Ellen Key, Ph.D.


Appalachian State University

Address: 224 Joyce Lawrence Lane, ASU Box 32107

City: Boone, North Carolina - 28608

Country: United States

About Me:

I am an associate professor in the Government and Justice Studies Department and a faculty affiliate of the Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies program at Appalachian State University. My interests include political behavior, political methodology, and political institutions. I received my PhD from Stony Brook University. I also have a master's degree in Political Science from the University of Georgia and bachelor's degree in Government and Women's studies from Georgetown University.

Research Interests

Public Opinion

Research Methods & Research Design

Judicial Politics

Countries of Interest

United States


Journal Articles:

(2019) You Research Like a Girl: Gendered Research Agendas and Their Implications, PS Political Science & Politics

Political science, like many disciplines, has a “leaky-pipeline” problem. Women are more likely to leave the profession than men. Those who stay are promoted at lower rates. Recent work has pointed toward a likely culprit: women are less likely to submit work to journals. Why? One answer is that women do not believe their work will be published. This article asks whether women systematically study different topics than men and whether these topics may be less likely to appear in top political science journals. To answer this question, we analyzed the content of dissertation abstracts. We found evidence that some topics are indeed gendered. We also found differences in the representation of “women’s” and “men’s” topics in the pages of the top journals. This suggests that research agendas may indeed be gendered and that variation in research topic might be to blame for the submission gap.

(2019) Motivated Reasoning, Public Opinion, and Presidential Approval, Political Behavior

Presidential approval is a desirable commodity for US presidents, one that bolsters re-election chances and the prospects of legislative success. An important question, then, is what shapes citizens’ approval of the executive. A large body of literature demonstrates that the president’s handling of issues, particularly the economy, is an important component. A similarly large literature confirms that evaluations of the president, like most political objects, are filtered through partisan lenses. Due to changes in the US political environment in the last few decades, we suspect that the relative importance of these components has changed over time. In particular, we argue that polarization has increased partisan motivated reasoning when it comes to evaluations of the president. We support this empirically by disaggregating approval ratings from Reagan to Obama into in- and out-partisans, finding that approval is increasingly detached from economic assessments. This is true for members opposite the president’s party earlier than it is for in-partisans. While the president has been over-attributed credit and blame for economic conditions, the increasing impact of partisanship on approval at the expense of economic sentiment has generally negative implications when it comes to electoral outcomes and democratic accountability.

(2018) Political Opportunism, Position Taking, and Court-Curbing Legislation, Justice Systems Journal

While a considerable body of scholarship has investigated court-curbing attempts by Congress that are focused on the Supreme Court, less attention has been paid to court-curbing bills directed at the lower federal courts. However out of all the federal appellate courts, only one circuit has been consistently targeted in court curbing bills over a lengthy period of time: the Ninth Circuit. Over the course of seven decades, members of Congress have repeatedly sponsored legislation that would alter the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit by creating a new circuit and dividing up the existing jurisdictional area. This paper investigates whether the splitting bills that target the Ninth Circuit can be understood as part of broader trends in court curbing in the federal judiciary. Are these bills linked with attempts to rein in the Supreme Court, or are other factors driving these proposals? Using an original dataset of all bills to split the Ninth Circuit, we test competing explanations for this lengthy fixation on a single court.

(2018) Research Replication: Practical Considerations, PS Political Science & Politics

With the discipline’s push toward DA-RT, journal replication archives are becoming more and more common. As researchers work to ensure replication materials are provided, they should also pay attention to the content—rather than just the provision—of journal archives. Based on our experience in analyzing and handling journal replication materials, we present a series of recommendations that can help make replication materials easier to understand and use. The provision of clear, functional, and well documented replication materials is key for achieving the goals of transparent and replicable research. Furthermore, good replication materials better boost the development of extensions and related research by making state-of-the-art methodologies and analyses more accessible.

(2017) The Political Economy: Political Determinants of the Macroeconomy, Political Behavior

It has long been recognized that voters bring their political behaviors in line with economic assessments. Recent work, however, suggests that citizens also engage in economic behaviors that align with their confidence – or lack thereof – in the political system. This alignment can happen consciously or, as we suggest, unconsciously, in the same way that positivity carries over to other political behaviors on a micro-level. Using monthly time series data from 1978 to 2008, we produce further evidence of this relationship by demonstrating that political confidence affects consumer behavior at the aggregate level over time. Our analyses employ measures that capture nuanced shifts in the public while simultaneously accounting for the complex relationships between subjective and objective economic indicators, economic behavior, political attitudes, and the media. Our results suggest that approval of the president not only increases the electorate’s willingness to spend money, but also affects the volatility of this spending. These findings suggest that the economy is influenced by politics beyond elections, and gives the “Chief Economist” another avenue by which they can affect the behavior of the electorate.

(2016) Assessing the Impact of City Manager Ideology on Local Expenditures, Journal of Public Budgeting Accounting and Financial Management

This research explores the role of political ideology in local policy formation by assessing the impact of the city manager’s ideology on local expenditures. While previous studies have identified nuanced and overlapping roles between administration and politics, here we extend those investigations by positing that ideology may influence a manager’s role in the policy formation of the budget. Although some conceptualizations of city managers assume them to be largely apolitical in a partisan sense, we find a significant effect of ideology on local expenditures among city managers. This adds to the literature that suggests that city managers may not merely passively implement policies created by elected officials; rather city managers may influence policy in multifaceted ways, thereby driving a need to further investigate individual influences upon policy formation.

(2016) How Are We Doing? Data Access and Replication in Political Science, PS Political Science & Politics

Data access and research transparency (DA-RT) is a growing concern for the discipline. Technological advances have greatly reduced the cost of sharing data, enabling full replication archives consisting of data and code to be shared on individual websites as well as journal archives and institutional data repositories. But how do we ensure scholars take advantage of these resources to share their replication archives? Moreover, are the costs of research transparency borne by individuals or journals? I assess the impact of journal replication policies on data availability and find articles published in journals with mandatory provision policies are twenty-four times more likely to have replication materials available than articles in journals with no requirements.

Book Chapters:

(2017) Elements of Trust in Municipal Government, Social Capital in Mexico and the United States Reflections and Research

Local government is often characterized as the least important level of government; however governments at the local level provide many of the vital services that people rely on for daily life. In delivering these services to citizens, it is the municipal level of government that most people come into contact with in a direct way. This direct contact can have a bearing on the image of government that citizens develop and can consequently affect the behavior of those citizens toward government. In this chapter we explore one of the primary elements of cognitive social capital, trust. First we compare the trust levels that citizens have in their local government in Mexico, South Africa, and the United States. Next, using a survey of chief officials in U.S. municipalities, we examine variables that contribute to the level of trust citizen’s place in their local municipalities. We find several factors including the quality of services delivered, the level of income inequality, and the degree of social heterogeneity have a significant effect on trust levels in these U.S. communities. We offer these findings as suggestions for possible ways that municipal leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere may look to increase trust levels within their communities and thereby increase their levels of social capital. We conclude with a few suggestions for future research.

(2017) The Electoral Costs of Party Loyalty in the House and Senate, Strategic Party Government

Collectively, do voters in congressional elections punish legislators for being too partisan? We find that they do: controlling for other factors, legislators pay an electoral price for voting with their parties, especially those who represent competitive districts.