Mia Costa, Ph.D.


Dartmouth College

Country: United States (New Hampshire)

About Me:

I am an assistant professor in the Department of Government at Dartmouth College. I conduct research about issues of political representation and the political behavior of citizens and elected officials in the U.S. My research has been published in journals such as Political Behavior, Political Research Quarterly, PLoS ONE, Journal of Experimental Political Science, and others. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and my B.A. in Political Science from the State University of New York at New Paltz.

Research Interests

Public Opinion

Experimental Research

Political Psychology

Gender and Politics

Political Participation

Representation and Electoral Systems

Congressional Communication

Legislative Behavior

Women Candidates

Survey Research

Voter Mobilization

Descriptive Representation

Countries of Interest

United States


Journal Articles:

(2019) Family Ties? The Limits of Fathering Daughters on Congressional Behavior, American Politics Research

Scholars have long suggested that familial life can affect political behavior, and more recently, have found that fathering daughters leads men to adopt more liberal positions on gender equality policies. However, few have focused on the impact of fathering a daughter on congressional behavior, particularly in an era of heightened partisan polarization. Using an original dataset of familial information, we examine whether fathering a daughter influences male legislators’ 1) roll call and cosponsorship support for women’s issues in the 110th – 114th Congresses and 2) cosponsorship of bills introduced by female legislators in the 110th Congress. We find that once party affiliation is taken into account, having a daughter neither predicts support for women’s issues nor cosponsorship of bills sponsored by women. Our findings suggest there are limits to the direct effects of parenting daughters on men’s political behavior, and that scholars should remain attentive to institutional and partisan contexts

(2018) Walking the Walk? The Effect of Pledging to Vote on Youth Turnout., PLOS ONE

Psychological theories of political behavior suggest that commitments to perform a certain action can significantly increase the likelihood of such action, but this has rarely been tested in an experimental context. Does pledging to vote increase turnout? In cooperation with the Environmental Defense Fund during the 2016 election, we conduct the first randomized controlled trials testing whether young people who pledge to vote are more likely to turn out than those who are contacted using standard Get-Out-the-Vote materials. Overall, pledging to vote increased voter turnout by 3.7 points among all subjects and 5.6 points for people who had never voted before. These findings lend support for theories of commitment and have practical implications for mobilization efforts aimed at expanding the electorate.

(2017) Rethinking Representation from a Communal Perspective., Political Behavior

Most foundational theories of congressional representation were developed during an era of less polarized and less partisan politics. These theories viewed the incumbency advantage as buttressed by the fact that some constituents were willing to support legislators from the opposite party because of their ‘‘homestyles.’’ But in an era of policy immoderation in Congress, this perspective leads to an assumption that citizens evaluate their members of Congress based on what those legislators do for them individually, rather than what they do for their districts more broadly. In this paper, we ask whether citizens take the interests of their fellow constituents into account when evaluating their members of Congress. Using both survey data and an experiment, we uncover support for the notion that citizens take a more communal view of representation as at least part of their evaluations of their representatives. This suggests individuals may have a more nuanced understanding of representation than purely self-interested approaches tend to assume.

(2017) How Responsive are Political Elites? A Meta-Analysis of Experiments on Public Officials, Journal of Experimental Political Science

In the past decade, the body of research using experimental approaches to investigate theresponsiveness of elected officials has grown exponentially. Given this explosion of work,a systematic assessment of these studies is needed not only to take stock of what we havelearned so far about democratic responsiveness, but also to inform the design of futurestudies. In this article, I conduct the first meta-analysis of all experiments that examineelite responsiveness to constituent communication. I find that racial/ethnic minorities andmessages sent to elected officials (as opposed to non-elected) are significantly less likely toreceive a response. A qualitative review of the literature further suggests that some of theseinequalities in responsiveness are driven by personal biases of public officials, rather thanstrategic, electoral considerations. The findings of this study provide important qualificationsand context to prominent individual studies in the field.

(2017) How Gender Conditions the way Citizens Evaluate and Engage with their Representatives, Political Research Quarterly

Scholars argue that women’s presence in politics enhances symbolic representation, such as positive evaluations of one’s representative and increased political engagement.However, there is little empirical evidence of these symbolic benefits from descriptive representation. With data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study panel survey, we examine how a change in the gender of a representative affects individuals’ perceptions of that representative and likelihood to contact them. In general, we find that women express more positive evaluations of female representatives than male representatives, yet they are also less likely to contact female representatives. By contrast, the effect of an elected official’s gender does not significantly affect how men evaluate or engage with that official. However, we also show that partisanship conditions these effects, perhaps due to the fact that gender stereotypes operate differently for Democrats than Republicans. For example, women rate female Republican legislators more positively than they do male Republican legislators, but neither women nor men rate Democratic legislators differently based on their gender. The findings provide strong evidence that gender matters when it comes to representation, but contrary to some conventional wisdom, female elected officials may actually enjoy some advantages in terms of their standing among constituents.

(2016) Science Use in Regulatory Impact Analysis: The Effect of Political Attention and Controversy., Review of Policy Research

Scholars, policy makers, and research sponsors have long sought to understand the conditions under which scientific research is used in the policy-making process. Recent research has identified a resource that can be used to trace the use of science across time and many policy domains. U.S. federal agencies are mandated by executive order to justify all economically significant regulations by regulatory impact analyses (RIAs), in which they present evidence of the scientific underpinnings and consequences of the proposed rule. To gain new insight into when and how regulators invoke science in their policy justifications, we ask: does the political attention and controversy surrounding a regulation affect the extent to which science is utilized in RIAs? We examine scientific citation activity in all 101economically significant RIAs from 2008 to 2012 and evaluate the effects of attention—from the public, policy elites, and the media—on the degree of science use in RIAs. Our main finding is that regulators draw more heavily on scientific research when justifying rules subject to a high degree of attention from outside actors. These findings suggest that scientific research plays an important role in the justification of regulations, especially those that are highly salient to the public and other policy actors.

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2018) WPTZ NBC 5

TV Interview: Using social media as a tool for voter turnout

Radio Appearances:

(2017) The Daily Beat Podcast

Interview about research: "How Gender Conditions the way Citizens Evaluate and Engage with their Representatives.”

Newspaper Quotes:

(2018) Governing

"Want Young People to Vote? Make Them Sign a Pledge."

(2018) PS Mag

"I pledge to vote' gets people to the polls"

(2017) NPR

"Study finds women see women lawmakers as more competent, having more integrity"

Blog Posts:

(2018) Extensions, Carl Albert Center

"Constituent Contact and Legislator Responsiveness"

(2015) Washington Post

"Republican voters actually aren't divided into establishment and outsider camps."