My primary research agenda is the evolution and incorporation of new issues and identities into the political party system in the United States. As issues, values, and characteristics become culturally and socially influential, their impact on the political system can say much about the process of political identification and the structure of political parties. This agenda covers three related themes: 1) The influence of the emerging secular and scientific worldview on party politics; 2) Changing racial and ethnic identities and their impact on political identification; and 3) polarization in American political institutions, especially the influence of grassroots political activists on party organizations and elected officials.
In my dissertation, I focus on the emerging secular/scientific belief system to trace the incorporation of new belief systems into partisan identities in the electorate, ideological constraint among party activists, and impact on party organizations. As part of this research agenda, I employ nationally representative survey data as well as a unique survey of state political party activists I collected in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.
In my work on the political importance of changing racial and ethnic identities, I examine the role of religious conversion in political participation among immigrants. By examining the reciprocal relationship between religious and ethnic identity, coauthors and I demonstrate avenues for increased political participation among underrepresented groups. I also asses the role of multiracial identification, a growing social identity, in shaping partisan affiliation and participation. Here we find that multiracial identification has a demobilizing impact on political participation, which suggests multiracial individuals are not adequately incorporated into the political system.
In addition to secular party politics and issue incorporation, I am also working on polarization generally and its causes and consequences within political institutions. My research on polarization tracks the effects of polarization on inter-branch dynamics within political institutions. Myself and Gary E. Hollibaugh, Jr. find that polarization increases certainty around the position of pivotal legislators, which allows the Executive to better judge the success of executive orders.
My secondary fields of research include comparative politics and survey methodology and analysis. Picking up on many of the themes of my research in American politics, my comparative work examines the role of politically-relevant identities and attributes in shaping political outcomes. One project with coauthors tracks how public sector employment leads to individual and societal well-being. Another article with Emily Maiden finds that, in rural Mali, the language spoken by the village leader is an important determinant of whether households receive needed agricultural aid. Both projects combine substantive, theoretical objectives with focused survey research to uncover relationships between politically-relevant individual factors.