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Presenting the 2016-2017 Job Market Candidates

The University of Michigan's graduate program in Political Science is tremendously proud to present our 2016-2017 job market candidates.  Please contact the candidates, their advisors, or Ken Kollman, Placement Director, for further information.  

Logan S. Casey, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Disgust and the Dynamics of LGBT Politics

My dissertation examines the persistence of negative emotions, particularly disgust, toward LGBT people, and the consequences for opinion formation and persuasion. A focal point of my dissertation is that the commonly held view that public opinion is marching steadily and irreversibly toward pro-LGBT attitudes and widespread acceptance is overly optimistic. These assertions are often based on claims about the positive influence of contact with LGBT people. Using survey and experimental data, I illustrate that the influence of contact is not as far-reaching or consistent as widely believed. I then examine why contact with LGBT individuals can have such different effects on different people. A central contribution of my experimental findings is that many people still experience disgust in reaction to LGBT people and issues. This bolsters anti-LGBT prejudice and, in some cases, reduces support for LGBT-friendly policies. These effects can occur even among people who otherwise express positive attitudes about LGBT people. I also demonstrate that disgust varies in response to different members of the LGBT community: the highest reports are consistently associated with transgender people and issues. Furthermore, I contend that the physiological experience of emotion – the gut reaction – creates resistance to rational argument. This means that those who experience disgust will likely be more difficult to persuade. In short, my dissertation demonstrates that support is less stable and opposition is more entrenched than conventional wisdom suggests, and therefore the continued success of the LGBT movement will depend on the development of different strategies than have been used in the past.

Jennifer Chudy, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Racial Sympathy in American Politics

Abstract: This project examines the understudied, but prevalent, phenomenon of white racial sympathy for blacks in American politics. Reversing course from a long tradition of studying racial antipathy, I introduce and validate a new measure of racial sympathy and demonstrate its consequences for public opinion using data from national and convenience surveys. Furthermore, I undertake a variety of analyses to distinguish racial sympathy from existing measures of attitudes, including contemporary manifestations of racial animus, such as racial resentment. I find that racial sympathy is consistently and significantly associated with support for public policies perceived to benefit African Americans, even while accounting for measures of principles and racial resentment. Racial sympathy is also distinct from a generalized social sympathy, as it does not predict support for policies that benefit gays and lesbians or women. In a final set of analyses, I use a series of experiments to consider the activation of racial sympathy. Specifically, I examine the ways in which highlighting black suffering gives rise to sympathetic political behavior. Though I situate the study in contemporary American politics, I also discuss the relevance of racial sympathy to other periods in American political history such as the Abolitionist movement and the 1960s. This project is a companion to the rich literature in political science on racial prejudice. It contributes to our understanding of the multifaceted role that race plays in American politics and public opinion.

Keywords: American Politics, Race and Ethnicity Politics, Public Opinion, Political Psychology, Quantitative Methods, Survey Methods, Experiments, and Qualitative Methods

Link to full bio and vita

Vanessa Cruz Nichols, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Latinos Rising to the Challenge: Political Responses to Threat and Opportunity Messages

My research aims to re-assess the common belief that threat mobilizes people to
participate in the American political system. A frequently used tactic of
political activists is to frame the policy issues that they wish to challenge
as potential threats or attacks to people’s personal interests. The underlying
theory suggests that the use of threat tactics shake people out of their
political apathy. In general, a dominant thread in the extant Latino politics literature focuses heavily on the role of threatening immigration policies that were characterized as undermining the interests of this community in the late 1990s in California, and nationwide in a wave of historic protests in the spring of 2006.

While it might seem intuitive that people would be more mobilized if they are alerted to a crisis that would jeopardize theirinterests, it may be counter-productive to only emphasize the crisis at hand. Instead of using the alarm-only approach as seen in previous threat appraisal studies, it is important to couple one’s sense of urgency with alternative messages pointing to opportunities or policy initiatives individuals or groups can aspire to accomplish. By using this coupled approach of threat and opportunity cues, people are more likely to believe their contribution makes a difference. To test the causal inference of my hypotheses, I rely on an original online survey experiment with 1,015 Latino adults in the U.S. and their exposure to single-cue and simultaneous threat and opportunity immigration policy messages. I find that those jointly exposed to threat and opportunity frames yield greater levels of intended and observed measures of political participation. The effects are driven along gender lines, with women being more mobilized by the coupled threat-and-opportunity message approach. Combining threat messages with more opportunity-based policy alternatives may be the most ideal strategy to mobilize a group to rise, and not succumb, to the challenge before them.

Lastly, my dissertation involves secondary analyses of the American National Election Study (2008, 2012) and the Collaborative Multi-Racial Post-Election Survey (2008). I focus on Latino respondents and their political behavior, specifically with regard to voting and talking about politics.

Co-Chairs: Vincent Hutchings and John Garcia

Committee: Nancy Burns and Don Kinder

Keywords: Latino Politics, Race and Ethnicity Politics, Political Behavior, American Politics, Political Psychology, Political Communication, Experimental Methods, Survey Methods, Mobilization, Policy Appeals, and Threat/Opportunity Appraisals.

Link to full bio and vita

Cassandra Grafström, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Election Timing or Economic Voting?

The economy and elections are deeply intertwined. The economic voting literature posits that economic performance drives electoral outcomes, with a weak economy harming incumbents at the polls (e.g., Duch and Stevenson 2008; Lewis-Beck 1988; Powell and Whitten 1993). Because the economy affects election outcomes is also affects election timing as prime ministers “surf the economy” by calling elections during economic upturns whenever possible (e.g., Ito 1991; Kayser 2006; Smith 2004). The economic voting literature has largely ignored this second effect of economics for elections, assuming highly informed voters who act upon politicians with no agency in their own reelection. This dissertation studies how endogenous election timing impacts the economic vote. I develop a theory of how institutions constrain and empower partisan actors in both the government and the opposition to call elections at their preferred time and draw out implications for how different aspects of economic performance matter at the polls under different types of elections.


Hyeonho Hahm, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Conditioning Partisanship: Political Institutions, Policy Change, and Political Judgment

While many scholars identify partisanship as the single most important factor shaping citizens’ diverse political beliefs and actions, the literature reveals substantial variation in the extent of mass partisanship and in the magnitude of its impact over time in the United States as well as across countries. How can we explain these contextual variations? My answer focuses on the importance of institutional contexts and their consequences for policy outcomes, to which existing studies on partisanship have paid relatively little attention.

Connecting micro-behavioral theories on partisanship with macro-institutional theories in American and comparative politics, I argue that as the institutional constraints on policy change increase, the political party in power is less likely to matter in determining policy outcomes, and therefore individuals are less likely to become partisans. Using multilevel analyses of two large-scale survey datasets that cover the U.S. from 1952 to 2008 as well as 106 election surveys across 49 countries, I confirmed this relationship. This is not only the broadest empirical examination yet conducted on this question, but also the first study that offers both the theoretical explanation and empirical evidence that party polarization may not always lead to the rise of mass partisanship; rather it may lead to the decline in people’s partisanship as a result of its interplay with institutional configurations. To complement this observational analysis, I also conduct randomized survey experiments over a large sample of U.S adults to further confirm the proposed causal relationships among institutional attributes, perceived policy change, and partisan judgment.

Maiko Isabelle Heller, Comparative Politics

Dissertation TitleThe Empirical Implications of Inter-Party Bargaining in
Multiparty Governments

My dissertation asks why some junior coalition members are
able to extract significantly greater concessions from their partners than
others. I argue that a junior member’s ability to extract concessions is
determined by its exit power. Governing parties can threaten to exit the
incumbent government if they can enter at least one alternative government.
Such threats, however, are only credible if these alternatives are both viable
and ideologically attractive. The greater their exit power, the more concessions
junior members can extract. I generate a new measure of exit power that is
comparable across space and time. This measure is based on the simulation of
over 120,000 potential governments and captures the viability and ideological
attractiveness of each alternative government to all governing parties in
developed democracies during the post-war era. I test the general argument on
three observable implications of multiparty policy-making. First, I show that
total government spending only increases in the number of governing parties if
the strongest party is relatively weak. This effect is mitigated as it controls
greater exit power. Second, the composition of government spending is more
responsive to the interests of parties with significant exit power. That is,
right-wing priorities receive a greater share of spending if right-wing parties
have great exit power. Finally, I examine why some parties receive more, and
more attractive, cabinet ministries than others. Here, I address previously
unresolved issues stemming from the compositional character of the data by
using estimation strategies prevalent in medical and public health research. 

Link to full bio and vita

Mi Hwa Hong, International Relations and Comparative Politics

Dissertation TitleCrafting Reputation before Domestic and International Audiences: Autocratic Participation in the United Nations Human Rights Institutions

Why do some autocracies actively participate in international human rights institutions while their autocratic peers prefer to keep their engagement at a minimum? I argue that autocrats are motivated to participate by a desire to craft good reputations before domestic and international audiences. Hampered by commitment and information problems in their power-sharing relationship with ruling coalitions, autocrats with different support bases from their predecessors seek popular support to deter potential challenges from their new allies. Such autocrats find multiple ratifications of human rights agreements (HRAs) an expedient policy tool either to signal a break from their repressive autocratic predecessors or to reassure citizens by demonstrating continuity with their democratic predecessors in human rights protections. Among many other liberalization policies under autocrats, HRA memberships help governments appear to care for “broad interests” while still granting concentrated benefits to a small circle of regime insiders. Such autocrats make their promises more credible by accepting extra monitoring/enforcement procedures in addition to ratifying the main treaty, as long as the treaties concern general rights protections and allow them some control over those procedures. Likewise, autocracies actively engage in the Universal Periodic Review when seeking an enhanced reputation on human rights, either on their own or in relation to a particular state under review, in the eyes of the international audience. In particular, autocratic states with high profile positions in other international human rights institutions issue more meaningful recommendations to peer states. Autocracies also issue more serious recommendations to their foreign policy adversaries. Last, the meaningful recommendations issued by autocratic states mostly refer to international HRAs, but stop short of encouraging specific domestic reforms, as the recommending autocracy commits to a higher number of HRAs. I find strong supporting evidence in a series of empirical analyses based on a newly created dataset of individual autocrats’ records of ratification and acceptance of optional monitoring/enforcement of core UN HRAs from 1966 to 2008 and on a newly created directed dyadic dataset on UPR recommendations from 2008 to 2011. Qualitative data from elite interviews and site observation further corroborate the main findings.

Link to full bio and vita

Kirill Kalinin, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Analysis of Election Frauds and Preference Falsification in Authoritarian Regimes

How can we measure election fraud cross-nationally? Can election polls assist us in validation of election fraud estimates obtained from electoral data? My dissertation is focused on methodological and theoretical aspects of statistical detection of election fraud, using both cross-national electoral data and the survey data. In my work, following T.Kuran’s concept of preference falsification, I develop the model and test it empirically using a wide range of election forensics methods and national survey experiments conducted during Russian Presidential election, 2012. My general findings suggest the presence of social desirability bias in the estimates of election polls and the close relationship between social desirability and election frauds.

Link to full bio and vita

Denise Lillvis, American Politics

Dissertation Title: “Not Immune: Politics and the Role of Bureaucrat-Professionals in State Health Policy Implementation”

Abstract: State public health agencies play a crucial role in disease prevention and health promotion by implementing policies that advance population health. This project examines how institutional, organizational, and political factors affect the implementation decisions of health professionals who work within these agencies. I begin by developing a theory of bureaucratic professionalism, which I refine through interviews with state government employees and professional association representatives. I then examine why we see variation in bureaucratic professionalism across state health departments and over time. I hypothesize that bureaucratic professionalism will increase when the legislature is more professionalized and of the opposite party. My empirical results largely support this hypothesis. Next, as a central test of my thesis, I elucidate how and under what conditions variation in bureaucratic professionalism affects state public health policy by focusing on childhood immunization rulemaking. The particular conditions of interest include: the existence of a board of health, the level of bureaucratic professionalism, and the presence of divided government. I find that states with a greater proportion of bureaucrat-professionals in state government propose fewer immunization rules under divided government. This is surprising, as the literature on science-driven, federal-level bureaucracy suggests that bureaucrats enjoy a certain amount of autonomy based on the professional reputation of their field. Finally, I conduct a case study of a recent childhood immunization rule in Michigan to understand how bureaucrat-professionals at the local level implement a state law (data collection is currently in progress).  This project helps us better understand the role of bureaucrat-professionals in state government, and the conditions under which they employ their expertise to implement health policy.

Keywords: bureaucracy, health politics, state politics, American political institutions, public administration

Link to full bio and vita

Patrick O'Mahen, American and Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Public Broadcasting, Public Funding and the Public Interest: How Government Broadcasting Subsidies increase Political Knowledge and Participation

As shown by Mitt Romeny's recent proposal to fund Sesame Street with advertising, providing taxpayer subsidies for public broadcasters is a flashpoint in policy debates in both the United States and other democracies. Past research has suggested that public broadcasting has a positive effect on levels of political knowledge and participation. However, my research demonstrates that it is specifically the government subsidies of public broadcasters that drive increases in knowledge and voter turnout, not merely the existence of a public broadcaster.


Ben Peterson, Political Theory

Dissertation Title: 'Worthy of a Certain Seriousness': Games, Playfulness, and Sites of Political Action

Abstract: It is fairly common for politicians to use sports as metaphors or for academics to use game theory as a model for understanding political phenomena, but it is uncommon to consider games themselves as sites of political action.  The central argument of my dissertation is that games should be considered as sites of political action on their own terms.  I argue that the marginalization of games in political life emerges out of a misidentification of games as sites for the opposite of the seriousness that is politics, what we often refer to as “play.”  My dissertation seeks to refute this strict dichotomy and clarify the importance of both seriousness and playfulness as political dispositions by combining insights from canonical texts in political thought - Homer, Plato, and Arendt - with recent scholarship on the study of games and play.  I employ close textual readings to suggest the ways in which playfulness matters to political beings, and how games exist as sites that open up particular possibilities for the action of citizens.

Alexander Von Hagen-Jamar, International Relations

Dissertation Title: Political Institutions and the Causes of Military Spending.

In my dissertation, Political Institutions and the Causes of Military Spending, I contribute to literatures on military spending, political institutions and foreign policy, and interstate policy interdependence. I use statistical analysis, including multiparametic spatiotemporal autoregressive models, to investigate the causes of cross-national and temporal variation in military spending. Political institutions determine to whom leaders are accountable, which in turn shapes how and why states invest in their military. Democracies, where leaders are accountable to the public, spend relative to their expectation of war. Autocracies use military spending to buy military support, leading civilian autocracies to spend more than military autocracies. International institutions, such as military alliances, also matter. Military spending in one state affects military spending in another, through military alliances and expectations of conflict, though not through enduring rivalries.


Matthew Wells, World Politics

Dissertation Title: The Commitment Problem in Occupier-Conducted Counterinsurgency

Why do some states win counterinsurgency wars in territories they occupy abroad while others do not? I argue that states whose leaders who can generate credible audience costs in an effort to signal resolve will, paradoxically, be the least able to endure the costs of fighting. Efforts that typically demonstrate commitment are seen as cheap talk by insurgent actors, who seek to raise the costs of fighting to change the preferences of a leader’s base away from support and to opposition to the occupation. I use quantitative and qualitative evidence from across and within conflicts to paint a more nuanced view of the structural determinants of the outcomes of occupier-conducted counterinsurgency. It is not the aversion to casualties or financial costs per se that lead particular regimes to defeat, rather it is their inability to credibly signal resolve and commitment to their opponents in the face of these costs that produces such an outcome. This finding has significant implications for the conduct of security policy.


Michael Zilis, American Politics

Dissertation Title: I Respectfully Dissent: Linking Judicial Voting Behavior, Media Coverage, and Public Responses in the Study of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

My dissertation is a study of what happens after the Supreme Court rules. It begins by identifying a critical feature absent from existing studies of judicial policy legitimation: the information conveyed by the press to the public. The dissertation combines disparate research, theory, and the use of multiple methods to answer important questions about Supreme Court influence. I develop Dissensus Dynamics Theory to show that voting outcomes on the Supreme Court play the most important role in shaping how the press portrays legal controversies. The central place of voting outcomes comes from their value to journalists who must characterize judicial decisions while subject to considerable constraints. In cases where dissent and division on the bench is high, news organizations portray rulings in negative terms, drawing on frames raised by dissenting justices and by critics of the Court. These findings bridge what have been, until now, disparate lines of inquiry involving law and politics, political communication, and public opinion.