I find that relatively modest changes in white and/or Latino and Asian voting behavior will be sufficient to give the Republican Party an even chance of winning well into the future.

(2016) “The Effects of Lawn Signs on Vote Outcomes: Results from Four Randomized Field Experiments”Electoral Studies, 41: 143-150 (with Donald P. Green, Jonathan S. Krasno, Alexander Coppock, Benjamin D. Farrer, and Brandon Lenoir)

Although lawn signs rank among the most widely used campaign tactics, little scholarly attention has been paid to the question of whether they actually generate votes. Working in collaboration with a congressional candidate, a mayoral candidate, an independent expenditure campaign directed against a gubernatorial candidate, and a candidate for county commissioner, we tested the effects of lawn signs by planting them in randomly selected voting precincts. Electoral results pooled over all four studies suggest that signs increased advertising candidates’ vote shares. Results also provide some evidence that the effects of lawn signs spill over into adjacent untreated voting precincts (Online Appendix).

(2016) “The Electoral Effects of the Descriptive Representation of Ethnic Minority Groups in Australia and the United Kingdom”Party Politics, 22(6): 691-704 (with Benjamin D. Farrer)

In this paper we assess the electoral effects of the nomination of ethnic minority candidates. We argue that descriptive representation is an important factor in how parties in SMD systems establish their coalitions over multiple elections. We demonstrate this by showing that descriptive representation has a consistent effect on voting behavior, and thus that parties can rely on descriptive representation to win over specific segments of the voting population. Previous studies have been limited to single election years and single countries, but we collect original data from multiple election cycles in Australia and the United Kingdom to test our argument. We find that descriptive representation is consistently associated with a 10-percentage point bump in support from ethnic minority independents and Labour supporters. We conclude by highlighting the importance of this finding for party competition.

(2016) “Creating a Racially Polarized Electorate: the Fallout of Immigration Politics in California and Arizona”Politics, Groups and Identities, 4(4): 579-597 (with Gregory Robinson, Jonathan S. Krasno, and Michael A. Allen)

We explore the potential political impact of Arizona’s controversial immigration statute, SB 1070, using a parallel event: the 1994 passage of Proposition 187 in California.  Both statutes were efforts to respond to the flow of illegal immigrants mainly from Mexico and were widely seen as anti-Latino, and both became the central theme of their proponents’ reelection campaigns.  We reexamine and extend the academic literature on the political impact of Proposition 187, applying the effect estimates to Arizona via a Monte Carlo simulation to project its vote in future presidential elections.  These projections show that the potential changes in voting behavior brought on by SB 1070, coupled with population trends, give Democrats a discernible and growing advantage in presidential elections as early as 2016.  The results of 2012 makes clear that the GOP’s best hope to hold the state rests on a strong and enduring move by its white voters toward the Republicans, leaving Arizona with a racially polarized electorate more reminiscent of the American South than its Southwest.  We speculate about the potential to create such an electorate where an unusually large percentage of white voters immigrated there as adults from other states.

 (2014) “The Spatial and Demographic Determinants of Racial Threat”Social Science Quarterly, 95(4): 1137-1154 (with M. Steen Thomas)*

Objective: Although scholars have cast doubt on Key’s (1949) racial threat hypothesis, race continues to play a central role in American Politics. But does living a racially diverse context lead to liberalization or a white backlash? We aim to test the validity of the racial threat hypothesis in the modern day Deep South. Methods: The data used for this analysis spans multiple federal elections from the state of Louisiana, from 2000, 2004 and 2008 in addition to census data from 2000 and 2010. We utilize ArcGIS mapping software to construct a detailed depiction of voters’ racial environments. Results: We find that whites that live in racially diverse precincts exhibit lower rates of turnout than whites in homogenous precincts; however, segregation within the precinct mitigates the liberalizing effects of precinct level diversity among whites. Conclusion: The results of our analysis provide help to clarify the previously mixed empirical findings regarding the geographic distribution of minorities and white racial conservatism (Online Appendix).

*(An earlier version of this won the award for the “Best Paper in the Racial and Ethnic Politics Section” at the 2012 ASPA National Conference)

(2014) “The Ideological and Electoral Determinants of Legislation Targeting Undocumented Migrants in the U.S. States” State Politics and Policy Quarterly, 14(1): 90-117

State legislatures have been extremely active in passing legislation relating to all facets of immigration policy over the last several years.  In this article, I develop a framework that explains how party ideology, party control of the legislature and electoral conditions affect the likelihood that a state legislature will adopt policies that increase immigration enforcement.  I test my arguments using state immigration policy adoption data that spans from 2005 to 2011.  I find that conservative Republican state parties are more likely to pass legislation enhancing immigration enforcement—on the condition that the Republican Party controls the state’s legislative institutions.  However, the willingness of Republican controlled legislatures to pass immigration reform is often tempered by electoral concerns.  Republican controlled legislatures in states where Latinos make up a large proportion of the electorate are significantly less likely to adopt new legislation that targets undocumented migrants.  I argue that Republican support for increasing sanctions on undocumented migrants is eroded by the potential for an electoral backlash from Latino voters.  Democrat controlled legislatures are unlikely to pass legislation under any conditions.  Ultimately, the observed pattern of policy adoption is the product of the tradeoff between the state parties’ ideologically driven policy goals and the electoral consequences associated with actually implementing immigration policies (Online Appendix).

(2014) “An Analysis of the Changing Social Bases of America’s Political Parties: 1952-2008” Electoral Studies 35: 272-282

In this article I address two interrelated questions: have the group bases of the American political parties changed over time and what factors have lead to the observed changes?  I determine social group memberships significantly influence individual partisanship with a multivariate analysis using 56 years of ANES data.  I then measure how many votes each politically relevant social group contributed to the party coalitions in each presidential election from 1952-2008.  I discuss how group contributions have changed over time and establish the demographic and behavioral causes of group contribution change.  I find that the party coalitions have been restructured as a result of groups’ changing voting behavior and the changing ratio of groups in the electorate.

(2012) “Patterns of Immigrant Political Behaviour in Australia: An Analysis of Immigrant Voting in Ethnic Context”Australian Journal of Political Science, 47(3): 377-397 (with M. Steen Thomas)

Immigration is becoming an increasingly important issue in virtually every Western democracy.   However, immigrants’ participation in politics varies greatly from country to country. This article identifies and explains the two key determinants of this variation.  We establish that ethnicity along with traditional socioeconomic factors are the two primary forces that determine immigrant political behavior.  We theorize immigrants’ ethnic differences from the native population, along indicators such as language and residential segregation, increase information costs and create barriers to participation in politics as well as influencing partisanship.  To test our theory, we analyze data from the Australian Election Study (AES) from 1993 to 2010. The results of the analysis in this paper provide strong empirical support for our theory.