Research

Peer-Reviewed Publications

"Has Trump Damaged U.S. Image Abroad? Decomposing the Effects of Policy Messages on Foreign Public Opinion" (with Yusaku Horiuchi). 2018. Forthcoming at Political Behavior.

    • Abstract: The U.S. President Donald Trump has frequently made foreign countries central to his political messages, often conveying animosity. But do foreign citizens react more to the speaker of these messages---Trump himself---or their content? More generally, when people are exposed to messages sent from foreign countries, are their attitudes influenced by information heuristics or information content in messages? Although related studies are abundant in the literature of American public opinion, these questions are not fully examined in the literature of foreign public opinion. To address them, we used Japan as a case and fielded a survey experiment exposing citizens to U.S. policy messages that varied by source, policy content, and issue salience. Results suggest that while the source cue (Trump attribution) causes negative perceptions of the U.S., the policy content (cooperative vs. uncooperative) has a larger effect in shaping opinion of the U.S. Furthermore, analysis of interaction effects shows that only when U.S. policy approach is uncooperative does the Trump attribution have significantly negative and large effects. We conclude that foreign citizens rely more on policy content in transnational opinion formation---an aspect that past research in this area has overlooked. Substantively, these findings may demonstrate that even under a presidency that has alienated foreign countries and seemingly undermined U.S. stature in the world, foreign opinion toward the U.S. does not hinge entirely on its political leader. In short, Trump has not irreparably damaged the U.S. image abroad.

"Counting the Pinocchios: The Effect of Summary Fact-Checking Data on Perceived Accuracy and Favorability of Politicians" (with Brendan Nyhan and seminar classmates). 2019. Research & Politics.

    • Abstract: Can the media effectively hold politicians accountable for making false claims? Journalistic fact-checking assesses the accuracy of individual public statements by public officials, but less is known about whether this process effectively imposes reputational costs on misinformation-prone politicians who repeatedly make false claims. This study therefore explores the effects of exposure to summaries of fact-check ratings, a new format that presents a more comprehensive assessment of politician statement accuracy over time. Across three survey experiments, we compare the effects of negative individual statement ratings and summary fact-checking data on favorability and perceived statement accuracy of two prominent elected officials. As predicted, summary fact-checking has a greater effect on politician perceptions than does individual fact-checking. Notably, we do not observe the expected pattern of motivated reasoning: co-partisans are not consistently more resistant than are supporters of the opposition party. Our findings suggest that summary fact-checking is particularly effective at holding politicians accountable for misstatements.

Work under Review

"When Do Partisans Stop Following the Leader?" Revise and resubmit at Political Communication.

    • Abstract: Evidence of public opinion blindly following political leader rhetoric has important implications for the scope of elite influence and normative democratic concerns. Past research, however, does not test the strength of leader cues amid signals that conflict with a leader's policy message, and thus cannot properly gauge the robustness of this "follow-the-leader" dynamic. The current study explores whether two different conflicting signals---opposing intra-party elite cues and negative policy information---attenuate party leader influence on mass opinion. A national survey experiment with two parallel partisan designs shows that partisans follow their leader on counter-stereotypical policy; conflicting intra-party cues substantially attenuate leader influence in both parties and, notably, among pro- and anti-leader partisans alike; and policy information attenuates leader influence among Democrats but not Republicans. Findings reveal an important constraint on party leader power in the form of intra-party elite opposition---a result with particular relevance to the Trump era---and the limited capacity for information to remedy blind leader adherence.

"Are Racial Identities Endogenous? Race Change and Vote Switching in the 2012-2016 US Presidential Elections" (with Dean Lacy).

    • Abstract: Although racial identity is usually assumed to be unchanging, recent research shows otherwise. The role of politics in racial identification change has received little attention. Using panel data with waves around the last two presidential elections, this paper reveals survey evidence of race change and its strong relationship with vote switching patterns. Across several models and robust to various controls, switching from a non-Republican vote in 2012 to a 2016 Republican vote (i.e., non-Romney to Trump) significantly predicts nonwhite to white race change. Among nonwhites who did not vote Republican in 2012, switching to a Republican vote in 2016 increases the probability of adopting a white racial identity from a 0.03 baseline to 0.38 (962% increase). The systematic relationship arguably does not suffer from measurement error, fails to appear for the 2008-2012 election period, and makes theoretical sense in light of 2016 campaign rhetoric and trends in political-social identity alignment.

Work in Progress

"Ground Truth Validation of Survey Estimates of Split-Ticket Voting with Cast Vote Records Data" (with Jonathan Robinson).

    • Abstract: From signaling trends in nationalization and partisanship to clarifying preferences for divided government, split-ticket voting has received copious attention in political science. Important insights often rely on survey data, as they do among practitioners searching for persuadable voters. Yet it is unknown whether surveys accurately capture this behavior. We take advantage of a novel source of data to validate survey-based estimates of split-ticket voting. Cast vote records in South Carolina (2010-18) and Maryland (2016-18) provide anonymized individual level choices in all races on the ballot for every voter in each election, serving as the ground truth. We collect an array of public and private survey data to execute the comparison and calculate survey error. Despite expectations about partisan consistency pressures leading to survey underestimates, we find that surveys generally come close to the true split-ticket voting rates in our set of races. Accuracy varies, but notably is more consistent for split-ticket voting in a given dyad of national races (e.g., President vs. U.S. House) than in one with state races, as the former is often of greater interest in research and practice.

"The Meaning and Measurement of Racial Attitudes in Political and Nonpolitical Contexts" (with John Carey, Yusaku Horiuchi, and Timothy Ryan).

"Elite Influence on the Apolitical: Donald Trump and Daylight Savings Time Opinion" (with Bryan Wilcox-Archuleta).

"Elite Cues and Party Asymmetry in Crime Misperceptions."

"Racial Attitude Change and its Potential Causes."

"A Role for Partisanship in Racial Fluidity."