Gender Stereotypes and the Policy Priorities of Women in Congress co-authored with Mary Layton Atkinson. Political Behavior. Forthcoming.
Scholars find that women who run for Congress are just as likely to win as men are, yet women face considerable challenges related to their sex on the campaign trail. Women are more likely to face challengers than men are, the challengers they face are typically more qualified, and gender stereotypes paint women as less able to handle important issues like defense and foreign affairs. We examine how women succeed in the face of these obstacle, arguing that women are successful, in part, because they craft large, diverse legislative agendas that include bills on a mix of topics. These topics include district interests, women’s interests, and the masculine issues on which women are disadvantaged. We believe this balancing strategy allows women to develop reputations for competence on a wide range of issues, which in turn, helps them deter electoral challengers. We test our hypotheses by analyzing a comprehensive database of all bills introduced in the U.S. House between 1963 and 2009. We find that female MCs propose more bills, spread across more issues, than do men. Further, the topics of the bills women sponsor span a range of women’s issues, masculine issues, and gender-neutral topics—giving support to the idea that women balance their legislative portfolios. Finally, we examine the electoral benefits to women of this strategy by analyzing rates of challenger emergence in Congressional races. We find that women must introduce twice as much legislation as men to see the probability of challenger emergence decrease to a level that is indistinguishable from that of men. The added effort and staff hours female MCs typically devote to crafting legislation, vis-à-vis male MCs, only serves to put them on equal footing with men. It does not give them an advantage.
Prominent Role Models: High Profile Female Politicians and the Emergence of Women as Candidates for Public Office co-authored with Christina Ladam and Jeffrey J. Harden. American Journal of Political Science. 62(2)
Can prominent female politicians inspire other women to enter politics? A woman occupying a high-profile office directly impacts women’s substantive representation through her policy actions. Here, we consider whether these female leaders also facilitate a mobilization effect by motivating other women to run for office. We posit that prominent women in politics serve as role models for other women interested in political careers, causing an increase in female candidates. We test this theory with data from the American states, which exhibit considerable variation in the sex of state legislative candidates and the high-profile offices of governor and U.S. senator. Using a weighting method and data spanning 1978–2012, we demonstrate that high-profile women exert substantively large positive effects on female candidates. We conclude that women in major offices are crucial for women’s representation. Beyond their direct policy impact, they amplify women’s political voice by motivating more women to enter politics
Negative Advertising and the Dynamics of Candidate Support co-authored with Kevin K. Banda. Political Behavior. 38 (3).
Scholars have spent a great deal of effort examining the effects of negative advertising on citizens’ perceptions of candidates. Much of this work has used experimental designs and has produced mixed findings supporting one of two competing theories. First, negative ads may harm candidates who sponsor them because citizens tend to dislike negativity. Second, negativity may drive down citizens’ support for the targeted candidate because the attacks give people reasons to reject the target. We argue that the mixed findings produced by prior research may be driven by a disregard for campaign dynamics. We present a critical test of these two theories using data drawn from 80 statewide elections—37 gubernatorial and 43 U.S. Senate contests—from three election years and public opinion polling collected during the last 12 weeks of each campaign. We find that a candidate’s support declines as her advertising strategy includes a higher proportion of negative ads relative to her opponent and that this process unfolds slowly over the course of the campaign.
Discouraging Dissent: The Chief Judge’s Influence in State Supreme Courts co-authored with Matthew E.K. Hall. American Politics Research. 44(4).
Chief judges often strive to promote consensus in their courts to promote public confidence, durable precedents, and intra-court collegiality; yet, some chiefs succeed, whereas others fail. In this article, we identify institutional factors that facilitate and hinder the chief’s ability to promote consensus by examining dissent rates in every state court of last resort from 1995 to 2004. Consistent with prior work, we find that consensus is partially driven by the chief judge’s formal powers and the institutional resources available to court members. However, we also find that member resources moderate the chief’s influence. The chief’s formal powers are associated with lower dissent rates in courts that lack time, staff, docket control, and insulation from the electorate. In contrast, judges who possess greater resources are highly resistant to the chief’s influence. Our findings suggest a fundamental dynamic of political leadership that may operate across institutional contexts.
Estimating Dynamic Ideal Points for State Supreme Courts. Co-authored with Jeffrey J. Harden (University of Colorado) and Matthew E.K. Hall (University of Notre Dame). Political Analysis. 23 (3).
Courts of last resort in the American states offer researchers considerable leverage to develop and test theories about how institutions influence judicial behavior. One measure critical to this research agenda is the individual judges’ preferences, or ideal points, in policy space. Two main strategies for recovering this measure exist in the literature: Brace, Langer, and Hall’s (2000) Party-Adjusted Judge Ideology and Bonica and Woodruff’s (2014,) judicial CFscores. Here, we introduce a third measurement strategy that combines CFscores with item response (IRT) estimates of judicial voting behavior in all fiftytwo state courts of last resort from 1995 to 2010. We show that leveraging two distinct sources of information (votes and CFscores) yields a superior estimation strategy. Specifically, we highlight several key advantages of the combined measure: (1) it is estimated dynamically, allowing for the possibility that judges’ ideological leanings change over time and (2) it maps judges into a common space. In a comparison against existing measurement strategies, we find that our measure offers superior performance in predicting judges’ votes. We conclude that it is a valuable tool for advancing the study of judicial politics.
Holding Steady on Shifting Sands: Countermajoritarian Decision Making in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. Co-authored with Matthew E.K Hall (University of Notre Dame) and Justin H. Kirkland (University of Houston). 2015. Public Opinion Quarterly. 79 (2)
Empirical claims that U.S. Supreme Court decisions tend to follow public opinion raise important questions about the countermajoritarian role of the American judiciary. Yet, for the vast majority of federal cases, the de facto court of last resort is actually a U.S. court of appeals. We examine the role of public opinion in shaping decisions on these courts. We argue that the courts of appeals’ position in the judicial hierarchy, lack of docket control, and lack of public attention encourage circuit judges to ignore public opinion and adhere to consistent legal rules; however, appeals by federal litigants are strongly associated with public opinion. Consequently, circuit judges actively resist ideological shifts in public opinion as they issue consistent rulings in the face of varying case facts. Applying multilevel modeling techniques to a data set of courts of appeals decisions from 1952 to 2002, we find strong support for our theory.
This research aims to bridge together the work between ambition formation and progressive ambition through an analysis of 20 current and former U.S. governors and gubernatorial candidates’ political careers through in-depth interviews. Unlike previous theories of ambition, my argument focuses on both the nascent ambition formation process and progressive political ambition as separate actions. I argue that women behave differently throughout their respective political careers compared to their male counterparts. I hypothesize that women develop ambition for public service later in life, and progressive ambition for state governorship later in their careers than men. I also theorize women are impacted differently throughout their careers by party influences, family considerations and their personal views of their qualifications. Expanding on previous work on women’s political ambition, I offer a theory of political ambition and upward career movement towards state governorship. Much like earlier scholarship on women’s political ambition, these interviews confirm the hypothesis that women tend to be self-starters, begin their careers much later in life, and receive little party recruitment. Women however are more likely to take electoral risks when moving up the political career ladder, challenging incumbents at higher rates than their male counterparts, and entering races with greater levels of electoral uncertainty.
This research examines the impact of gender on the issue stressed by female candidates for statewide office. I argue that women running for governor and U.S. senate play against gender stereotypes in their issue priorities at the outset of their campaigns so they do not appear as a strictly “female” candidate. Rather women will only run a “gendered campaign’” if they are trailing in the polls in an effort to change the campaign tone. I put forth a “gender baiting” theory that asserts that male candidates facing a female opponent will attempt to force women to campaign on stereotypical “women’s” issues. “Gender baiting” puts women in a precarious situation in which they must decide whether to respond to their male opponent, or continue their “masculine” campaign strategy. Using a model to capture campaign dynamics and strategic behavior, I demonstrate that the gender of political candidates directly influences the types of issue priorities and strategies in campaigns.
As the first African-American nominee for President of a major political party, Barack Obama’s campaign and ultimate victory reminded voters, scholars, pundits, and the press of the centrality of race in American political life. Speculation by observers of all types centered around the potential impact of race as an individual psychological prejudice and/or as a geographic/contextual factor. These two themes parallel different leading scholarly treatments of race and racism in the U.S. Rather than choose one theme or the other, in this paper we bring both traditions together in a unified analysis of white voter response to Obama. Using a unique data set, we find strong evidence that the level of prejudice toward African-Americans held by whites strongly affect their evaluations of Obama as well as their probability of voting for him. In contrast, we find little evidence of whites responding to the racial context of their immediate geographic environment.
The Contextual Effects of Race and Racial Representation on Voter Behavior in Statewide Races. 2013. National Political Science Review, 15 (1). with Thomas M. Carsey (University of North Carolina).
How white voters respond to black political interests has received extensive scholarly attention ever since Key’s (1949) original articulation of the racial threat hypothesis. Subsequent work has produced mixed results, which we suspect stems from variance in the context within which white voters encounter the potential for racial threat. In this paper, we explore how white voters respond to the presence of African-American candidates for statewide office, focusing particular attention on the racial make-up of where those voters reside, their prior experience with black elected officials, and whether the campaign in question was particularly “racialized”. Our results mirror the larger literature’s mixed findings, making clear the need for an even more nuanced theory and analysis.
The study of U.S. state supreme courts has been significantly constrained by a lack of available data. To remedy this deficiency, this article introduces an original dataset of every state supreme court ruling from 1995 through 2010. We utilize automated textual analysis to search the text of thousands of state supreme court decisions and extract critical information on each case. This automated coding approach produces reliable measures of state supreme court decision making when compared to data collected by human coders. We present trends in docket size, dissent rates, and legal issues being heard in front of the court. This new dataset will offer scholars numerous opportunities to expand our knowledge of judicial politics in the American states.
This article examines the role of society and culture in shaping the opportunity structure and ambition formation of female gubernatorial candidates in all 50 states over a forty year period. Using a new data set consisting of every woman who entered a gubernatorial primary from 1974 to 2010, I analyze how cultural factors and historical legacies– including the percentage of women in the workforce, higher education, and statewide elective offices– influence the opportunity structure and ambition formation of female candidates. I argue that the female socio-political subculture within individual states heavily influences whether or not female candidates will enter and win their respective primaries and general elections. Rather than assuming that individual characteristics are the primary determinants of ambition formation, this research implies that it is necessary to analyze the political behavior within cultural contexts.