The following is a selection of research projects. Please feel free to contact me for further details.
How do voters judge politicians accused of sexual misconduct? We conducted what we believe is the first study of public opinion toward politicians accused of sexual misconduct since the beginning of the #metoo Movement. Drawing on survey experiments involving 525 US citizens, we show that participants were significantly less likely to support a congressman who faces sexual misconduct allegations than a congressman who does not. We also show that voters judged the allegations based on the results of an ensuing investigation, but did not base their judgments on other commonly reported attributes of the allegations—such as the type of misconduct, the age of the allegations, or the power dynamic between the accused and the accuser.
Local Candidate Effects in Canadian Elections, with Benjamin Allen Stevens, Md Mujahedul Islam, Roosmarijn de Geus, Jonah Goldberg, Alex Mierke-Zatwarnicki, Peter John Loewen, and Daniel Rubenson. 2018. Canadian Journal of Political Science.
What impact do local candidates have on elections in single member district plurality electoral systems? We provide new evidence using data from a large election study carried out during the 2015 Canadian federal election. We improve on the measurement of local candidate effects by asking over 20,000 survey respondents to rate the candidates in their constituency directly. We present three estimates. We find that when all voters are considered together, local candidate evaluations are decisive for approximately 4 per cent of voters. Second, these evaluations are decisive for the outcome of 10 per cent of constituency contests. Third, when models are estimated for each constituency, we find significant evaluation effects for 14 per cent of candidates. Link to article
Does It Still Count as a Win? Public reactions to the passage of ideologically divisive bills in the US Congress
This paper takes as its starting point the often-asserted and theoretically important claim that Americans are more approving of the president and the majority party when they succeed in passing their bills in Congress than when they fail to do so. I test this assertion using a series of original survey experiments that varied the outcome of ideologically divisive bills—the type of legislation that, I argue, citizens are most likely to hear about. I find that, on average, participants do indeed reward successful political actors. Nevertheless, I show that this reward is typically concentrated among individuals already predisposed to favour the bill. In addition, I find no evidence that participants who are hostile to the bill punish its passage—contrary to recent scholarship on this question. My findings suggest that the president and the congressional majority party can reap the electoral credit for legislative success from policy supporters without incurring the wrath of policy opponents.
Losing in Congress: How voters judge the legislative performance of the president and the majority party in light of bill failure
This paper takes up questions about the sophistication of citizens’ judgments of legislative performance and outcomes. Research in psychology and political science offers reasons to suspect that common biases may interfere with such judgments and, by extension, distort lawmakers’ incentives. I investigate these concerns using original survey experiments that hold constant the bill outcome (as failure) but vary the additional information about proponents’ performance. Contrary to widely held expectations, I find that participants make sensible use of this information when it is provided. Specifically, participants rate unsuccessful bill proponents much more favourably in the presence of information suggesting good legislative performance than in the presence of information suggesting poor performance; in effect, participants acknowledge the qualitative difference in proponents’ performance despite their failure in Congress. Moreover, I show that in the absence of such diagnostic information, individuals’ judgments of unsuccessful bill proponents still reflect realistic basic beliefs about legislative performance and the obstacles to congressional action. In particular, I find that citizens’ judgments largely fit with expectations derived from rational Bayesian updating of beliefs about legislative performance given news of congressional failure.
Why Say Anything? Explaining MPs' Participation in Government Bill Debates in the Canadian House of Commons
I examine why some Canadian MPs participate more in House of Commons debates and, moreover, why some bills are subject to substantially greater debate than others. Drawing on an original dataset of debates over government bills, I find no evidence that electorally vulnerable MPs participate more (contrary to the pattern in Question Period) or that parliamentary parties engage in these debates in order to persuade others—even during minority government. Instead, I show that debate participation by opposition parties is tied to the parliamentary calendar, consistent with an intent to obstruct the passage of bills.
This paper examines attitudes toward intra-party dissent—specifically, judgments of legislators who defect from their party. Using what we believe is the first survey experiment to examine party switching, we show that voters’ support for this kind of extreme dissent—and the inferences they draw about legislators’ motivations for doing so—depend in predictable ways on their partisanship and policy attitudes. This stands in contrast to previous research showing that voters are broadly supportive of milder forms of legislator independence.
The Deliberative Performance of Canadian Parliamentary Committees, 2001-2017
The scrutiny of bills is a key function of Parliament. But how well does Parliament do this job? On the one hand, scholars often point to committees as the legislative venue most likely to fulfill this mandate. In fact, political parties regularly advocate enhancing the role of committees with this purpose in mind. On the other hand, several recent media reports have highlighted notable failures of committee scrutiny. In light of these competing perspectives, I am currently undertaking the first large-scale investigation of the deliberative performance of House of Commons and Senate committees.
For the purposes of this project, I define deliberative performance as the consideration of relevant policy knowledge. While this conception focuses on only some dimensions of deliberation, it is especially relevant for policy making institutions. With this definition in mind, the project seeks to answer three main questions: (1) when needed, do committees collect relevant policy information; (2) what political conditions, institutional arrangements, and legislator characteristics promote or impede rigorous committee deliberation; and (3) does committee deliberation improve final decision making?