I am a political scientist and research methodologist specializing in citizen behavior and statistics. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and taught for many years at the University of Oklahoma and the University of Virginia before moving into applied research at the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service. I'm currently working to build the data services within the University of Virginia Library and at UVa more broadly.

My substantive research is centered on citizens in American democracy, with a particular emphasis on campaigns and learning. My book examines how citizens learn and use accountability standards during presidential campaigns. In Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability (University of Illinois Press, 2011), I examine the presidential campaigns and early administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton to show how campaign rhetoric shapes both citizen evaluations and presidential agendas. I argue for a different understanding of campaign accountability centered on a proper understanding of the presidency. This understanding, too, implies a different set of criteria for judging the quality of campaigns than the standards normally adopted. See, for instance: what makes a presidential campaign "good"?

My current research extends this work to extract, compare, and present the features (e.g., tone, topic, events, ideology) from multiple and heterogeneous news sources representing presidential politics. You can see more about this ongoing effort at datafordemocracy.github.io.

Peer-Reviewed Articles:

Paul S. Martin and Michele P. Claibourn. 2013. "Citizen Participation and Congressional Responsiveness: New Evidence That Participation Matters." Legislative Studies Quarterly.

This article examines the influence of citizen participation, specifically voter turnout, on congressional policy responsiveness. We argue that higher levels of citizen participation signal to representatives greater surveillance of their actions by their constituents and, thus, a higher probability of sanction. Representatives respond to these signals by deploying resources in ways that provide better intelligence of district needs and preferences. As a consequence, higher citizen participation is rewarded with enhanced policy responsiveness.

Michele P. Claibourn. 2012. "Hearing Campaign Appeals: The Accountability Implications of Presidential Campaign Tone." Political Communication 29(1): 64-85.

Citizen understanding of candidate priorities is highly consequential for both elections and post-election accountability, and is especially key to the office of
the presidency. I examine the impact of campaign advertising tone on citizen understanding of candidate agendas in the context of the 2000 presidential election. Merging data on political ads from the Wisconsin Advertising Project
with individual survey data, I test whether citizens are more likely to accurately
hear a positive campaign theme. The analysis provides empirical support for this benefit of positivity.

Michele P. Claibourn and Paul S. Martin. 2012. "Creating Constituencies: Presidential Campaigns, Selective Mobilization and the Scope of Conflict." Political Behavior 34(1): 27-56.
We investigate how material and symbolic campaign appeals may motivate segments of the electorate to be more engaged with the unfolding presidential campaign; this engagement is a first step toward bringing these populations into an electoral coalition. We pair two massive new data collections—the National Annenberg Election Study capturing public opinion across an entire campaign and The Wisconsin Advertising Project recording and cataloging the political commercials aired by campaigns—to examine how the candidates’ choice of issues affects who gets into the game. We find evidence that appeals to symbolic interests are more likely than appeals to material interest to selectively engage targeted groups.

Michele P. Claibourn. 2008. "Making a Connection: Repetition in Campaigns and the Development of Candidate-Issue Connections." Journal of Politics 70(4): 1142-1159.
This paper examines whether the content of presidential advertising campaigns helps to create and reinforce associations between the issues a candidate emphasizes and that candidate. The argument relies on the distinction between mechanisms of priming, noting that the effects of exposure to the campaign fit better with a frequency mechanism than a recency mechanism. Using the 2000 presidential campaign, I find that the accumulated issue emphasis of the candidates’ advertising campaigns more strongly moderates the impact of issue considerations on evaluations than does recent emphasis, and in some cases, further serves to improve the predictability of these connections. This suggests the campaign can promote the development of longer-term associations via frequency accessibility and applicability which, in turn, enables citizens to hold the future leader accountable for the priorities embodied in the campaign.

Michele P. Claibourn and Paul S. Martin. 2007. "The Third Face of Social Capital: How Membership in Voluntary Associations Improves Policy Accountability." Political Research Quarterly 60(2): 192-201. With Paul S. Martin.
This article examines whether political accountability—the heart of a functioning democracy—is enhanced by citizen participation in voluntary associations. The authors contend that involvement in associations offers an easy avenue for acquiring political information, thereby aiding citizens in evaluating the president on the basis of the policies produced by the president. General Social Survey data from ten years, paired with presidential policy liberalism scores, are used to test the key hypothesis. The authors find support for the idea that membership in voluntary associations facilitates a more sophisticated policy accountability among citizens.

Michele P. Claibourn and Paul S. Martin. 2000. "Trusting and Joining? A Test of the Reciprocal Nature of Social Capital." Political Behavior 22(4): 267-291.
This article tests a key hypothesis of the social capital literature: voluntary memberships and generalized trust reproduce one another. Panel data from the Michigan Socialization Studies from 1965 to 1982 are used to test the contemporaneous and lagged effects of interpersonal trust on joining groups and the contemporaneous and lagged effects of joining groups on interpersonal trust. We find no evidence supporting the hypothesis that interpersonal trust encourages group memberships and only limited evidence suggesting that belonging to groups makes individuals more trusting.

Research Reports, Book Chapters, and other writing:

Michele P. Claibourn. 2013. Review of Competitive Elections and the American Voter, by Keena Lipsitz. Perspectives on Politics 10(4): 1030-1031.

Dustin A. Cable and Michele P. Claibourn. July 2012. "Red State, Blue State: Demographic Change and Presidential Politics in Virginia." Numbers Count. U.Va. Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Michele P. Claibourn. April 2012. "Blacks in Virginia: Demographic Trends in Historical Context." Numbers Count. U.Va. Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.
Michele P. Claibourn. 2005. "The Influence of Campaign Advertising." In Samuel Best and Benjamin Radcliff (eds), Encyclopedia of Public Opinion. Greenwood Press.

Michele P. Claibourn and Virginia Sapiro. 2003. “Gender Differences in Citizen-Level Democratic Citizenship: Evidence from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems.” Unpublished Manuscript. (An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2001 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, where it was awarded the Sophonisba P. Breckinridge Award for the best paper on women and politics, and at the 2002 Conference on Comparative Studies of Electoral Systems.)

Michele P. Claibourn's Blog Posts at StatChatVA

Works in Progress:


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