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 perceptions of corruption.
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. I presented results from the first empirical chapter of my dissertation at the 2018 APSA annual meeting. Additionally, I have 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 plan to field survey experiments in Argentina and Mexico in Fall 2018 that I have previously piloted in the U.S. and Mexico.
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. We were recently invited to revise and resubmit this article 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. Tiffany Barnes and I have also designed a series of survey experiments to further evaluate the mechanisms in our theory. In another project, Tiffany Barnes, Mirya Holman (Tulane University), and I investigate how "pink-collar representation" (the numeric representation of working class women) shapes legislators' policy priorities. 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.
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), 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), 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), 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.