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SPA Announces New Director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies

David Barker

Political scientist David Barker will join the AU School of Public Affairs in August 2017 as the new director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. Barker is currently the director of the Institute for Social Research (ISR) at California State University, Sacramento.

"For me, as an American politics scholar and junkie, the position offers an unparalleled opportunity to dig in to my favorite subject and a prominent platform to make a difference in the best place in the world to do so," said Barker. "With such distinguished faculty colleagues and engaged students, SPA is really just a perfect spot and something of a dream come true."

Barker's political science research has centered on the study of American presidential elections, political parties, political communication, political culture, and political representation. He has published over two dozen peer reviewed articles and several books. He has also had a lengthy applied research career, publishing dozens of polling reports and social policy program evaluations.

Currently, Barker is finishing a book about the causes and consequences of "polarized fact perceptions" in American politics, and beginning a long term project that will examine the roots of political compromise and reasonableness - the psychology of why some are more inclined to reach across the aisle than others.

At SPA, Barker said he wants to build upon the success CCPS and opportunities for other researchers and students.

"The reputation of the Center speaks for itself," said Barker. "I just want to continue carrying the torch in providing public outreach through stimulating events, and pursuing grant funds to promote research opportunities for faculty and students."

Indeed, Barker's primary charge will be grantmaking, something else Barker has done a lot of (to the tune of about $8 million over the past few years). To that end, after he arrives in Washington this summer, he hopes to partner with other area universities to pursue foundation support for anonymous survey panels of government institutional staff -- to gain ongoing insight regarding policymaking, ambition, negotiation, and other instutional dynamics behind the scenes.

Barker succeeds CCPS Interim Director Candy Nelson, and SPA Distinguished Professor James Thurber, who founded CCPS in 1979 and led the center until 2016. Through institutes, weekend workshops, and research projects - CCPS [link] has trained hundreds of people for successful participation in the political process, from running campaigns to influencing policy. As Barker says, "the opportunity to learn from the best was a big draw to coming here."

Prior to joining Cal State, Barker served for 13 years as a political science professor at the University of Pittsburgh, which included five years as Director of Graduate Studies. Barker has also held visiting professorships abroad at the University of Sydney, the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, and Sciences Po in Paris. Barker has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Baylor and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Houston.