Published Research

Right-Wing Critics of American Conservatism (Book)

2016, in press at University Press of Kansas

American conservatism, and the Republican Party the conservative movement endorses, face serious challenges in the years ahead. Prognosticators who speculate how conservatism can survive and even thrive in the 21st century tend to fall into two camps, depending on their own political persuasions. On the one side are those making the case that conservatives must move to the political center and soften their harder edges. They do not necessarily say that American conservatism must abandon its fundamental premises, but they do suggest conservatives should relax their stance on issues like gay marriage, immigration, and abortion, and finally make a formal peace with the welfare state. In other words, they argue that conservatism should become conservatism lite. On the opposing side, we have those who argue that conservatives – and the Republican Party – should double down and become even more aggressive in pursuing their preferred policies. We see this line of thinking in the still-powerful Tea Party movement. Such an argument holds that conservatism never failed; it has never really been tried. According to this argument, by sticking to its principles and fighting for them even more forcefully, conservatism can win new converts and revive American greatness.

These arguments demonstrate a lack of imagination on the part of contemporary political observers. Americans have a myopic view of the political Right, assuming that the entire spectrum of right-wing thought exists between David Brooks and Rush Limbaugh. In truth, there is a strong tradition of anti-liberal thought in American history that stands completely outside the mainstream conservative movement.

Part of the reason for this narrow view of the American Right can be attributed to the energetic policing that occurs within the conservative movement. Almost from the beginning, the political and intellectual leaders of the conservative movement have been wary about offering seats at the conservative table, and expelled those who strayed too far from established conservative dogma. This book tells the neglected history of purges within the conservative intellectual movement.

More importantly, this book provides an overview of those intellectual movements on the Right that have never been fully incorporated into the American conservative movement, and have been forced to live on the fringes of American intellectual and political life. These various intellectual movements differ both from mainstream conservatism and from each other when it comes to fundamental premises. This book examines the localists who look exhibit equal skepticism toward big business and big government, paleoconservatives who look toward the distant past for guidance and wish to turn back to the clock, atheists and agnostics on the Right who believe conservatism does not require any religious justification, radical libertarians who are not content to be junior partners in the conservative movement, and various strains of white supremacy and the radical Right

Attitudes toward Mormons and Voting Behavior in the 2012 Presidential Election

2015, Politics and Religion, 8(1)

Prior to the 2012 presidential election, some commentators speculated that Mitt Romney’s status as a devout and active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would undermine his presidential aspirations. Using the 2012 American National Election Survey, this study examines the relationship between attitudes toward Mormons and voter behavior in the United States in that election year. It finds that attitudes toward Mormons had a statistically-significant effect on turnout – though these effects differed according to party identification. It additionally finds that these attitudes influenced vote choice. In both cases, the substantive effects were small, indicating that anti-Mormon feelings did play a role in the 2012 presidential election, but they did not determine the final outcome.

White Voters in 21st Century America (Book)

2014, Routledge Press

This book examines the political behavior of non-Hispanic whites. It considers the trends within the white vote, how white voters differ geographically, and the primary fault lines among white voters. It also examines how white political behavior changes in response to diversity. It considers whether or not the day is approaching when whites consolidate into a largely homogenous voting bloc, or whether whites will remain politically heterogeneous in the decades ahead.

Issue Voting and Immigration: Do Restrictionist Policies Cost Congressional Republicans Votes?

2013, Social Science Quarterly, 94(5)

Objective: I test the hypothesis that Latino voters were less likely to support Republican incumbents with strong anti-immigration records in the 2006 Congressional elections in comparison to Republicans with less restrictive records. I also test whether non-Hispanic white voters were similarly sensitive to incumbent immigration records when determining vote choice.

Method: To examine these questions, I created hierarchical models in which incumbent immigration records, individual views on immigration, and an interaction between the two were used to predict vote choice in the 2006 midterm elections. Individual-level data were provided by the 2006 Cooperative Congressional Election Study and incumbent immigration records were provided by NumbersUSA.

Results: This analysis found little evidence suggesting that Latino voters are less likely to support Republican incumbents with anti-immigration records. There was evidence suggesting that vote choice among non-Hispanic white was influenced by incumbent records on immigration, but the effect varied according to the respondent’s own views on immigration.

Conclusion: This study found no evidence that incumbent Republicans could increase their share of the Latino vote by embracing less restrictive immigration policies. In fact, doing so may cost them votes among non-Hispanic whites.

Voting and Migration Patterns in the U.S. (Book)

2013, Routledge Press

This book is an updated version of my doctoral dissertation and covers many themes also examined in my peer-reviewed articles, such as local political context and community satisfaction, the marriage gap and the geography of family formation, and the different migratory patterns of various racial and ethnic groups in the United States.

Local Political Context and Polarization in the Electorate: Evidence from the 2004 Presidential Election

2013, American Review of Politics 34(1)

Political scientists have long examined the degree to which the American electorate exhibits partisan and ideological polarization and sought to explain the causal mechanism driving this phenomenon. Some scholars have argued that there is an increasing degree of geographic polarization of the electorate – that is, a large percentage of geographic units are becoming less politically heterogeneous. In this study, I argue that the two trends are related. Using individual-level data from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey, I examine the relationship between local partisan context and political attitudes using multilevel models. I find that, as the local political context becomes less competitive in national elections, those in the local political majority become more ideologically extreme, strengthen their partisan attachments, and hold more polarized attitudes toward the two major-party presidential candidates. These findings suggest that the growing geographic partisan segregation of the electorate is an important source of ideological and partisan polarization.

Where did the votes Go? Reassessing American party realignments via vote transfers between major parties from 1860 to 2008

2012, Electoral Studies, co-authored with Iñaki Sagarzazu, 31(4)

Abstract: Political scientists have long debated theories of electoral party realignments. In this paper, we apply ecological inference methods to statistically analyze the transfer of votes within counties in US presidential elections since 1860. Through this analysis we are able to identify the major periods of party realignment in US history and the counties where these shifts took place. As a result, we are able to provide new insights into American electoral history, and provide strong evidence that the 2008 presidential election did not represent a realigning election as the phrase is generally understood.

Home Affordability, Female Marriage Rates and Vote Choice in the 2000 US presidential Election: Evidence from US Counties

2012, Party Politics, 18(5)

Abstract: This article tests the hypothesis that differences in the housing market can partially explain why some American counties are strongly Republican and others strongly Democratic, and that this phenomenon can be largely attributed to the relationship between home values and marriage rates within counties. Specifically, I test the hypothesis that, in the 2000 election, George W. Bush did comparatively better in counties with relatively affordable single-family homes, even when controlling for other economic, demographic and regional variables. Using county-level data, I test this hypothesis using spatial-lag regression models, and provide further evidence using individual-level survey data. My results indicate a statistically significant relationship between Bush’s percentage of the vote at the county level and the median value of owner-occupied homes, and that at least part of this is explained by the relationship between home values and marriage rates among young women.

The Economic Impact of Immigrant-Related Local Ordinances

2011, a non-refereed report published by Americas Society/Council of the Americas, co-authored with Jason Marczak and Jeronimo Cortina

This study finds that restrictive ordinances have a negative impact on the number of employees in a city when compared to cities that instead chose to enact non-restrictive ordinances. In fact, an average city with a restrictive ordinance has 0.18 times fewer expected number of employees than its non-restrictive counterpart. This means that beyond anecdotal evidence of how restrictive immigration laws are creating productivity losses in places like Alabama and Georgia, this paper shows—in a statistically significant manner—that non-restrictive city ordinances are better for a city’s overall jobs environment than restrictive ordinances.

The paper looks at 53 cities that officially implemented either restrictive (housing, employment, 287(g), or English-only) or non-restrictive (sanctuary city) ordinances between 2006 and 2008 and that were still being enforced through 2009. Isolating for a number of outside variables, we then compare how the business environment (measured as number of businesses and number of employees) was in those cities at passage and in 2009. State policies—especially those receiving recent national attention—are not considered due to the period of the study. Further, while one type of ordinance was not observed to affect business closure more than the other, the decline in the number of employees in restrictive cities could lead to the long-term reduction in business productivity and the decline in worker consumption in the local economy; thus, increasing the likelihood of business closure.

Political Threat and Immigration: Party Identification, Demographic Context, and Immigration Policy Preferences

2011, Social Science Quarterly, 92(2)

Objective. I propose that the effect of partisanship on views on immigration is context dependent. I argue that Republicans in counties experiencing high levels of immigration are more likely to support new immigration restrictions in contrast to Democrats and Independents than Republicans in counties with a relatively small foreign-born population, and I suspect this is the case because Republicans in high-immigration counties feel politically threatened by the foreign-born residents, who are more likely to support Democratic candidates.

Method. To test this theory, I create hierarchical logit models of views on immigration policy in which individual party identification interacts with the size of the local immigrant population. Individual-level data were drawn from the 2004 National Annenberg Election Survey and county-level contextual variables from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Results. I find that the effect of partisanship on individual views on immigration is context dependent; native-born Republicans are more likely to support immigration restrictions when their local community has a large immigrant population and Democrats less likely.

Conclusion. In areas where immigration levels are low, partisanship is a weak predictor of immigration views. As the foreign-born population increases, however, the views of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents increasingly diverge.