Chris Skovron, a second year Political Science PhD student who studies American politics with a focus on political behavior, identity, and civic competence, was recently awarded the highly competitive NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.  Chris’ proposal to the NSF was based on his collaborative work with another graduate student in the department, Logan Casey.  In his application to the NSF, Chris proposed both survey and experimental work to explore when anti-LGBT prejudice influences people's political judgments. In particular, both Chris and Logan are interested in how (straight) voters evaluate gay candidates and the role of innumeracy about the gay population in public opinion.  “Most straight people vastly overestimate the number of lesbian and gay people in the population, and we're interested in the consequences of this for their attitudes.  Public opinion has changed rapidly on gay marriage and related issues, but we only have a rough sense of why, so our work tries to give a more nuanced view of why some people have been persuaded and why some people remain anti-gay,” says Chris.  

Although Chris had applied to the NSF before, he wrote a new proposal this year. He relied on designs that he and Logan had already started to devise.  He also wrote several drafts under the guidance of his advisor, Professor Arthur “Skip” Lupia.  Chris said that the best advice he received is that it is imperative to demonstrate to reviewers that one has a “business plan” to execute the research. “I included lots of information on how I planned to get samples to field my studies. Also, simply having spent more time in graduate school seems to have helped. The reviewers look for signs of success, so having more presentations and work in progress is always a plus.”  Some of Chris’ reviewers also mentioned his work with the Interdisciplinary Workshop in Empirical Queer Studies and his service as a steward for the Graduate Employees’ Organization as exemplifying community engagement that the NSF looks for.   

In addition to the NSF project, Chris is engaged in other research endeavors.  Another of Chris’ major area of research focuses on representation, particularly in state government.  He is the co - Principal Investigator of the National Candidate Study and the National Survey of Party Leaders, studies led by Nick Carnes at Duke University, in which they survey representatives, candidates, and party officials.  Chris is also working with David Brockman from the University of California - Berkeley on projects related to this research. Their first paper utilizing the data from the studies asks how well candidates know what public opinion is in their districts. They find that candidates are often very inaccurate and tend to think that their constituents are much more conservative than they actually are.  Chris is eager to pursue this topic further.

Outside of the academic setting, Chris is a big music fan, and he frequently attends concerts.  Chris also loves sports as well, but he says that all of his favorite teams from Ohio dislike Michigan teams, so it can be somewhat “hard for him” to be at Michigan.

The National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students in NSF-supported science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines who are pursuing research-based master's and doctoral degrees at accredited US institutions.  Chris is one of the sixteen political science graduate students who were offered the fellowship.  The National Science Foundation received over 13,000 applications for only 2,000 fellowship awards.

Congratulations Chris on a job well done!