My National Science Foundation (NSF) funded research is in the field of comparative politics and address issues related to Latin American politics, political behavior, and the politics of developing countries. My current research agenda focuses on three interrelated topics: economic inequality, the representation of traditionally underrepresented groups, and gender egalitarian attitudes.
Economic Inequality and Political Support
My central research agenda, including my NSF-funded (NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant SES-1747436) dissertation work, examines perceptions of fairness, political support, and representation in the face of economic inequality. High levels of inequality challenge a fundamental principle of democracy and erode citizens' support for the political system. This raises two important questions: How does economic inequality shape citizens' perceptions of democracy; and Who gets meaningful representation in a context of inequality? Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Argentina, as well as social justice and equity theories, I argue that citizens' political support is likely to suffer when they view inequality as an unfair distributive outcome (i.e., distributive unfairness) resulting from the inaction of democratic governments. To test this theory, I leverage a mixed-methods approach that combines large-N survey analysis, original survey experiments, and qualitative analysis of open-ended survey responses. I first use cross-national survey data from 18 Latin American countries and show that satisfaction with democracy and political trust are negatively correlated with perceptions of distributive unfairness, and that this relationship is strongest among left-leaning citizens. I also demonstrate that fair government procedures (procedural fairness) ameliorate the negative relationship between perceived distributive unfairness and political support. A paper from the first empirical chapter of my dissertation was recently published at Latin American Politics and Society. Additionally, I designed two original survey experiments to further test the causal effects of distributive and procedural fairness on support for the political system. With NSF support, I fielded these survey experiments in Argentina and Mexico in Spring 2019. A paper investigating how corruption moderates the relationship between inequality and satisfaction with democracy is currently under review.
Descriptive Representation of the Working Class
Building on my dissertation research, I have a series of projects in which I examine how the descriptive representation of the working class, a group that is traditionally underrepresented in democracies around the world, shapes citizens evaluations of representative political institutions. In the first paper from this project, Tiffany D. Barnes (University of Kentucky) and I argue that representation of the working class improves citizens' perceptions of representation by signaling the inclusiveness of political institutions and by providing policy responsiveness that improves the lives of large segments of the population. We leverage elite survey data from the University of Salamanca's survey of Parliamentary Elites in Latin America (PELA) and public opinion data from 18 Latin American countries to test our expectations, and we find that citizens are generally more satisfied with political representation when a greater number of legislators come from working class backgrounds. This article is published at Political Research Quarterly. In a second paper, we unpack the mechanisms linking descriptive representation of the working class to citizens' evaluations of political parties. Specifically, we examine whether programmatic political parties, fragmentation of the party system, workers' political outsider status, or economic inequality mediate this relationship. Finally, my work with Tiffany Barnes and Yann Kerevel (Louisiana State University), which I presented at the 2018 APSA annual meeting, looks at Argentina and Mexico - tracing working class representation over time - to understand how variation in unions' ability to extract policy concessions conditions citizens' evaluations of representation in Congress. Barnes, Kerevel, and I have also designed and fielded a series of survey experiments in Argentina and Mexico that test the causal mechanisms posited by our theory and that assess the visibility of working-class legislators in Latin America. These papers are the basis for our book manuscript, Working-Class Inclusion: Presence, Politics, and Evaluations of Representative Institutions. Our book manuscript is currently under review at Cambridge University Press.
Corruption Perceptions and Political Evaluations
I use survey experiments to examine how perceptions of corruption, another important facet of procedural fairness, shape individuals' political evaluations. In the first article from this project, published at Governance "Restoring Trust in the Police: Why Female Officers Reduce Suspicions of Corruption" (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu, download here), we show that people believe hiring more female police officers will be a successful policy for reducing corruption, and that gender stereotypes about women's perceived outsider status and risk aversion drive these beliefs. The second article from this project, published at Politics, Groups, and Identities, "Sex and Corruption: How Sexism Shapes Voters' Responses to Scandal" (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu, download here), we challenge the conventional wisdom about political scandals and show that not all voters respond to sex and corruption scandals in the same manner. Specifically, voters exhibiting high levels of hostile sexism are more likely to punish women than men for sex scandals. Additionally, voters exhibiting high levels of benevolent sexism are more likely than those with low levels of benevolent sexism to punish any politician - man or woman - for involvement in a sex scandal. In a third paper from this project (with Tiffany D. Barnes), recently published at the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, we investigate how political ideology shapes voters' reactions to scandal. Although most voters care less about sex scandals than corruption, on average, we find that politically conservative voters are just as likely to punish politicians for sex scandals as they are for corruption.
Gender Egalitarian Attitudes
In my newest research project, I investigate the causes and consequences of gender egalitarian attitudes. In a paper recently accepted for publication at Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy, Anwar Mhajne (Stonehill College) and I use cross-national public opinion data to examine the relationship between gender egalitarian attitudes and support for Islamist parties in the Middle East and North Africa. We find that individuals with gender egalitarian attitudes about women's political, economic, and social rights are less likely to trust Islamist parties or to say they should be able to compete in elections. Although we observe this average effect across the MENA region, and using survey data from a variety of sources, we also show that democracy offsets the negative relationship. In a separate project, Jeong Hyun Kim (Louisiana State University), Patrick Cunha Silva (Washington University in St. Louis), and I investigate how populist rhetoric activates anti-feminist attitudes. We argue that because feminism is often framed as "elitist," populist rhetoric reduces gender egalitarianism, even among individuals who are not otherwise opposed to women's rights. We recently submitted a grant proposal to the Social Science Research Council to field experiments in Mexico and Brazil to test our hypotheses. We will also be fielding a similar survey experiment in the United States on the upcoming Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES).