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Presenting the 2014-2015 Job Market Candidates

The University of Michigan's graduate program in Political Science is tremendously proud to present our 2014-2015 job market candidates.  Please contact the candidates, their advisors, or Vincent Hutchings, Placement Director, for further information.  

Welcome from the Placement Director (PDF)

Timm Betz, World Politics

Dissertation Title: Trading Interests: Domestic Institutions, International Negotiations, and the Politics of Trade

My dissertation explores the links between domestic and international institutions in the context of trade policies. I argue that the literature on domestic institutions and trade politics has focused on protectionist interest groups at the expense of exporters and on unilaterally set tariffs at the expense of tariffs negotiated in international institutions. Jointly, these omissions result in a biased view of trade politics. The existing literature has argued that institutions favoring narrow interest groups result in higher average tariff rates. However, if trade policies are set in international negotiations, exporters lobby for domestic trade liberalization, such that governments need to trade off protectionist and exporter interests. Using formal models and quantitative evidence, I show that electoral institutions favoring narrow interest groups are not necessarily more protectionist on average, but instead produce more dispersion in tariff rates across products. I further show that the protectionist bias of narrow interest institutions declines in the presence of international trade agreements, that the incentives to appeal to both exporters and protectionist groups are also evident in electoral campaigns, and that narrow interest institutions are linked to other policies supporting exporters, such as the initiation of trade disputes. The dissertation identifies specific instances of how international institutions modify the effects of domestic institutions and of how domestic institutions affect government behavior in international institutions.

Link to full bio and vita

Logan S. Casey, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Disgust and the Dynamics of LGBT Politics

My dissertation examines the persistence of negative emotions, particularly disgust, toward LGBT people, and the consequences for opinion formation and persuasion. A focal point of my dissertation is that the commonly held view that public opinion is marching steadily and irreversibly toward pro-LGBT attitudes and widespread acceptance is overly optimistic. These assertions are often based on claims about the positive influence of contact with LGBT people. Using survey and experimental data, I illustrate that the influence of contact is not as far-reaching or consistent as widely believed. I then examine why contact with LGBT individuals can have such different effects on different people. A central contribution of my experimental findings is that many people still experience disgust in reaction to LGBT people and issues. This bolsters anti-LGBT prejudice and, in some cases, reduces support for LGBT-friendly policies. These effects can occur even among people who otherwise express positive attitudes about LGBT people. I also demonstrate that disgust varies in response to different members of the LGBT community: the highest reports are consistently associated with transgender people and issues. Furthermore, I contend that the physiological experience of emotion – the gut reaction – creates resistance to rational argument. This means that those who experience disgust will likely be more difficult to persuade. In short, my dissertation demonstrates that support is less stable and opposition is more entrenched than conventional wisdom suggests, and therefore the continued success of the LGBT movement will depend on the development of different strategies than have been used in the past.

Link to full bio and vita 

LaGina Gause, American Politics & Public Policy

Dissertation Title: Legislative Responsiveness to Collective Action: When Resource Disadvantage Becomes an Asset for Representation

Dissertation Committee:

Vincent Hutchings (Co-Chair)
Elisabeth Gerber (Co-Chair)
Richard Hall
Jowei Chen

Dissertation Abstract:
Reelection minded legislators look to participation by constituents to discern how potential voters might react to a legislative vote. They rely on constituents’ voting behavior, campaign contributions, public opinion polls and other forms of participation to inform their legislative voting. They are also influenced by collective action, a non-electoral form of participation that involves multiple participants publicly expressing a desire for change. Despite the want for valuable information, participation is costly. It requires time, money, knowledge, and other resources that are less common among racial and ethnic minorities, the poor and other politically marginalized constituencies. These costs are less prohibitive for collective action than for other forms of participation. In this work, I explore the effectiveness of collective action as a signal that induces legislators to support participants’ preferences. I argue that in addition to the direction of political preferences, collective action conveys to representatives the salience, or importance, of an issue to constituents. Collective action (even when not politically focused) provides valuable information to legislators seeking to avoid the negative repercussions of a politicized roll call vote. Moreover, legislative responsiveness is moderated by the resource capacity of participants. Using data on collective action events reported in the New York Times, 1991-1995, I find that, unlike legislative responsiveness to other forms of participation, legislative behavior favors collective action by participants with fewer resources who face greater barriers to participation. I further explore these relationships paying greater attention to the types of legislators responding to collective action and use an original dataset on collective action events in 2012 to investigate whether the relationships uncovered in the early 1990s speak to recent legislative behavior.

Letter Writer #1
Vincent Hutchings
University of Michigan
Relationship to student: Dissertation Co-Chair

Letter Writer #2
Elisabeth Gerber
University of Michigan
Relationship to student: Dissertation Co-Chair

Letter Writer #3
Richard Hall
University of Michigan
Relationship to student: Dissertation Committee Member

Letter Writer #4
Kenneth Kollman
University of Michigan
Relationship to student: Taught course (PS 111) for which I was a GSI

Letter Writer #5
Jowei Chen
University of Michigan
Relationship to student: Dissertation Committee Member

Cassandra Grafström, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Election Timing or Economic Voting?

The economy and elections are deeply intertwined. The economic voting literature posits that economic performance drives electoral outcomes, with a weak economy harming incumbents at the polls (e.g., Duch and Stevenson 2008; Lewis-Beck 1988; Powell and Whitten 1993). Because the economy affects election outcomes is also affects election timing as prime ministers “surf the economy” by calling elections during economic upturns whenever possible (e.g., Ito 1991; Kayser 2006; Smith 2004). The economic voting literature has largely ignored this second effect of economics for elections, assuming highly informed voters who act upon politicians with no agency in their own reelection. This dissertation studies how endogenous election timing impacts the economic vote. I develop a theory of how institutions constrain and empower partisan actors in both the government and the opposition to call elections at their preferred time and draw out implications for how different aspects of economic performance matter at the polls under different types of elections.

Link to full bio and vita

Hyeonho Hahm, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Conditioning Partisanship: Political Institutions, Policy Change, and Political Judgment

While many scholars identify partisanship as the single most important factor shaping citizens’ diverse political beliefs and actions, the literature reveals substantial variation in the extent of mass partisanship and in the magnitude of its impact over time in the United States as well as across countries. How can we explain these contextual variations? My answer focuses on the importance of institutional contexts and their consequences for policy outcomes, to which existing studies on partisanship have paid relatively little attention.

Connecting micro-behavioral theories on partisanship with macro-institutional theories in American and comparative politics, I argue that as the institutional constraints on policy change increase, the political party in power is less likely to matter in determining policy outcomes, and therefore individuals are less likely to become partisans. Using multilevel analyses of two large-scale survey datasets that cover the U.S. from 1952 to 2008 as well as 106 election surveys across 49 countries, I confirmed this relationship. This is not only the broadest empirical examination yet conducted on this question, but also the first study that offers both the theoretical explanation and empirical evidence that party polarization may not always lead to the rise of mass partisanship; rather it may lead to the decline in people’s partisanship as a result of its interplay with institutional configurations. To complement this observational analysis, I also conduct randomized survey experiments over a large sample of U.S adults to further confirm the proposed causal relationships among institutional attributes, perceived policy change, and partisan judgment.

Link to full bio and vita

Trevor Johnston, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Authoritarian Bargaining Under the Threat of Sabotage

My dissertation asks a simple but previously unexplored question: why do some autocrats provide benefits to marginalized groups? Few autocrats today rely exclusively, or even principally, on repression to survive. Beyond more traditional coercive measures, autocrats use various distributive goods and policy concessions to coopt elites and build mass support. Some autocrats even go so far as to provide targeted benefits to religious minorities, disenfranchised migrants and other marginalized groups. This targeting is inexplicable for existing theory, which suggests that authoritarian rule is predicated on the exclusion of such groups. In explaining this puzzling behavior, my dissertation offers a formal theory of authoritarian bargaining under the threat of sabotage. All autocrats must solicit the support of various groups in society. Whether purchased or coerced, this support does not come cheap, making autocrats dependent on constant production and growth. When marginalized groups are critical to such production, they have the capacity to threaten costly economic sabotage. This threat provides these groups with a potential bargaining power that is simply nonexistent in traditional theories of authoritarianism. My model generates a series of testable implications, predicting when sabotage occurs and the conditions under which marginalized groups should receive targeted goods and services. To test these hypotheses, I draw on extensive fieldwork, surveys and spatial data from Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. Using these various data, I show how some regimes successfully prevent sabotage through distributive policies and spatial planning, while others are forced to rely more heavily on repression to survive.

Link to full bio and vita

Kirill Kalinin, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Analysis of Election Frauds and Preference Falsification in Authoritarian Regimes

How can we measure election fraud cross-nationally? Can election polls assist us in validation of election fraud estimates obtained from electoral data? My dissertation is focused on methodological and theoretical aspects of statistical detection of election fraud, using both cross-national electoral data and the survey data. In my work, following T.Kuran’s concept of preference falsification, I develop the model and test it empirically using a wide range of election forensics methods and national survey experiments conducted during Russian Presidential election, 2012. My general findings suggest the presence of social desirability bias in the estimates of election polls and the close relationship between social desirability and election frauds.

Link to full bio and vita

Kristyn Karl, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Missing the Message: Emotions, Bias, and Attention to Political Advertisements

When it comes to politics, large segments of the population are “tuned out”. Yet we have little insight into the ways in which these segments may be systematically determined by individual characteristics and unconscious mechanisms. Using an original lab-based experiment and several survey experiments, I develop and test a theory of the importance of political sophistication or expertise in determining responses to political ads. I argue that under some conditions, reliance on self-reported emotion leads political scientists to draw the wrong conclusions, inferring a significant relationship between emotion and participation where none exists. Moreover, I provide evidence that an alternative measure of emotional response, physiological arousal, is a powerful predictor of participation among a particular segment of the population: political novices. My work challenges the conventional approach to understanding the effects of political advertisements on citizens by calling into question scholars’ heavy reliance on self-reported emotion. Moreover, it demonstrates the value of a multi-method approach to research, as physiological arousal proves to capture a different dimension of the emotional experience. In general, my findings speak to the way in which particular political behaviors and modes of citizenship are unlikely to be uniformly distributed across the population, calling into question whether all citizens are equally likely to engage in the normative ideals of democratic citizenship.

Link to full bio and vita

Amy Krings, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Building Bridges Where There is Nothing Left to Burn: The Campaign for Environmental Justice within a Southwest Detroit Border Community

My dissertation, Building Bridges Where There is Nothing Left to Burn: The Campaign for Environmental Justice within a Southwest Detroit Border Community, is an ethnographic study of a low-income community’s efforts to secure protections and investments in exchange for hosting a new international bridge crossing. Drawing from more than three years of participant observation (2010 – 2014), including seventy in-depth interviews and an analysis of media coverage, I examine why and how power dynamics influence this neighborhood group’s goal and tactical selection, ability to build alliances, and campaign outcomes.  

The first chapter of my dissertation, Deciding to Build or Burn Bridges: Strategic Goal-Setting within an Environmental Sacrifice Zone, asks why the Southwest Detroit stakeholders, who sought to improve the quality of life within their neighborhood, decided to shift their strategic goal from a “not in my backyard” approach to conditionally endorse the new crossing.  To answer this question, the chapter begins by unpacking the political and economic context that led to the formation of the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition.  It demonstrates that outside economic support and a divided political elite provided new leverage to the proposed host community, but these factors alone cannot sufficiently explain their change in goals. For example, residents could have aligned with the anti-bridge coalition spearheaded by the billionaire private owners of a competitive border crossing. Instead, collectively held memories associated with (dis)respect provide greater explanatory power about why the Delray stakeholders were willing to ally with the pro-bridge political actors but not others, thereby limiting what political options were deemed as viable.

The next chapter traces the Southwest Detroit campaign for a community benefits agreement (CBA).  It identifies three categories of actors who, while not necessarily opposed to the CBA, at times unintentionally frustrated the community’s ability to get to the CBA negotiation table. These categories include: (1) groups that unconditionally opposed the proposed development; (2) groups that unconditionally supported the proposed development; and (3) groups that viewed the host community as a “competitor” in efforts to secure their own concessions.  This three-part framework reveals previously under-examined mechanisms through which environmental injustice is reproduced at the local level, often in invisible ways.

The dissertation concludes by examining outcomes of the CBA campaign. It demonstrates why CBAs are insufficient policy mechanisms for changing the systematic placement of hazardous and undesirable land uses, such as interstates, in low-income communities of color.

Link to full bio and vita

Lisa Langdon Koch

Dissertation title: Explaining the Path and Pace of Nuclear Weapons Programs

Abstract: Under what conditions do states decide to start nuclear weapons programs? And once states begin such programs, when and why do they vary the path and pace of their nuclear development? I demonstrate that particular elements of the security environment affect a state’s decision to start a program. I then offer two main theories regarding the path and pace of such programs and make the first scholarly attempt to model the paths of all programs that have existed. Using event history models and historical case studies, I find first, that the weaker a state’s civilian control over the military is, the less likely a state will be to accelerate the pace of its program. Second, I find that the more independent a state’s nuclear bureaucracy is, the more likely a state will be to accelerate its program.

William MacMillan, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Agencies and Appropriations

Congress frequently attempts to influence policy through squeezing agency budgets. However, agencies are slow to respond to a budget cut, and usually are just as slow to adjust upwards with a rise in appropriations. In my dissertation, I argue that agencies largely appear indifferent to money because agencies build slack into current policy that explicitly includes their expectations about future rounds of funding.

Link to full bio and vita

Jennifer Miller-Gonzalez, Comparative Politics

Dissertation Title: Redefining the Nation: Center-Right Party Outreach Toward Ethnic Minorities in Western Europe.

Why do mainstream center-right parties in Western Europe seek the votes of immigrants at some time and not others? What are the implications of party strategies for immigrants’ future political incorporation? In my dissertation, I show that party strategy toward immigrations is more nuanced than standard treatments assume. Rather than treat all immigrants the same, center-right parties distinguish between those with citizenship and those without, and this difference drives their outreach strategies and helps to explain puzzling party behavior.

Link to full bio and vita

Patrick O'Mahen, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Public Broadcasting, Public Funding and the Public Interest: How Government Broadcasting Subsidies increase Political Knowledge and Participation

As shown by Mitt Romeny's recent proposal to fund Sesame Street with advertising, providing taxpayer subsidies for public broadcasters is a flashpoint in policy debates in both the United States and other democracies. Past research has suggested that public broadcasting has a positive effect on levels of political knowledge and participation. However, my research demonstrates that it is specifically the government subsidies of public broadcasters that drive increases in knowledge and voter turnout, not merely the existence of a public broadcaster.

Link to full bio and vita

Amy Pond, World Politics

Dissertation Title: The Political Economy of Market Liberalization

Dissertation Abstract: My dissertation explores the connections between economic policy and the stability of political institutions. I argue that policymakers manipulate their exposure to international capital flows for their own political and financial benefit, as well as to build support for institutions that prolong their preferred policies. Existing literature finds that democratization is more likely under open capital markets. However, market openness is itself the result of policy choices. The first chapter demonstrates that policymakers use liberalization for different purposes under different regimes and that these different purposes have divergent implications for inequality and development. The second chapter turns to the long-term effect of economic sanctions for trade and financial policy, and the third chapter explores various forms of liberalization and the political context when they are attractive. I use formal models to ensure logical consistency, to weigh competing effects, and to derive empirical propositions.

Link to full bio and vita

Nico Ravanilla, Comparative Politics & Public Policy

Dissertation Title: Essays in Political Economy and Governance: Lessons from the Philippines

Abstract: This dissertation addresses a central question in modern political economy: How do we improve governance in low-income democracies? In the first two essays, I
employ formal modeling and use natural experiments to examine how politician and voter behavior impact governance and the quality of the elected government. In the last two essays, I use randomized field experiments to evaluate policy interventions that strengthen the ability of voters to hold politicians accountable and improve the quality of the political class. This collection of works, therefore, advances the frontier of modern political economy, first, by understanding how the behavior of political agents impact governance, and then, by evaluating novel policies that can improve their behavior and, ultimately, governance.

Molly Reynolds, American Politics

Dissertation Title: Exceptions to the Rule: Majoritarian Procedures and Majority Party Power in the U.S. Senate

The existence of the filibuster is often cited as a principal cause of congressional gridlock. Periodically, however, the Senate creates exceptions to the filibuster rule, designating particular measures (including the budget resolution, trade agreements, and plans for closing military bases) as exempt from a filibuster. As a result of these “majoritarian procedural exceptions,” enacting these policies requires only 51 votes, rather than the 60 ordinarily needed.

My dissertation explores three related questions. First, I investigate when the Senate creates these procedures. I use a spatial model to illustrate how the preferences of the president can induce legislators to reallocate power within their own chamber, and test its predictions on original data on the creation of majoritarian exceptions since 1955.

Second, I explore when the Senate chooses to use existing majoritarian exceptions. Here, I use a spatial model to generate expectations about when the Senate will utilize one specific set of rules, known as the budget reconciliation procedures. The model predicts that ideological distance between certain relevant legislators will dictate the Senate’s use of the procedures, and I test these predictions on data from 1980 2011.

Finally, I explore the policy consequences of majoritarian exceptions, again using the reconciliation procedures as a case study. I find that the Senate’s majority party uses the procedures to deliver selective programmatic benefits to, and minimize selective programmatic costs borne by, the voters most critical to the Senate majority’s electoral success. I conclude with some observations on what potential Senate reformers can learn from these patterns in the creation and use of majoritarian exceptions.

Link to full bio and vita

Christopher Sullivan, Comparative Politics and International Relations

Dissertation Title: Undermining Resistance: Mobilization, Repression, and the Enforcement of Political Order

This project examines the use of political repression in Guatemala from 1975-1985. The research focuses specifically on repression employed preemptively against potential opponents who are not currently threatening the government but are perceived to have the capacity for challenging the regime in the future. It seeks to understand why governments employ these repressive policies, what impacts such repression has on citizen decisions to challenge the regime, and when repression ends. In the analysis, the project examines a unique dataset of clandestine state and dissident behavior coded from the confidential records of the Guatemalan National Police. Implications are drawn for developing policies to protect human rights and prevent the escalation of conflict.

Link to full bio and vita

Alexander Von Hagen-Jamar, International Relations

Dissertation Title: Political Institutions and the Causes of Military Spending.

In my dissertation, Political Institutions and the Causes of Military Spending, I contribute to literatures on military spending, political institutions and foreign policy, and interstate policy interdependence. I use statistical analysis, including multiparametic spatiotemporal autoregressive models, to investigate the causes of cross-national and temporal variation in military spending. Political institutions determine to whom leaders are accountable, which in turn shapes how and why states invest in their military. Democracies, where leaders are accountable to the public, spend relative to their expectation of war. Autocracies use military spending to buy military support, leading civilian autocracies to spend more than military autocracies. International institutions, such as military alliances, also matter. Military spending in one state affects military spending in another, through military alliances and expectations of conflict, though not through enduring rivalries.

Link to full bio and vita

Matthew Wells, World Politics

Dissertation Title: The Commitment Problem in Occupier-Conducted Counterinsurgency

Why do some states win counterinsurgency wars in territories they occupy abroad while others do not? I argue that states whose leaders who can generate credible audience costs in an effort to signal resolve will, paradoxically, be the least able to endure the costs of fighting. Efforts that typically demonstrate commitment are seen as cheap talk by insurgent actors, who seek to raise the costs of fighting to change the preferences of a leader’s base away from support and to opposition to the occupation. I use quantitative and qualitative evidence from across and within conflicts to paint a more nuanced view of the structural determinants of the outcomes of occupier-conducted counterinsurgency. It is not the aversion to casualties or financial costs per se that lead particular regimes to defeat, rather it is their inability to credibly signal resolve and commitment to their opponents in the face of these costs that produces such an outcome. This finding has significant implications for the conduct of security policy.

Link to full bio and vita

Michael Zilis, American Politics

Dissertation Title: I Respectfully Dissent: Linking Judicial Voting Behavior, Media Coverage, and Public Responses in the Study of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions

My dissertation is a study of what happens after the Supreme Court rules. It begins by identifying a critical feature absent from existing studies of judicial policy legitimation: the information conveyed by the press to the public. The dissertation combines disparate research, theory, and the use of multiple methods to answer important questions about Supreme Court influence. I develop Dissensus Dynamics Theory to show that voting outcomes on the Supreme Court play the most important role in shaping how the press portrays legal controversies. The central place of voting outcomes comes from their value to journalists who must characterize judicial decisions while subject to considerable constraints. In cases where dissent and division on the bench is high, news organizations portray rulings in negative terms, drawing on frames raised by dissenting justices and by critics of the Court. These findings bridge what have been, until now, disparate lines of inquiry involving law and politics, political communication, and public opinion.

Link to full bio and vita