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Published and Accepted

"Who Wins When? Election Timing and Minority Representation." with Zoltan Hajnal and Vladimir Kogan. (Conditionally Accepted at American Journal of Political Science).

  • Despite longstanding efforts, racial and ethnic minorities remain greatly under-represented in public office. We examine whether changing the dates of local elections — which prior work has shown increases overall turnout and shrinks the turnout gap between racial and ethnic minorities and White voters — can also increase descriptive representation and reduce this representational shortfall. Leveraging changes in the timing of city council elections in California, we find that moving to November even-year elections is a potentially important pathway to greater representation, but results vary significantly by racial minority group. Our analysis demonstrates how, when, and for whom election timing matters. Representational gains accrue most for Latinos, whose turnout increases most during on-cycle elections, but at the cost of White and, potentially Black, representation. These effects tend to be greater when more co-ethnic candidates run and where Latinos constitute a larger share of the population. Finally, gains are greatest when local elections are coupled with presidential contests and when changes in timing cause Latino turnout to increase the most.

"Why Parkland, Not Pulse? Understanding Disparate Policy Responses to Mass Shootings." Political Research Quarterly (2023).

  • Is policy equally responsive to public health crises that affect white communities and public health crises that affect nonwhite communities? I approach this question by studying states’ policy responses to mass shootings. I argue that states are more likely to tighten firearm laws in response to mass shootings where victims are disproportionately white compared to mass shootings where victims are disproportionately nonwhite. Using a staggered difference-in-difference with a 30-year state panel dataset, I find support for this claim. The models predict that 10 white mass shooting fatalities lead to an additional 1.6 restrictive firearm laws on average while 10 nonwhite mass shooting fatalities have no statistically significant effect of state firearm policy change. Importantly, the findings are robust to various model specifications and the differential effect of race exists irrespective of the partisan composition of state governments.

​​"The Impact of Police Killings on Proximal Voter Turnout." American Politics Research (2023).

  • This paper studies the effect of spatially proximal pre-election police killings on voter turnout. Proximity to police killings increases the likelihood that voters know about the incidents and feel threatened by police violence, making local policing practices salient. But does this demobilize voters by teaching anti-democratic political lessons or mobilize voters by highlighting amenable social injustices? Observing the 2016 presidential election, I test these competing perspectives using geolocated voter data and a difference-in-difference design with naturally matched groups. I find that police killings reduce voter participation rates by 2.9 percentage points in the killings’ one-mile radius but have no effect on voters living one to two miles away from the killings. Importantly, space and race matter. Police killings of Black victims reduce voter participation rates by 8 percentage points in the killings’ half-mile radius, but turnout remains unchanged when police kill White and Latino victims, regardless of the distance.

"Who Votes: City Election Timing and Voter Composition" with Zoltan Hajnal & Vladimir Kogan. American Political Science Review (2022).

  • Low and uneven turnout is a serious problem for local democracy. Fortunately, one simple reform — shifting the timing of local elections so they are held on the same day as national contests — can substantially increase participation. Considerable research shows that on-cycle November elections generally double local voter turnout compared to stand-alone local contests. But does higher turnout mean a more representative electorate? On that critical question, the evidence is slim and mixed. We combine information on election timing with detailed micro-targeting data that includes voter demographic information to provide the first direct test of how election timing influences voter composition in city elections. We find that moving to on-cycle elections in California leads to an electorate that is much more representative in terms of race, age, and partisanship — especially when these local elections coincide with a presidential election. Our results suggest that on-cycle elections can improve local democracy.

"Driving Legislators’ Policy Preferences: Constituent Commutes and Gas Taxes" with Sarah Anderson, Daniel Butler, & Laurel Harbridge. 2021. Legislative Studies Quarterly (2022).

  • When we understand the source of policy opposition in legislators’ constituencies, then we can design policy interventions that facilitate policy change to solve pressing problems. Using original survey data from U.S. state legislators, we find that those legislators whose constituents would be most affected by an increased gas tax – those whose constituents drive more – are more likely to oppose increases to the gas tax.  Raising taxes on gasoline is an important policy tool for reducing carbon to mitigate climate change because transportation accounts for nearly a quarter of the world’s energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. This unique data on lawmakers reveals the potential for investments in public transit to have both direct effects on carbon emissions and indirect effects by enabling policy change that would otherwise be made difficult by the responsiveness of decision makers to the costs their constituents would pay for carbon mitigation.

"Race, Ethnicity, and Political Participation" with Jan Leighley and Marisa Abrajano. Oxford Handbook of Political Participation (2022).

  • This chapter provides recent data on group differences in the political participation of Black Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans in the United States and discusses advances in our understanding of the processes (e.g., mobilization, legal reforms, experiences of minorities with the carceral state) and mechanisms (e.g., resources, group consciousness, identity) that account for such differences. The reviewed research focused on, and in light of similar studies conducted outside of, the United States supports the argument that political participation of marginalized groups reflects the costs and benefits imposed by the broader political and historical contexts in addition to the typical individual-level factors considered in standard participation models. Thus, generalizing our understanding of race, ethnicity and participation across different political systems and social contexts requires a nuanced understanding of country-specific histories and efforts to draw broad, systematic comparative conclusions regarding race and ethnicity as determinants of participation can be highly problematic.

Work under review

"Exposure to Mass Shootings and Voting Directly on Gun Policy." with Ben Newman (Invited to Revise and Resubmit at American Political Science Review).

  • Recent scholarship finds that exposure to mass shootings has no effect on Democratic vote shares. This outcome, however, reflects myriad issue concerns, with guns being just one issue typically dwarfed in importance by the attention given in electoral campaigns to jobs and the economy. In short, voting for a Democratic candidate may not be what citizens do when in want of “doing something” following a mass shooting. Our research improves the issue-domain correspondence between treatment and outcome by analyzing voting directly on gun policy. We leverage a mass shooting that occurred in Washington state shortly before residents voted on a ballot measure to regulate firearms. Critically, a previous measure on firearms appeared on the ballot in Washington two years prior, enabling our analysis to control for pretreatment support for gun control. Across various model specifications, we find that proximity to the shooting was associated with increased support for gun control.

"Race, Responsiveness, and Representation in U.S. Lawmaking." with Zoltan Hajnal, Jacob Hacker, and Mackenzie Lockhart (Submitted for initial review).

  • Do White Americans have greater influence over policy outcomes than do people of color? To answer this question, we assess how well national lawmaking aligns with the preferences of nearly 500,000 Black, Asian, Latino, and White citizens from 2006 to 2022 using a novel dataset. On average, racial gaps in overall policy responsiveness appear small. However, citizens of color are significantly disadvantaged compared to White Americans when Republicans hold power, a disparity not explained by the socioeconomic and ideological correlates of race. Analyzing the congruence between constituents’ preferences and roll-call votes, we find that the numerically smaller size of minority constituencies does not explain party-based representational deficits either. In fact, Republican Senators represent constituents of color worse the larger their share of the electorate. Instead, our analysis suggests that White voters’ racial resentment drives partisan gaps in racial representation. Race matters in American policymaking in complex and troubling ways.

"Far-sighted Voters: Voter Myopia & Crime Trends." with Thad Kousser (Submitted for initial review)

  • The prominent “voter myopia” debate investigates the electorate’s reactions to economic conditions or natural disasters to determine whether voters are myopic or far-sighted. We test whether voters are myopic when it comes to criminal justice, a salient policy realm in which the media often covers only short-term crime trends. While previous studies suggest that voters substitute “the end” for “the whole,” we find that voters take long-term data into account even when presented with countervailing short-term trends. Our evidence comes from an original survey experiment conducted on a sample of 2,979 respondents from California in 2022. Survey respondents who were randomly selected to view long-term trends as well as the recent short-term rise in California’s crime rates were more likely to support the incumbent attorney general and less likely to favor a tough-on-crime policy then those presented with only short-term spikes in crime, evidence that voters are not purely myopic.

In progress

"Racial Boundaries of Protection: How Victims' Race and Ethnicity Shape Political Responses to Mass Shootings." Book Project.

"Local Election Timing and Up-Ballot Races." with Kevin Morris and Sara Loving

  • Do on-cycle local elections increase up-ballot turnout? Prior research shows that holding local elections on the same day as state and federal elections increases turnout in local contests and promotes a more representative electorate. However, little is known about the impact of moving local races to on-year cycles on up-ballot turnout. This study aims to fill this gap by examining how consolidating elections affects turnout in state and federal contests. Using individual-level voter file data and a difference-in-differences approach, we analyze the case of municipalities in California that recently transitioned to on-year local elections. We complement this analysis with a regression discontinuity in space design to ensure causal validity. We find that the switch to on-cycle elections has a marginal positive effect on voter turnout and driven by increases in Latino particpation.


"Representation in the US Congress: How the Senate shapes representational outcomes for Americans." with Zoltan Hajnal, Jacob Hacker, and Mackenzie Lockhart.​​

  • How do institutional features of the US Congress impact representation in the House of Representatives and Senate? Both chambers have unique rules, districting procedures, time horizons, and compositions while they share the same constituents and macro political features of the legislating environment. These differences and similarities might lead to divergence in the quality of representation in the House and Senate and who is represented across both chambers of Congress.

  • To investigate this, we create a comprehensive data set connecting individual level opinions on roll call votes with roll call votes in Congress. Using data from 17 years of the Cooperative Election Study (CES) comprising of over 2.5 million issue positions from over 500,000 Americans linked to roll call vote data from their Members of Congress, we assess how institutional features of the House and Senate lead to distinct representational outcomes for Americans.

  • Our findings reveal the primacy of the US Senate in representational outcomes at the federal level in the US – Americans who win in the Senate also win in the overall policy space. Additionally, our findings highlight how representation in different stages of policy making, in different chambers, and under different configurations of party control can vary wildly and how inferences over who is “represented” vary based on how researchers examine the answer to that question.

"Who Represents Me? The Impact of Descriptive Representation on Substantive Representation in the US Federal Government." with Zoltan Hajnal, Jacob Hacker, and Mackenzie Lockhart.

“Shades of Green: Racial and Ethnic Minorities’ Environmental Policy Preferences”

“Who Benefits? Local Election Timing and Racialized Policy Reform” with Zoltan Hajnal and Vladimir Kogan

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