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Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy Archive 2023-2024

About the workshops

Interdisciplinary Workshops on Politics and Policy are weekly seminars hosted by the Center for Political Studies. Speakers present current research on a wide range of topics. Abstracts of past workshops are available in the menu to the right.

Past Events

Body Politic: Disability and Political Cohesion

September 13, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Joshua Thorp (University of Michigan)


To what extent does disability shape political behavior? Roughly one fifth of Americans live with some form of functional disability. Existing literature emphasizes disability as a social and administrative category with far-reaching implications for the distribution of legal rights and socioeconomic resources. Yet, very little attention has been given to people with disabilities (PWD) as political agents. In particular, existing literature has not considered whether and how disability might shape political identity, or whether disability might serve as a basis for political cohesion. This paper addresses this gap. In two original national surveys of American adults with disabilities (N=1,730), Thorp develops and validates a novel measure of subjective identification with disability – the Disability ID scale. He examines the individual-level factors motivating Disability ID, and the implications of Disability ID for a range of political attitudes. Disability ID is strongest among PWD with more visible, long-standing, and functionally limiting conditions, among African-Americans, and among those with greater exposure to social and political institutions for PWD (e.g. SSDI, workplace accommodations). Further, Disability ID is positively associated with support for a range of social and redistributive policies – including those not explicitly targeted at disabled Americans. Thorp replicates these findings using nationally representative data from a team module of the 2022-23 Cooperative Election Study (CES),

Mobile Internet Technology and National Identity in Sub-Saharan Africa

September 20, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Donghyun Danny Choi (Brown University)

*Room 6050


Donghyun Danny Choi (Brown), with co-authors Benjamin Laughlin (NYU Abu Dhabi) and Anna Schultz (Independent Researcher), examines how the expansion of mobile internet infrastructure affects national identity in sub-Saharan Africa. In diverse societies where elections are contested along ethno-communal lines, they argue that access to mobile internet undermines national identity because it facilitates voter exposure to the polarizing tendencies of internet-based social media and communication platforms. Applying a difference-in-differences design on mobile coverage maps and geocoded survey data of more than 50,000 African citizens, they show that access to mobile internet reduces identification with the nation by up to 5–7 percentage points. To establish support for our electoral mechanism, the authors exploit as-if random variation in the timing of individuals’ survey interviews relative to presidential elections, during which they argue divisive and polarizing forces are at their peak. Their analysis shows that electoral proximity intensifies the negative effect of mobile internet. These findings highlight how technological innovations can inhibit the process of state-building in diverse societies. The paper on which this talk is based can be downloaded here.

Everyday Choices: The Role of Competing Authorities and Social Institutions in Politics and Development

Sept. 27, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Ellen Lust (Yale University and the University of Gothenburg)


Scholars and practitioners seek development solutions through the engineering and strengthening of state institutions. Yet, the state is not the only or often even the primary arena shaping how citizens, service providers, and state officials engage in actions that constitute politics and development. These individuals are members of religious orders, ethnic communities, and other groups that make claims about them, creating incentives that shape their actions. Recognizing how individuals experience these claims and view the choices before them is essential to understanding political processes and development outcomes. Taking an institutional approach, Professor Ellen Lust explains in her book how the salience of arenas of authority associated with various communities and the nature of social institutions within them affect politics and development. The book establishes a framework of politics and development that allows for knowledge accumulation, guides future research, and can facilitate effective programming. This title is also available as OpenAccess on Cambridge Core.

Military Experience and Casualty (In)Sensitivity: Evidence from Congressional Discourse During the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan

October 4, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Michael R. Kenwick (Rutgers University)


Whether military experience shapes political behavior is a central puzzle in the study of foreign policy decision-making. Existing theories link military experience with either hawkish or dovish foreign policy preferences. By contrast, we advance a framework that conceptualizes veterans as experts in military affairs. Rather than determining an individual’s political positions about the use of force ex ante, we expect that domain-specific knowledge and social status as an expert will cause veterans to be more resistant to changing their views in response to casualties. We test our argument by computationally analyzing 36,456 Congressional speeches referencing the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-2014). We measure casualty sensitivity by examining whether casualties in constituent communities cause members of Congress to speak more negatively about the conflicts. There is strong evidence of casualty sensitivity among non-veterans but none among veterans. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, there is no evidence that veterans were more hawkish or dovish than non-veterans in terms of their overall tone.

Crime, Social Distance, and Elite Support for Redistribution in Unequal Societies 

October 11, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Gustavo Flores-Macias (Cornell University)


When do the wealthy support redistribution? Gustavo Flores-Macias, a postdoc at the University of Michignan’s Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, presents a paper written with Mariano Sánchez-Talanquer. It  develops novel theoretical expectations on the relationship between crime, inequality, and support for redistribution among top economic elites. Highlighting the role of social affinity with crime victims, we argue that with high inequality, the preferences of elites are influenced by crime incidents targeting their own ranks, while those of average citizens remain unaffected. Their empirical evidence stems from a survey experiment conducted among the general population and top business elites in Mexico, an elusive group whose preferences remain understudied despite their political influence. We find that crime committed against relatable individuals heightens economic elites’ support for redistribution, with increased endorsement of government intervention to address societal issues as the likely mechanism. Additionally, they uncover a substantial 27% lower level of support for redistributive policies among economic elites compared to ordinary citizens. The study advances an important research agenda on elite attitudes and provides insight into the impact of crime on preferences toward redistribution.


More COPS, Higher Turnout?

Oct. 18, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Brandon Romero (University of Michigan)


In recent years, proponents of the “Defund the Police” movement have called for scaling back police presence, pointing to the potential benefits of smaller police forces for Black and Latino Americans who suffer from over-policing. At the same time, however, policing’s role in deterring crime makes the effect of police numbers ambiguous, especially for Black Americans who are disproportionately exposed to criminal violence. What, then, is the effect of police on the political lives of Americans? I theorize that police indirectly affect voter turnout through their effects on crime. Importantly, I argue that Black Americans are uniquely positioned to benefit from reductions in crime. Using data from a natural experiment induced by the disbursement of a federal hiring grant to municipal police agencies, I find evidence that an additional police officer increases Black turnout by two percentage points. Additional analyses reveal that this increase can be attributed, at least in part, to reductions in criminal violence. Importantly, I find that the increased turnout among Black voters is driven primarily by Black men — the group most at risk of criminal victimization. This project speaks to the importance of incorporating criminal violence into our theories of the political consequences of criminal-justice policies and institutions.

“Efficacy of Congressional Oversight” (with Pamela Ban)

October 25, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Seth Hill (UC San Diego)


Scholars argue that oversight allows Congress to control the executive agents it empowers to implement law. Yet the tools of oversight are rather limited and debate continues as to how much political control oversight provides. How well can members of Congress motivate action within the bureaucracy? To measure the efficacy of oversight, Seth Hill and Pamela Ban have created a new data set on a bureaucratic deficiency that Congress has sought to reduce since the early 2000s: improperly-made payments to contractors and clients. They estimate the effect of congressional hearings, one of the most important tools of congressional oversight, on subsequent improper payments. They find that hearings on the issue do lead to a decline in improper payments for agencies whose employees are called to testify. But the magnitude of the effect is small relative to the base rate, suggesting strong limits on the effectiveness of congressional oversight. They find similarly small or no effects of correspondence, appropriation committee reports, statutes, and executive action. These findings strongly imply that America’s elected officials struggle to effectively manage implementation of government policy.


“Is the recent upsurge in hardline attitudes and militancy among Palestinians and Israeli Jews reversible?”

November 1, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT 
Khalil Shikaki (The Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research)

*Room 1430


An exploration of the findings of joint Palestinian-Israeli survey research experiments, the Palestinian-Israeli Pulse, conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research and Tel Aviv University between 2016-2022 indicate that despite the continued decline in the past decade in the willingness to compromise among the Palestinian and Israeli Jewish publics and the increased militancy in both societies, attitudes on peace and the two-state solution can, under the right conditions, be reversed leading to significant reversal of hardline attitudes. The findings of seven such experiments lead to one main policy conclusion: while public opinion among Palestinians and Israeli Jews is clearly not a force for peace, it is, nonetheless, not an impediment to peace. However, as the hardening of attitudes becomes deeper over time, findings of the more recent experiments show that changing attitudes is becoming much more challenging indicating that the conflict is becoming more resilient.

Network effects panel regression:  A new method with illustration in political economy

November 8, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Bruce Desmarais (Pennsylvania State University)


Many phenomena of interest in political research exhibit network dependence, whereby units influence each other through ties of one form or another. These include, for example, public policy adoption by governments, the outbreak of civil war, individual voter turnout, and the prevalence of financial risk in countries. Conventionally, researchers account for network dependence by some combination of measuring networks of interest (e.g., spatial contiguity of countries, kinship relationships between voters) and adjusting statistical methods for the general possibility of dependence among observations (e.g., using panel corrected standard errors). Recent developments in the field of network inference offer a third possibility—directly inferring and modeling the effects of unobserved networks through which units depend on each other. Unfortunately, most existing network inference algorithms would require researchers to first infer the network, and then incorporate the network into downstream analyses such as regression—analyzing the same data twice. We introduce a novel method, which we term network effects panel regression (NEPR), in which the effects of covariates, and the edges through which units depend on each other, are simultaneously inferred. We apply NEPR to several datasets from recently-published applications in the area of political economy. In nearly all applications NEPR infers latent edges that capture previously unmodeled dependence between units. In most applications, NEPR outperforms the published models in forecasting experiments. Across the applications, a number of the results change in substantively meaningful ways from incorporating network dependence. We conclude that NEPR represents a valuable, and complimentary, third option for both exploring and accounting for network dependence in panel data applications.


How Cross-Cutting Ties Reduce Affective Polarization: Evidence from Latino Americans 

November 15, 2023 | Noon to 1:00 PM EDT
Samara Klar (University of Arizona)


Affective polarization—that is, personal dislike and distrust between Democrats and Republicans—is argued to arise, at least in part, from fewer cross-cutting identities that bridge Democrats and Republicans. In this talk, I will argue that this phenomenon might be specifically relevant to non-Latino white Americans, but less so to Latinos who form a politically diverse group with strong social ties that unite them. Across six years of ANES data and original survey data from twelve different states across the country, my co-authors and I first show that cross-cutting identities predict warmer out-party affect. We then show, across our multiple datasets, that Latinos hold more cross-cutting identities than do non-Latino whites. Further, our data reveal that Latinos consistently hold warmer views of the out-party. Finally, we show with novel survey data that Latinos are especially warm toward out-partisans from within the broad Latino community. I will conclude that affective polarization is less prevalent among Latino Americans who make up the fastest-growing proportion of the American electorate. More broadly, I will argue that political behavior among white Americans cannot be extrapolated across ethnic groups without considering unique characteristics of each group.