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Left to right: Caroline Tolbert, Jennifer Merolla, James McCann, Donald Haider-Markel, and Lonna Rae Atkeson
February 7, 2017 -- The University of Delaware Political Science and International Relations Department announces its spring 2017 American Politics Speaker Series, which is free and open to the community. Nationally recognized scholars will present their research on electoral processes, immigration policy attitudes, civil unrest, and social identity.
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In the surprising 2016 presidential election Hillary
Clinton won the popular vote by nearly three million votes over Donald Trump,
but Trump won the Electoral College (EC) to become president. The odd outcome
exposes a problem with how America votes. At the municipal level, multiple
localities now use ranked choice voting (RCV), a form of instant run-off voting
that ensures the candidate with the most votes (majority) is elected; voters
rank candidates in order of preference, usually their top three. But we know
little about how these alternative electoral rules affect voters. The study
draws on a comparative research design to explore questions of campaign
civility, voter comprehension, voter mobilization and turnout, and public
opinion about electoral systems in cities using RCV compared to similar
jurisdictions using plurality elections. The data includes 2013 and 2014
national surveys, and 2016 population data with millions of respondents
designed to measure citizen attitudes about campaigns and political behavior.
Results show citizens are more likely to be contacted in RCV cities and to
vote, they perceive elections as less negative, as well as other differences in
opinion. Beyond ensuring majority winners, the findings suggest there may be
significant democratic benefits to preferential voting.
Caroline Tolbert is the Professor of Political Science
and Collegiate Scholar at the University of Iowa. Her work weaves together a
concern with diversity and inequality, elections and representation, and
subnational politics and policy. She has contributed to numerous subfields
including digital politics and informatics, voting and elections, electoral
systems, public opinion, American state politics, direct democracy and race
& politics. She is the coauthor of Why Iowa? How the Caucuses and Sequential
Elections Improve the Presidential Nomination Process (2011) and Educated by
Initiative: The Effects of Direct Democracy on Citizens and Political
Organizations in the American States (2004). She is co-editor of Democracy in
the States: Experiments in Election Reform (2003) and Citizens as Legislators:
Direct Democracy in the United States (1998). She has written three books on
the internet and politics, including Digital Cities: The Internet and the
Geography of Opportunity (2012), Digital Citizenship (2008) and Virtual
Inequality: Beyond the Digital Divide (2003). She is also coauthor of the
American politics textbook We the People with Lowi, Ginsberg and Wier (W.W.
Norton). Tolbert currently serves on the Council of the American Political
Science Association. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Colorado,
While undocumented immigration is controversial, the
general public is largely unfamiliar with the particulars of immigration
policy. Given that public opinion on the topic is malleable, to what extent do
mass media shape public opinion on immigration? This talk will explore how
conservative, liberal, and mainstream news outlets frame and discuss
undocumented immigrants across three policy domains, legalization, the DREAM
ACT, and deportations. Drawing from original voter surveys, Dr. Merolla will show
that media framing on immigration has significant consequences for public
opinion, especially when those frames are negative, novel, or from an
unexpected source. The findings have important implications for understanding
how the language surrounding policy debates on these issues affect public opinion,
and in turn public policy.
Jennifer L. Merolla is Professor of Political Science at
the University of California, Riverside and American Behavior Field Editor for
the Journal of Politics. Her research focuses on how the political environment
shapes individual attitudes and behavior across many domains such as candidate
evaluations during elections, immigration policy attitudes, foreign policy
attitudes, and support for democratic values and institutions. She is co-author
of Democracy at Risk: How Terrorist Threats Affect the Public, published with
the University of Chicago Press (2009), and Framing Immigrants: News Coverage,
Public Opinion, and Policy published with the Russell Sage Foundation (2016).
Her work has appeared in journals such as Comparative Political Studies,
Electoral Studies, the Journal of Politics, Perspectives on Politics, Political
Behavior, Political Research Quarterly, Political Psychology, and Women,
Politics, and Policy. Her research has been funded by the National Science
Foundation. She received her PhD in Political Science from Duke University in
2003. Prior to joining the University of California, Riverside, she served as
Assistant Professor (2003-2009) and then Associate Professor of Political
Science (2009-2015) at Claremont Graduate University.
In recent decades as the size of the foreign-born
population in the U.S. has climbed, political scientists have devoted
increasing attention to the factors that encourage or impede immigrant
incorporation into American politics and society. Prior research underscores the role that
civic organizations play in acculturating immigrants and facilitating their
involvement in politics. Relatively
little attention, however, has been given to political parties as agents of
immigrant socialization. Drawing from original surveys of foreign-born Latinos
conducted during the 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2016 campaigns, Dr. McCann finds that partisan
mobilization and electoral competition can significantly shape the political
identifications and orientations of immigrants. The local partisan machines that were prominent in the last great wave
of migrant settlement a century ago have faded away. Yet partisan campaigning today remains an
important force for the incorporation of immigrants.
James A. McCann is Professor and Graduate Placement
Director in the Department of Political Science at Purdue University. He conducts research and teaches courses on
public opinion, electoral processes, participation, and representation in the
United States and cross-nationally. His
work has appeared in many scholarly journals, including the American Political
Science Review, the Journal of Politics, the American Journal of Political
Science, and the British Journal of Political Science. He is the co-author, with Jorge Domínguez, of
Democratizing Mexico: Public Opinion and Electoral Choices (Johns Hopkins
University Press, 1996). His research
has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the Russell Sage
Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Global Policy
Research Institute. He is Principal
Investigator, with Michael Jones-Correa, of the 2012 and 2016 Latino Immigrant
National Election Studies (LINES). Since
2012, he has served as an editor of Politics, Groups, and Identities, an
official journal of the Western Political Science Association, and he is an
associate editor of the Oxford University Press Bibliographies in Political
Civil unrest and riots in the U.S. have engendered
considerable attention. Much of the civil unrest from the 1960s, 1990s, and
recent incidents of appear to have arisen from many conditions, including
poverty and police use of force. However, not all of observers view these
events from the same perspective. Dr. Haider-Markel contends that these events are often
interpreted through social identities, such as race and partisanship, and thus
causal attributions for these events differ widely. His study employs data
from a variety of surveys and media accounts to broadly understand these events
and individual interpretations of the causal forces leading to these events. Further analysis suggests that social identities provide a powerful lens by which
individuals come to attribute causes for civil unrest, and conflicting
narratives over causes likely hinders attempts to provide solutions and reduce
the likelihood of future violence.
Don Haider-Markel is Professor and Chair of
political science at the University of Kansas. His research and teaching is
focused on the representation of interests in the policy process and the
dynamics between public opinion, political behavior, and public policy. He has
more than 20 years of experience in survey research, interviews, and in policy
studies. He has authored or co-authored over 55 refereed articles, over a dozen
book chapters, and several books in a range of issue areas, including civil
rights, politics in the culture wars, criminal justice policy,
counterterrorism, race and inequality, and environmental policy.
Dr. Atkeson asks how racial cues that emerge in extraordinary events
– high salience national crises that capture national attention through the
media – shape the black-white divide in opinions. Research on black opinion
suggests that race is the central organizing principle through which blacks
understand the political world. As such,
social identity produces policy preferences and attitudes that favor the
in-group on such policies as the provision of government services and
attributions of blame toward government leaders who have violated group
interests. However, while explicit
racial cues (cues that tie policy or leaders directly to group interests),
clearly connect blacks to their racial identity and consequently produce social
identity effects, implicit racial effects (cues that use coded language to
impart racial connotation) may limit their application. Specifically, issues
that are implicitly racial and connect blacks to negative stereotypes about the
group may be rejected and provide theoretical predictions about when black and
white opinion should converge and the boundaries of social identity. Dr. Atkeson tests for differences and similarities in opinion across a range of policy
preferences and evaluations of leaders between blacks and whites from two
extraordinary events: Hurricane Katrina and the Rodney King riots. These cases provide an opportunity to
understand and explore how explicit and implicit racial cues work together to
encourage or discourage the application of social identity in the formation of
Dr. Lonna Atkeson is a Professor of Political
Science, Regents’ Lecturer, and Director of the Center for the Study of Voting,
Elections and Democracy, and the Institute of Social Research at the University
of New Mexico. She is an internationally recognized expert in the area of
election sciences, survey methodology, voting rights, election administration,
public opinion, and political behavior. She has written over 50 articles and
book chapters, and dozens of technical reports, monographs, amicus curiae
briefs and other works on these topics. She advocates for a data driven,
applied social science, approach to election reform and public policy.