My research has extended into five areas of American politics: elections, presidency, Congress, the Supreme Court, and state governments. I use a variety of research methods, including statistical models and formal theory to understand interesting questions about political science. Questions I have researched include:
The data for published works are available for download. Please feel free to contact me with any questions about my work.
Do campaigns have an effect on the outcome of elections? This question is usually answered using one of two methods. The first method is when political pundits examine the two opposing campaigns and judge which one had a greater impact on the polls. The second method is when political scientists use statistical methods to analyze whether a campaign had an effect on the election outcome. Both methods fail to consider the factors influencing campaign strategies and the effect these campaign strategies have on the election outcome.
A third method, which I present in this dissertation, uses a formal model. This formal model treats the presidential election as a game between the two candidates competing for electoral votes in fifty-one locations. The model incorporates the assumption that the two candidates can have different prior probabilities of winning each state and can have different degrees of effectiveness at getting votes. The solution to this model is straightforward, but interesting. Candidate strategies are determined by the effectiveness of the candidates, the competitiveness of the state, and the state’s electoral value. Candidates will allocate more resources 1) to states with higher electoral value, 2) to more competitive states, and 3) when they are more effective at getting votes. The structure of the model also provides an answer of when candidates can have an effect on the election outcome. When one candidate is more effective at getting votes, then that candidate will allocate more resources and receive a greater marginal return on each unit of resource than their opponent, resulting in an effect on the election outcome in their favor.
To test the model, I examine the historical record of the campaigns and candidate strategies in the nine presidential elections from 1976 to 2008. These historical accounts provide qualitative support for the assumptions and predictions of the model. I also statistically analyze data from five of these presidential elections and show quantitative support for the assumptions and predictions of the model.
Finally, I conclude by showing that the model is useful in answering other questions regarding campaigns in general, such as how candidates should allocate resources in governor and senate elections; how third party candidates should allocate resources; what happens if candidate effectiveness varies across state or time; and what happens if the cost varies across state? The model’s ability to answer these questions shows that it can have a broad and substantial influence in the study of campaigns and elections.
“Daily Effects on Presidential Candidate Choice”
Both Gallup and Rasmussen conducted daily polls of the presidential election throughout the summer and fall of 2008. Along with many other national polls conducted at this time, a data set of over 300,000 sampled individuals from July 15th – November 4th has been compiled. This large data set allows a more accurate measure of daily public opinion than previous presidential elections. Two contributions are made: 1) A method for measuring temporary ‘candidate choice’ effects using a 6 day moving window poll average and 2) measured effects of economic conditions and news coverage on candidate choice. Time series analysis shows us that news coverage and economic conditions appear to cause temporary ‘candidate choice’ effects.
Democratic leaders, such as the US, are constrained in engaging in major conflict abroad by the nature of their governmental structure. In order to engage in a sustained conflict, the President must have congressional approval so that appropriate funds are allocated for the conflict. This structural barrier to major conflict appears not to have worked in the US given that at no time has Congress denied the President authorization for major conflict. However, Congress does constrain the President in the number of times he/she engages in major conflict (Howell and Pevehouse, 2005), but this constraint is usually unobservable. When Presidents do engage in major conflict, some senators have voted against authorization for major conflict, which leads one to believe that it is possible for a future Congress to deny authorization once a President pushes for authorization of conflict. What then influences an individual senator in their vote for or against major conflict? Ideological, contextual, and conditional influences and the forward looking nature of conflict authorizations influence a senator’s voting behavior on major conflict. The “rally around the flag” effect, however, creates a situation that hinders the ability of Congress to effectively constrain the President from major conflict. Ironically, the nature of the US democratic system makes it more likely that the US will engage in conflict than we would otherwise predict from the structure.
“The Influence of Ideology on Supreme Court Confirmation Votes
and a test for the Bork Effect”
This paper illuminates the conditional nature of the influence of ideology on the utility of a senator’s vote choice and makes two contributions. First, this paper expands on past research by specifying an interaction between ideology and the party’s influence and another interaction between ideology and the president’s popularity, showing that the utility of a senator’s vote is influenced by ideology, but conditioned by the influence of party and the president’s popularity. Second, this paper includes two additional factors that have a strong theoretical and empirical impact on a senator’s vote choice; the type of vacancy and the distance of the previous justice’s ideology from the new nominee in relation to the senator.
“U.S. State Legislative Term Limits: Spending and Budget Deficit Effects”
Term limits and their effect on government spending and budget deficits has not been thoroughly statistically analyzed by scholars on U.S. states even though the answer to this question is important to both advocates and critics of term limits. A theory of the effect of term limits on government spending and budget deficits is constructed using reasons about the changes in the composition, institution, and behavior of the legislature after term limits take impact. This theory proposes that term limits will increase both government spending and budget deficits. The theory is tested using a cross-sectional time series regression model on the U.S. fifty states. The results show states with term limits have increased government spending and budget deficits over non-term-limited states across time. These findings contribute to the debate surrounding term limits by uncovering two critical effects of term limits on state legislatures’ policies.