I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alabama. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018. My primary research interests include political representation, gender and politics and feminist theory, legislative politics, elections and voting behavior, state and local politics, as well as political parties. I focus on political representation of groups and their interests, democratic intermediaries, and the effect of structural reforms on representational processes and outcomes.
Gender and Politics
State and Local Politics
Representation and Electoral Systems
Political Parties and Interest Groups
Women's Political Representation
Political Party Organization
My research focuses broadly on political representation in the United States in general, and the representation of women in the political process in particular. Specifically, I am interested in how contextual and demographic factors interact to shape the way and extent to which legislators represent groups of constituents and conceptualize their interests. Combining research on substantive and descriptive representation, my work explores how partisanship, gender, and context shape representational actions on behalf of women. Some of my research on contextual impacts on representational behavior directed at women was recently published in The Journal of Women Politics and Policy and I am currently working on a book manuscript exploring the patterns of women's representation in U.S. legislative insitutions and the impact of demographic and comntextual variables on quantity, content, and framing of representational behavior. I partially think of this, however, as a route into broader questions of representation - such as the over- or underrepresentation of groups in the legislative process, or the effects of increased diversity in other institutions - and am also very interested in the effects of changing party structure and resource availability on representative democracy. For “The Long War over Party Structure: Political Parties and Representative Democracy in American Politics” (forthcoming in 2019 with Cambridge University Press) my co-author and I explored the changing nature of US parties, due to changes in institutional structure and context as well as resource availability, and tries to determine the effects of these changes on ideological congruence between party rank-and-file and party activists. As a successor to “The Long War,” my co-author and I have started working on a project about partisan polarization and its connections to the decline of regionalism in the U.S. Our work on party structure and its impact on policy preferences of both activists and rank and files for the two parties uncovered rising partisan polarization occurring in tandem with the (almost?) complete disappearance of regional patterns when it comes to policy preferences and issue alignments.This led us to wonder about the connection between the two developments, the mechanisms behind both, and the effect their combined appearance had - and still has - on the American political landscape. We recently completed a first phase of exploratory analysis (using ANES data) and theory-building. Based on voting patterns and regional classifications from the census bureau, we have identified three distinct political regions that show clear - and easily distinguishable - patterns of behavior. We have recently begun working on the analytical portion of the project, identifying factors and mechanisms connecting the disappearance of regionally distinct political behavior over time with an increase in partisan polarization across time and across issue areas. We use a data set assembled from ANES data by Shafer and Claggett for their book titled “The American Public Mind” (Cambridge University Press, 2010), expanded for this project to cover elections up to and includind 2016. Gubernatorial Electoral Shifts and their Causes: This project looks at competitive gubernatorial races in five states (WI, MI, MD, FL, GA) in 2018 and assess shifts in partisan lean and margin on the county level compared to 2014. It then compares the size and direction of these shifts to those following the 2008 and 2000 presidential elections to determine whether “blue” and “red” wave elections consistently impact state level elections across the nation and to what extent patterned regional differences - both within states and across states - are apparent. In future versions of the paper, these shifts will be compared to de- and increases in turnout as well as to shifts on the congressional level (both in the House and the Senate). Using both pre- and post-presidential election years, and controlling for the shifts on the congressional level, it becomes possible both to isolate the impact of partisan enthusiasm gaps and to assess to what extent wave elections “trickle down” to state-level elections. Comparisons of the effect of three subsequent non-incumbent presidential elections make it possible to put the 2016 election, widely regarded as an idiosyncratic event, into context and assess whether its impact mirrors that of other contested and emotional electoral events or if it truly is in a league of its own.
Recent political events, ranging from the 2016 presidential election to the “Women’s March on Washington,” have brought women’s interests and their representation in the political process to the forefront. Political representation, however, is a complex and nuanced process, and legislator time and energy are finite resources. Which contextual factors and personal characteristics then make legislators decide to focus their representational activity on one group of constituents rather than another? Looking at floor speeches for the 111th through the 113th Congress, this study argues that while the extent and content of women’s representation in the US House are fundamentally dependent on the gender and partisanship of legislators, the precise effect and interaction of gender and partisanship are shaped and conditioned by contextual factors, specifically a political environment of receptiveness to women in positions of political power. This has implications both for researchers trying to understand women’s political representation as well as for citizens and political elites engaging in the process of representation.
With Byron E. Shafer How much of politics is specific to its actors and how much is the reflection of an established structure is a perennial concern of political analysts, one that becomes especially intense with the candidacy and then the presidency of Donald Trump. In order to have a template for assigning the outcomes of politics to structure rather than idiosyncrasy, we begin with party balance, ideological polarization, substantive content, and a resulting process of policy-making drawn from the immediate postwar period. The analysis then jumps forward with that same template to the modern world, dropping first the Trump candidacy and then the Trump presidency into this framework. What emerges is a modern electoral world with increased prospects for what might be called off-diagonal candidacies and a policy-making process that gathers Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump together as the modern presidents.