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Research@SPA: Government

Research at SPA

Select Research Highlights in Government

Political Bias and Error Affects “Experts” and “Non-Experts” Alike

New research challenges the assertion that politics should be left to the "experts". Using data from the 1992-2008 National Election Surveys, Douglas Pierce finds that expert political judgments are just as likely to be informed by emotional reactions, partisanship, and confirmation bias as those of ‘non-experts’. Despite their claims, political experts form opinions in a very similar fashion to the rest of the population. The study, titled “Uninformed Votes? Reappraising Information Effects and Presidential Preferences,” was published in the journal Political Behavior. You can read Pierce's post on the findings in the London School of Economics blog.

Uncovering the Origins of the Political Gender Gap

A study by Jennifer Lawless and Richard Fox of Loyola Marymount University examines why more men tend to run for political office.

The study, “Uncovering the Origins of the Gender  Gap in Political Ambition,” included nearly 4,000 high-school and college students. It shows that factors such as upbringing and environment, freedom to pursue interests in college, and general attitudes about running for political office often favor men. The authors conclude that the gender gap in political ambition and the comparative shortage of female lawmakers likely will persist in the near future. The research appears in the American Political Science Review.

Citizen Involvement in Writing Constitutions

A study by Todd Eisenstadt, Carl LeVan, and Tofigh Maboudi suggests that democracies may be stronger when ordinary citizens are involved in the initial stages of reforming of their country’s constitution.

The research, titled "When Talk Trumps Text: The Democratizing Effects of Deliberation during Constitution-Making, 1974-2011," shows that the level of democracy increased in 62 countries following the adoption of a new constitution, but decreased or stayed the same in 70 others. Using data covering all 138 new constitutions in 118 countries between 1974 and 2011, it explains this divergence through empirical tests showing “that constitutions crafted with meaningful and transparent public involvement are more likely to contribute to democratization.” The study appeared in the American Political Science Review


Book cover: Back Channel to CubaRated Best Book of the Year by Foreign Affairs, Back Channel to Cuba by William LeoGrande and Peter Kornbluh is an essential read to make sense of the ongoing normalization between Cuba and the United States. LeoGrande and Kornbluh present a vast, secret history of negotiations between the erstwhile antagonists.

Book cover: Hume and the Politics of EnlightenmentThomas Merrill’s book, Hume and the Politics of Enlightenment, demonstrates the meaning and relevance of the Socratic analogy David Hume employs in A Treatise of Human Nature. Merrill’s work won the Delia Winthrop prize for best, recently completed book in political philosophy.

Book cover: Who Votes Now?Jan Leighley and co-author Jonathan Nagler draw on a wealth of data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the American National Election Studies in their book Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States. Critics around the country highly endorsed their analysis.

Book cover: Running from OfficeRunning from Office: Why Young Americans Are Turned Off to Politics by Jennifer Lawless and co-author Richard Fox is a compelling new book detailing the rise in political apathy among America’s youngest generations.


Recent Articles & Papers

Cowell-Meyers, K.B. (2014). “The Movement as Party: How the Women’s Movement in Northern Ireland Used the Strategy of a Political Party to Gain Access,” Perspectives on Politics, 12(1), pp. 61-80


Cowell-Meyers, K.B. (Forthcoming). “Women’s Political Parties in Europe,” Politics & Gender


Edelson, C. (Forthcoming). “Libya, Syria, ISIS and the Case Against the Energetic Executive,” Presidential Studies Quarterly


Hershberg, E. and Brenner, P. J. (2014). “Washington’s Asia-Pacific Response to a Changing Hemispheric Order,” Pensamiento Propio, 39(1), pp. 139-162


Hershberg, E. (Forthcoming). “Estados Unidos y Elecciones en Centroamérica,” Debates, 1(1)


Lawless, J. (2015). “Female Candidates and Legislators,” Annual Review of Political Science, 18, pp. 349-366


Hayes, D. and Lawless, J. (2015). “As Local News Goes, So Goes Citizen Engagement: Media, Knowledge, and Participation in U.S. House Elections,” Journal of Politics, 77(2), pp. 447-462


LeBas, A. and Bodea, C. (2014). “Beyond the Fiscal Contract: Attitudes toward Taxation in Urban Nigeria,” British Journal of Political Science, Firstview, pp. 1-24


Leighley, J., Oser, J., and Winneg, K. (2014). “Participation, Online and Otherwise: What’s the Difference for Policy Preferences?” Social Science Quarterly


LeoGrande, W. M. (2015). “Cuba’s Perilous Political Transition to the Post-Castro Era,” Journal of Latin American Studies, 47(2), pp. 377-405


Lu, J. (2014). “A Cognitive Anatomy of Political Trust and Respective Bases: Evidence from Urban China,” Political Psychology, 35(4), pp. 477-494


Lublin, D. and Wright, M. (2014). “Don’t Start the Party: Assessing the Electoral Effect of Legal Provisions Impeding Ethnoregional Parties,” Election Law Journal, 2(December), pp. 277-287


Merrill, T. (2015). “The Later Jefferson and the Problem of Natural Rights,” Perspectives on Political Science, 44(2), pp. 122-130


Shenson, D., Moore R. T., William Benson, & Lynda A. Anderson. (2015) “Polling Places, Pharmacies, and Public Health: Vote & Vax 2012,” American Journal of Public Health, 105(6), pp. e12–e15


Newman, S. (2014). “Faith and Fear: Explaining Jewish and Unionist Attitudes Towards Compromise in Israel and Northern Ireland,” Peace and Change, 39(2), pp. 153-189