From New Deal to Neoliberalism
My dissertation describes how, and explains why, both major political parties, including Democrats, have championed financial deregulation since the 1970s. I argue that institutional reforms that decreased the influence of subnational party organizations in elections, while increasing the importance of candidate campaigns, created space for neoliberal ideas and wealthy donors to gain influence within both parties.
To track party position change on financial regulation, I combine cutting-edge techniques in Natural Language Processing (NLP) with ideal point estimation algorithms to locate members of Congress (and the parties) on a one-dimensional ideological space. I use congressional bills, hearing transcripts, and roll call voting for data. Using a wide variety of quantitative metrics, I construct regression models to test my theory on party position change.
Primaries and Polarization
Despite widespread speculation among pundits and politicians, statistical research finds little evidence that primaries are an important source of polarization in roll call voting. This manuscript moves beyond roll call votes by testing the effects of ideological primary challenges on partisanship in an original dataset of bill cosponsorship.
Moreover, while extant research generally focuses on the one-to-one effects of primary challenges on the incumbents who experience a challenge, I develop a two-stage model to measure and test the effects of the threat of an ideological primary challenge. I find that the increased threat of an ideological primary challenge accounts about one-fourth of the rise in partisanship that occurred from the 1980s to the 2010s. These findings suggest the recent wave of ideological primary challenges is an important source of the escalation and intensification of polarization in recent Congresses.
Do Americans want to soak the rich? While survey findings consistently show that majorities of Americans support increased taxes on the rich, over the past half-century such taxes have dramatically decreased. To explain this discrepancy, Spencer Piston and I argue that when answering isolated, abstract survey questions, many express a preference for higher taxes on the rich because they believe the rich are undeserving of their wealth. However, in real-world campaigns over specific policies, opponents can erode public support for these taxes by tapping into distrust of government. We test this argument through an analysis of a case study of a referendum in Washington State as well as an original survey experiment. Our findings suggest that efforts to frame taxes on the rich in terms of distrust of government positions the wealthy not only to defeat tax increases in the short term, but also to reshape the political terrain, advantaging them in future struggles.
I have also written about my research for a mainstream audience. Here are links to an op-ed I published in CNN and a policy brief I wrote for the Scholars Strategy Network.