Book Project

The Advantage of Disadvantage: Legislative Responsiveness to Collective Action by the Politically Marginalized

Collective action events saturate U.S. newspapers, television outlets, and social networking pages. Almost daily, there is coverage of a march, petition, or rally protesting anything from gun legislation, immigration policy, and abortion to civil rights, healthcare, education, and employment practices. While these events provide voice to the discontent, they also have the ability to shift policy. In this manuscript, I examine whether and how congressional roll call voting changes based on who is participating in collective action. Evaluating contemporary collective action data, I find that following protest, legislators are more likely to support the interests of racial and ethnic minorities, the poor, and other groups that face greater costs to participation than they are to support groups with greater access to the political system.    

Some Work in Progress

Protests, Resources and Legislative Behavior (Revise and Resubmit, Under Review)

It is well documented that low-resource groups are disadvantaged in the political process. But when low-resource groups can overcome barriers to engage in collective action -- participation involving multiple participants publicly expressing a grievance -- it suggests that the issue inciting the protest is salient and advantageous for a reelection-minded legislator to support. In fact, following protest, legislators are generally more likely to support the preferences of racial and ethnic minorities, the poor, and other resource-constrained protesting groups than they are to represent high-resource protesters. This argument emerges from a formal theory and empirical analyses using legislative roll call vote data from the 102nd through 104th U.S. Congresses and data on protests reported in the New York Times. This counterintuitive result sheds new light on our understanding of inequalities in representation. 

Whitewashing: How Obama Used Implicit Racial Cues as a Defense Against Political Rumors (Under Review, with Vincent Hutchings, Vanessa Cruz Nichols, and Spencer Piston)
​​In addition to the typical obstacles faced by candidates when they run for office, minority candidates encounter stereotypes based on their race or ethnicity. To combat these biases, we argue that candidates strategically appeal to the white community by emphasizing their connections to the white electorate. We employ an original survey experiment to assess Barack Obama's use of racial imagery during his 2008 presidential campaign ads in an attempt to combat negative stereotypes and false rumors. We find that this strategy was most effective among white Republicans. We validate our findings using nationally representative observational surveys.

Non-Peer Reviewed Publication

During the 2016 presidential campaign, both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton made appeals to an African American voting bloc that had demonstrated high levels of participation. Yet, neither candidate was able to capitalize on that participation. Voting for Trump or remaining loyal to the Democratic Party by voting for Clinton were not and are not the only options available to the African American community. African Americans are running for office, participating in social movements, and engaging in other forms of institutional and extra-institutional participation.     

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship under Grant No. 1256260. Any opinion, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.