Theme Panels


Virtual Created Panel


  • (Discussant) Olga Chyzh, Iowa State University;
  • (Chair) Skyler J. Cranmer, The Ohio State University

Session Description:

The panel features novel statistical approaches to analyzing network data, as well as innovative applications of existing modeling strategies to tackle open problems in the study of relational outcomes.


Networks All the Way Down: Assessing Modeling Choices for Political Conversation
Sarah Shugars, New York University

Political conversations, whether online or in person, are networked along multiple dimensions: people come into contact with each other through social networks, they spread messages and ideas using semantic networks, and conversational interactions themselves form a network of back-and-forth exchange. Each of these networked dimensions can be valuable in understanding the political implications of discourse and for developing appropriate interventions around the spread of misinformation and toxic speech. Yet it is rarely practical or meaningful to consider all of these networks simultaneously. Indeed, most studies focus on a single type of social, semantic, or conversational network and make explicit choices about the content of interest and the types of relationships examined. Research on Twitter, for example, may consider social networks formed by follower relationships, semantic networks formed by hashtag co-occurrence, or conversational networks of replies and interactions. Each of these networks is meaningful in its own right, but only captures a piece of the larger public discourse. This paper therefore examines the network modeling choices researchers must make when studying political conversations. Using diverse corpora including Twitter exchanges, Reddit threads, and U.S. Congressional debates, we present a framework for modeling the social, semantic, and conversational networks of political discourse in a range of contexts. We illustrate what can and cannot be inferred from individual network models, and assess the sensitivity of findings to various modeling choices. Ultimately, this paper presents a roadmap to assist researchers in identifying the network models most appropriate for different research questions related to political discourse.


Mixed-Membership Stochastic Blockmodels for Bipartite Networks
Adeline Lo, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Santiago Olivella, University of North Carolina; Kosuke Imai, Harvard University

A substantial number of networks of interest in social and political research are bipartite — i.e. they consist of two distinct types of nodes, and edges that are only defined between (rather than within) node types. Common approaches to the study of these types of networks rely on marginalizing  edge information over one of the node types, thus forcing researchers to ignore potentially relevant node-level information and risking the introduction of aggregation bias. To address these issues, we propose an extension of the mixed-membership stochastic blockmodel that respects the bipartite nature of such networks. The model estimates type-specific communities and can incorporate node-level attributes that are associated with membership therein. In this paper, we introduce our model, present a scalable estimation algorithm for it, and illustrate the full approach using data on bill cosponsorship decisions in the US Senate.


Estimating Directionality from Event Data
Cassy Dorff, Vanderbilt University; Shahryar Minhas, Michigan State University

Today civil conflict is characterized by multiple warring parties with different motivations, capabilities, and patterns of behavior. Current research on intrastate conflict focuses heavily on questions related to the military behavior of these armed actors and battlefield dynamics—such as in studies on the efficacy of counterinsurgency campaigns, the causes of civilian victimization, or conflict duration. We argue that despite this focus on battle level processes, political science lacks a clear, generalizable measure of offensive and defensive battlefield behavior to capture which actors initiate conflict at the micro-level. Although significant advances have been made in the collection of event data on intrastate conflict, currently available event data does not record information about which actor initiates a clash. Instead, these data only record which two (or more) actors engage in a battle at any given time. We present a novel latent variable framework that parses directionality from event data via a network decomposition approach. We apply this approach to the Nigerian Civil conflict to investigate the relationship between directionality and civilian victimization.  We run our model across all conflict based events recorded in Nigeria from 1997 to 2019 and evaluate how civilian victimization (in terms of both intensity and tactics) changes as a function of whether or not the government is on the defensive or offensive.


Identification of Social Influence in Bipartite Behavior Cascades
Sebastián Martínez Bustos; Laurence Brandenberger; Philip Leifeld, University of Konstanz

How can social influence be distinguished statistically from the effect of prior similarity of units in event-based cascades of behavior? Examples in political science include diffusion versus independent adoption of policies across subnational states, the ratification of treaties by states in the international system, and publicly visible voting (by judges, legislators etc.) as a function of prior preferences vis-a-vis social influence. While relational event models for bipartite graphs offer statistical inference for time-stamped sequences of ties between units and their behavior, they cannot reliably differentiate between the two causal mechanisms. This contribution pinpoints and rectifies this identification problem. We evaluate the effectiveness and scope conditions of a shuffle test for distinguishing contagion or diffusion on the one hand from the effect of prior similarities among units on the other hand. The bipartite relational event model coupled with temporal randomization is effective when four criteria are met: (i) availability of fine-grained temporal data about agents (Mode I) without extensive simultaneity in the observations; (ii) one or more kinds of binary behavior the agents can adopt once or repeatedly (Mode II); (iii) at least partial observability of behavior by agents; (iv) observability of one or more time-invariant attributes or network relations that structure the behavior in a relational way (“channels” or “sources of influence”). Using Monte Carlo simulations, we examine the efficacy of the permutation test under mixtures of similarity and influence regimes, with a varying time horizon, different numbers of observations, and variations in the number of senders (agents) and receivers (behavior types) and conclude that the technique is applicable in a wide variety of empirical research contexts. We demonstrate its applicability using an example of the ratification of global environmental treaties as a function of social influence through shared democratic values, geographical neighborhood, and shared climatic vulnerability.

In-Person Full Paper Panel


  • (Chair) Mona Lena Krook, Rutgers University, New Brunswick;
  • (Discussant) Rachel Bernhard, University of California Davis;
  • (Discussant) Alexandra Hartman, UCL

Session Description:

Research on women’s representation in politics has made groundbreaking progress in the last decades but there is still much to be learned: Where does political gender inequality come from? To what extent deeply rooted cultural factors affect women’s participation in politics? How do intra-household dynamics over the course of women’s lives affect their likelihood of running for office? Are gender inequalities exacerbated or diminished in the era of right-wing populism? Do political inequalities vanish or persist once elected to office? This panel puts together a series of papers addressing these and other fascinating questions with state-of-the-art experimental, qualitative, and observational techniques, covering both wealthy and emerging economies. Some of the participants have made key contributions to the field in recent years, and we expect the panel discussion to capture the attention of a wide and diverse audience in political science.

Brulé, Chauchard, and Henize investigate alternative mechanisms by which women exert versus are deprived of effective power after they assume office in the context of widespread intimidation, violence, and social pressure that pushes elected women away from occupying the institutionally central positions they are legally mandated to fill. The authors will present results from a large-scale field experiment in India which randomizes formal discussion rules to identify their impact on the engagement of elected leaders in decision making processes.

Weeks, Meguid, Kittilson, and Coffé revisit the role of historically anti-feminist parties in modern politics. Drawing on cross-national longitudinal data, they show that far-right populist parties deploy gender equality and women’s right to bolster their nationalist agendas. Their paper offers a timely explanation for recent electoral competitiveness of extremist parties.

Frödin and Rickne use extremely detailed longitudinal data of the family composition and trajectories of political candidates in Sweden to test existing theories of the influence of male and female parents in the political behavior of their offspring. Their longitudinal data allow them to test whether the gradual increase of women’s participation in politics is weakening intergenerational transmission of political behavior within families.

Gallego, Queralt, and Tur-Prats study how in-household gender equality shape women’s active participation in politics. They connect in-household gender equality with historical family structures, shaping cultural attitudes and labor market participation of women. The longitudinal structure of their historical and modern-day municipality-level data allows them to identify persistence and change of attitudes and political behavior of women in Spain.

Prof. Mona Lena Krook has kindly agreed to chair the panel. We will also bring on board two first-rate discussants, Prof. Alexandra Hartman and Prof. Rachel Bernhard.


Proxy Politics: Representation and Political Inequality in Rural India
Rachel E. Brule, Boston University; Simon Chauchard, Leiden University; Alyssa Heinze

Over the past two decades, political scientists have provided much evidence suggesting that political inequality is a challenge in all representative democracies.  Citizens rarely have equal influence over the public policy process (Gilens 2012); besides, members of disadvantaged groups are much less likely to participate (Verba et al 1995), be able to access their representatives (Butler and Broockman 2011, Kalla and Broockman 2016, McClendon 2016), contribute to their campaigns (Winters 2011) or run for office themselves (Carnes 2018, Bernhard, Shames, and Teele 2020). Here, we focus on a different, thus far under-documented type of political inequality amongst elected elites: substantive inequality after they are elected, in the degree to which they actually perform the role they have been elected to perform. Proxy politics – the focus of this study – is a common form of representative politics in which an elected official lacks the will or the ability to perform her duties – as they are defined by law, leading another individual to perform them in her place. Proxy politics may derive from violent forms of political exclusion imposed by others, particularly those with entitlements to power under the status quo (Htun 2016; Brulé 2020). It may alternatively be due to political inexperience, a dearth of information about newly elected officials precise roles and how to enact them, or even personal disinclination (John 2007). In order to empirically evaluate the degree of proxiness of elected officials from various groups, we deploy the concept of institutional centrality rather than a number of possible alternatives such as power, influence, or agency. We think of centrality as the degree of centrality of a given official in the decision-making processes, delineated by a given set of institutional rules. We in turn define centrality in this context on a continuum, as the degree to which an individual appears to be the most decisive actor within a collective and deliberative institution, defined by a set of rules. In this paper, we investigate the correlates and the causes of variation in institutional centrality. We utilize a large-scale field experiment to identify whether changes in formal rules of discussion in an institution can affect the centrality of elected officials. We argue that minor changes in formal discussion rules may alter engagement of elected leaders in decision making processes. We also hypothesize that changes in formal discussion rules affect the responsiveness of peers to the substantive input of elected leaders, both in public (based on the outcomes and process of decision-making) and in private (by moving the private preferences of other institutional actors).

When Radical Right Populist Parties Appeal to Women
Ana Catalano Weeks, University of Bath; Bonnie M. Meguid, University of Rochester; Miki Caul Kittilson, Arizona State University; Hilde Roza Coffe, University of Bath

In recent years, some radical right populist (RRP) parties have expanded their issue base beyond immigration, and in many instances this includes incorporating women’s rights or gender equality issues. These programmatic shifts may be part of a broader strategy to diversify the party’s electoral base, or to project a more moderate and mainstream image. Our paper for the 2021 APSA Annual Meeting asks, under what conditions are RRP parties more likely to shift their party programs to incorporate women’s issues? Are RRP parties with more women in their ranks especially likely to do so? And is the effect of women RRP MPs and party leaders mitigated by the party’s electoral circumstances? In other words, is the decision driven more by the ideological focus and positions of women (compared with men) elite or the strategic electoral needs of the party? In this paper, we explore the factors driving incorporation of women’s issues by RRP parties. To do so, we have developed the most comprehensive dataset to date on women as MPs and leaders of parties across Europe and over time. The data include over 50 RRP parties in 19 countries from 1980 to 2018. We complement this data with new analyses of party manifestos, coding for RRP parties’ policy positions over time on women’s rights, work-family policies, violence against women, and gender equality. Broadly, our analyses will shed light on the variables that affect party programmatic shifts, and how these factors occur for niche parties such as the RRPs. In addition, our findings may offer insights into the ways historically anti-feminist parties, such as RRP parties, strategically deploy gender equality and women’s rights to bolster their nationalist agendas. The results have important implications for the extent to which the rise of radical right parties poses a threat to gender equality, both in terms of the balance of women and men in office and the gendered nature of the policies they promote.

Parents, spouses, and candidates: Family dynamics of women’s political candidacy
Moa Frödin Gruneau; Johanna Rickne, Stockholm University

We study how families shape political candidacy. In Swedish administrative data, we can obtain detailed information about the families of all political candidates at all levels of government for the past 50 years. We have detailed, annual labor market data for these relatives, as well as for the politicians. Equipped with this information, we test theories from political science and economics about how families shape behavior. These theories describe how social learning within family structures shape people’s choice of political and economic activities. Some theories argue that learning happens along gender lines, so that daughters learn from their mothers and vice versa for men. Other theories predict, instead, that women’s behavior is more constrained by the husband’s mother’s behavior her own mother’s. Men who grow up with working mothers are socialized to more modern gender role attitudes and therefore have stronger preferences for working wives. The main analysis studies the predictive power of a broad set of labor market behaviors of the parental generation on the younger generation’s political candidacy and political career moves. We compare the parental backgrounds of politicians to non-politicians. We also compare characteristics of spouses and parents-in-law. By comparing politicians’ backgrounds at different points in time—the 1970s to the 2010s—we study whether intergenerational transmissions are more or less important for early generations of women politicians than for later generations.

Historical Origins of the Gender Gap in Political Representation
Aina Gallego, Institut de Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals; Didac Queralt, Yale University; Ana Tur Prats

Women are generally underrepresented in politics. Some explanations to this phenomenon emphasize cultural legacies; others focus on political and labor market institutions. We investigate the joint effect of culture and institutions on the political representation of women. To gain leverage on cultural traits, we focus on two prototypical historical family types: nuclear vs. stem families. In nuclear families, newly-weds started new households and women generally stayed at home, while in stem families the newly-weds stayed with in-laws, grandmothers did more housework, and young females were more likely to be in paid work. As a result of this higher female labor participation, women in stem families gained a more equal position relative to women in nuclear families. Our hypothesis is that in-household gender equality shapes attitudes about women’s active participation in politics. To estimate the causal effect of family types on female political representation, we apply an instrumental-variable strategy based on medieval inheritance laws, using historical and contemporary data for Spain. Our preliminary findings show that regions with a tradition of stem families elect more female councilors in local elections than areas where nuclear families prevailed. Then, we assess the role of cultural norms, labor market and political institutions (in particular, the adoption of gender quotas in party lists) in the evolution of the gender gap across municipalities with different historical family types during the democratic period (1977-2015). To conclude, we discuss the implications of our findings for theories of cultural persistence and change.

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Jonathan Collins, Brown University;
  • (Discussant) Edana Beauvais, Simon Fraser University;
  • (Presenter) Jane Mansbridge, Harvard Kennedy School;
  • (Presenter) Cathy J. Cohen, University of Chicago;
  • (Presenter) Archon Fung, Harvard University;
  • (Presenter) Lisa Garcia Bedolla, University of California, Berkeley;
  • (Presenter) Omar Wasow, Princeton University;
  • (Presenter) Azucena Moran Tobar, Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies

Session Description:

Can democratic innovations deepen democracy and promote pluralism in diverse societies? Around the globe, both consolidated and newer democracies are experiencing disturbing trends toward democratic backsliding. Scholars of democratic innovation recommend countering these trends through institutional innovations such as mini-publics, town hall meetings, deliberative polls, and citizen juries. These democratic innovations are designed to supplement electoral democracy by empowering citizen deliberation with one another and with policy-makers, and to enable direct citizen participation in policy-making.

In addition to democratic backsliding, another important trend in democracies around the globe is the growing awareness that strengthening democratic governance requires empowering the voices of those on the margins: the voices of people of color, Black and Indigenous peoples, women, LGBTQ folk, members of the working class, immigrants, and—especially—those experiencing intersecting axes of exclusion. Some scholars are celebrating positive trends in electoral politics, recognizing that record numbers of historically disempowered social group members are seeking political office, determining election outcomes, and shifting policy agendas to focus on equity and justice. By contrast, other scholars working on the politics of race, gender, and sexuality have questioned whether democratic governance can be adequately updated—or whether the principle of democracy can even be approximated—within the existing framework of capitalist liberal democracy. What do scholars in the field of democratic innovation have to say about empowering the inclusion of those on the margins? What is the relationship between the usually small-scale specialized institutional reforms of democratic innovation mechanisms and the more large-scale social and economic reform ideas derived from radical critiques of liberal democracy and capitalism? This panel brings together leading scholars of democracy, racial-and-ethnic politics, and gender and politics to discuss potential pathways forward.

Full Paper Panel

Theme Panel

Fields of Interest: Political Economy


  • (Chair) Jan Henryk Pierskalla, Ohio State University;
  • (Discussant) Ian R. Turner, Yale University;
  • (Discussant) Rikhil R Bhavnani, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Session Description:

A substantial body of research in comparative politics and political economy has centered on the causes and consequences of bureaucratic performance in both developed and developing countries. Undergirding much of this research is a paradigmatic commitment to a Weberian model of good governance—one in which bureaucracies are expected to have formal selection rules, strong norms, and hierarchical management structures, for instance. Do the salutary effects of these formal recruitment procedures hold when considered in light of unanticipated outcomes? Do rigid hierarchical structures impede the flow of critical information across organizational nodes?

This panel represents an effort to generate new theoretical and empirical insights to these questions. The papers are varied in their approach—drawing upon evidence from qualitative interviews, surveys, RCTs, and administrative data. With an eye towards generalizable theory building, the papers are also regionally varied. Kuipers studies Indonesia to examine the effect of failure on the national civil service exam on attitudinal outcomes such as outgroup intolerance, perceptions of corruption, and national solidarity. Gabiras-Diaz and Slough present results from an RCT conducted in collaboration with Colombia’s Office of the Inspector Attorney General, in which they rolled out an intervention designed to improve organizational nodes’ compliance with requests for data from higher-ups. Toral leverages administrative data, a survey, and in-depth interviews to examine how Brazilian prosecutors (an extraordinarily Weberian bureaucracy with high autonomy, discretion, and capacity) fight corruption at the local level, and how their strategies shape both politics and service delivery.


Failing the Test
Nicholas Kuipers, UC Berkeley

Virtually every country selects its civil servants with examinations. The outcomes of these tests, however, may prompt attitudinal shifts on the part of winners and losers if successful applicants disproportionately hail from specific ethnic, racial, or religious groups. To evaluate this hypothesis, I partnered with the Indonesian civil service agency to solicit survey responses from the universe of applicants for civil service jobs. Matching responses to the database of test scores, I implement a regression discontinuity design to establish three findings concerning narrow losers, compared against narrow winners: they are more likely to (1) support preferential treatment for in-groups, (2) reflect negatively on an ethnically-inclusive national identity, and (3) believe the recruitment process was corrupt. Additional tests decomposing the main results provide support for both an “alienation” effect on the part of losers and an “aggrandizing” effect on the part of winners.

The Limit of Decentralized Data Collection: Experimental Evidence from Colombia
Natalia Garbiras Diaz, University of California Berkeley; Tara L Slough, New York University

A core function of states is the collection of information. Much of the data that central governments compile originates from data requests to decentralized entities. Responding to these requests represents a regular task of decentralized bureaucracies. Despite the fact that the resultant data are often used to allocate resources or enforcement from the central to local governments, we know little about how national governments induce compliance with data requests and the resultant incentives for local bureaucrats to accurately report data. We study the production of Colombia’s annual transparency index at national scale through an experiment in collaboration with the Colombian Office of the Inspector Attorney General. We randomize whether decentralized government entities receive direct or delegated instruction from the Inspector Attorney General’s office. We further adopt a factorial design randomizing the content of these communications to study bureaucratic dynamics within decentralized entities and the oversight functions of the national government. We measure compliance with the request for data, the quality of responses, the accuracy of responses, and the effort exerted by decentralized bureaucrats in filling out the matrix. We contextualize this data collection effort using a survey of all public entities in Colombia and interviews with policymakers that authorize data collection.

The Political Economy of Oversight: Prosecutors and Corruption in Brazil
Guillermo Toral, Vanderbilt University

Prosecutors play a critical role in justice systems around the world. While much has been written about prosecutor discretion and accountability in the area of criminal justice, little is known about their role in the fight against political corruption. How do prosecutors use their discretion when seeking to control corruption? How do bureaucratic insulation, norms, and resources shape prosecutorial strategies? What consequences do prosecutors’ strategies have on corruption, political competition, and public service delivery? To address these questions, I study the case of Brazilian state prosecutors – an extraordinarily Weberian anti-corruption agency that combines high levels of autonomy, discretion, and capacity. First, I document variation in prosecutor strategies with administrative data. Second, I document variation in prosecutors’ anti-corruption norms and strategies using an original survey of prosecutors. Third, I identify the effect of prosecutors’ work on corruption, political competition, and public service delivery. To do so, I exploit variation in prosecutor presence across municipalities. Third, I complement quantitative findings with qualitative insights from in-depth interviews with prosecutors and politicians.

Virtual Paper Panel


  • (Chair) Karina Shyrokykh, Stockholm University;
  • (Discussant) Marina Povitkina, University of Oslo;
  • (Discussant) Le Anh Nguyen-Long, University of Munster

Session Description:

Climate governance research is a rapidly developing field that methodologically dwells on a combination of various data types and research methods, such as traditional quantitative and qualitative methods, as well as modern cutting-edge computational techniques including natural language processing techniques and big data analysis. Climate governance research spans various subfields in political science, ranging from peace- and conflict research, international relations, political psychology, and comparative politics, and these different fields have seen impressive methodological advancements in recent years. The panel features the usage of novel data and methods for the study of climate governance. The panel aims to illustrate how climate governance research can befit from methodological pluralism. To that end, two papers showcase how automated text analysis methods, namely text classification (topic modelling) and automated labeling of data (automated coding), can facilitate work with text data saving time and resources for human coders. Automated text analysis techniques, as the two papers demonstrate, provide robust techniques for obtaining valid results.

Network analysis is another powerful tool rapidly proliferating in climate governance research. The method helps understand the role of complex social interactions in climate governance. Climate-related international and regional organizations, as well as individual policy-makers form tight policy networks to coordinate climate action. Understanding how such networks form and the conditions that stimulate the establishment of such networks help us understand who and why gets to shape up the climate agenda. Part of the climate action, however, has a local character, especially when concerns climate change adaptation governance. To be able to understand to what degree international actors can make a change on the ground for local communities, researchers often turn to sub-national geocoded data. Using such data helps locate climate action in a specific community and trace its impact there. Working with geocoded data, however, requires, additional skills that one of the papers in the panel will present highlighting the value added of the usage of geocoded data in climate governance research. In all, the panel illustrates how novel data types and research methods provide valuable new insights for climate governance at both global and local levels.


Learning to Classify: UN Communication of Climate Change on Twitter
Lisa Maria Dellmuth, Stockholm University; Karina Shyrokykh, Stockholm University

International organizations (IOs) have an important role to play in global climate governance coordinating fragmented efforts of actors at different scales. These efforts by IOs are well-communicated on social media platforms, like Twitter, that have become a legitimate tool for IOs’ public communication with stakeholders. As the volume of climate texts published on social media by IOs rapidly grows, social scientists face a serious challenge related to coding of these data. For instance, manual coding of the available textual data in a sample that would at least vaguely resemble a representative one becomes infeasible. To address these challenges, scholars turn to automated labeling techniques. Methodologically, this article contributes to climate governance literature by systematically reviewing available approaches to text classification for climate research. In doing so, the paper compares the performance of various approaches frequently used in existing climate governance research that builds on text analysis methods. Empirically, the paper builds on data from UN organizations that are actively engaged into climate governance. Using Twitter data collected from the official accounts of the UN organization, we demonstrate that supervised machine learning methods (in particular, neural networks with pretrained embeddings) outperform lexicon-based classifiers.

Using AI to Unpack National Governance of Climate Change Adaptation
Robbert Biesbroek, Wageningen University

Tracking progress is an important mechanism in global climate governance. Under previous international agreements, governments were already asked to report in the progress they made in terms of climate change mitigation and adaptation policy outputs and policy impacts (e.g. Biennale reports, National Communications). Under the Paris Agreement (2015), which is built on the Pledge and Review mechanism, countries have set country specific goals and ambitions that are frequently assessed and ambitions changed accordingly. Critical cornerstone of this new global governance is the need for enhanced tracking of progress, and strengthen transparency and accountability mechanisms. Although most of these discussions have focused on mitigation (i.e. reducing GHG emissions) the discussions are of equal importance in the context of adaptation to climate change. Research has shown, however, that there are critical challenges associated to the various ways to collect, analyses, and evaluate what governments are doing. At least four main approaches can be identified: • Self-assessment methods: governments are periodically requested to report on what they have been doing in terms of mitigation and adaptation. Although this has benefits such as allowing for country specific knowledge and insights, and limited costs at global arena there are limits to this approach, including the challenges of under and over reporting and a high burden on countries with limited capacity. • Existing databases and indexes: specific data for countries are collected through statistic offices and other assessment agencies. Moreover, research programs have collected data for many parts of the world and made this publicly available. These data have been used to develop metrics for how vulnerable countries are and focus mostly in impact data, but prove to be poor proxies for policy output. • Content analysis and systematic assessment approaches: external reviews by research institutes and non-governmental organizations using predefined code-books to assess what countries are doing. Whilst this can be a rather objective assessment it its limited by the capacity of the team to conduct the review, intercoding reliability issues, and the volume of work required to implement this at a global scale. More over this requires a top-down approach of defining what adaptation is and what is relevant to be coded.   • Expert assessments and interviews: experts are asked to critically reflect on what (their) government is doing in terms of climate change adaptation. This helps to uncover the less visible information, but there are constrains in comprehensiveness and personal biases.   Under the Paris Agreement the UNFCCC secretariat was asked to develop new guidelines and approaches to track progress, taking into consideration the different challenges each approach has. So far these efforts have been unsuccessful, basically meaning that governments continue with the approaches mentioned above. In this paper we argue that the ‘digital age’ offers novel approaches that have hardly been explored to increase transparency and accountability, particularly at country level. Using quantitative social science methods the aim of this paper is to develop novel AI approaches to extract, assess, and analyse what governments have reported in their national policy repositories on climate change adaptation. We analyse how over time the topics they have focus on have shifted (using topic modelling) and explore possible explanations for this shift, using the UK as a case study. Moreover, we assess the robustness of our model and various ways and challenges to upscale this to multiple country contexts, including assessing the influence of automated translation methods for robustness of our findings and access to data. The paper ends with concrete recommendations on how these tools could completement the existing approaches to increase transparency and accountability in global climate governance.

Understanding Network Building Strategy in Environmental Governance
Kristin Olofsson, University of Colorado-Denver

Most networks involve both choice and chance in formation. This research explains some of the choice. Individuals face a selection problem when choosing relationships with the intent to pursue their policy preferences. Owing to costs of networking and limited capacity for response from relationship targets, individuals are forced to select partners strategically in a space characterized by competition (Lee, Lee, and Feiock 2012). There have been several studies of individual influence on strategic relationship choices (Fischer and Sciarini 2013; Hadden and Jasny 2017; Johari, Mannor, and Tsitsiklis 2006; Watts 2001), but fewer studies consider how context and individual perceptions interact to influence relationship choices. An institutional theory of individual choice should integrate two mechanisms: an external mechanism to account for the alternatives on offer and internal mechanism to account for choice between alternatives (Sniderman and Levendusky 2007). Sectoral context as the external mechanism sets the menu of options available, and individual perceptions are the internal mechanism that determine choice among those options. This research aims to uncover how individuals strategically pursue policy relationships by asking: How do sectoral context and individual perceptions influence policy relationship choices? Policy relationships in this study are comprised of the connections that individuals pursue to achieve their policy goals. The analysis will model the incentives behind these choices and clarify behavior by not just asking with whom an individual collaborates but also by assigning a value of importance to that connection. This study focuses on policy actors, who are individuals identified as active in the policy issue and are distinct from the general public. The research assumes that policy actors make intentional choices regarding their network connections, and these choices are constrained by sectoral context and individual perceptions. The objective of this research is to identify variation in relationship choices and how this variation can be explained by sectoral context and individual perceptions using a relational approach (Ingold 2011). The study also uncovers how individuals value relationships in networks by quantifying an individual’s perception of the importance of that relationship. While many policy theories recognize the fundamental role of individual choice in network behavior (Frank et al. 2012; Leifeld and Schneider 2012; Lubell et al. 2012; Provan and Kenis 2008; Scott and Thomas 2017; Varda et al. 2008), we currently lack theory and empirical evidence demonstrating how those network choices might be influenced by sectoral context and individual perceptions. This research contributes broadly to several network-related literatures by interacting the sectoral context with individual perceptions to develop individual-level choice models explaining network preferences. The research applies theories of organizational management, behavioral economics, and network science to assess the self-interested and benefit-maximizing relationship choices of individuals. Network science has shown that there is much to be gained theoretically by considering network structure as a tool, moving beyond position- or belief-driven coalition descriptions (Bodin 2017; Jackson 2005). This research expands knowledge regarding relationship choices in contentious policy issues, supplementing theoretical and empirical findings with knowledge gained in behavioral economics, organizational management, and network science. This study models the incentives to foster valuable relationships and brings clarity to network behavior. The general assumptions of the study posit that sectoral context is filtered through an individual’s perceptions to manifest as network choices, as a form of political behavior. Findings indicate that individual perceptions, such as issue contentiousness and threat, are indeed influential upon relationship building choices by individuals involved in environmental policy and regulation, but there is variation among sectoral contexts. Individuals associated with public and private sectors generally respond as expected, but individuals associated with the nonprofit sector sometimes respond in unconventional ways. There are several lessons from these findings. The research brings theoretical clarity regarding the relationship between individual perceptions and relationship choices. It demonstrates that there are differences in choices between policy actors with different sectoral affiliations, but there is more work to be done to tease out the specific ways in which individual perceptions influence relationship choices under different sectoral contexts. The research reveals that the response to belief cues is muddled, and that some individual perceptions may be more influential than others.

Studying Political Barriers to Disaster Risk Reduction Using Geocoded Data
Kristina Petrova, Uppsala University; Elisabeth Lio Rosvold, Stockholm University

Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) efforts have been criticized for not taking into account the political situation, particularly armed conflicts, in the relevant countries and communities in which they are implemented. This is critical particularly because many of the countries that have and will be most affected by the consequences of a changing climate are countries with precarious political situations. Armed conflict impacts both the motivation for the central government to implement DRR in contested areas as well their opportunities to do so because of accessibility restrictions. Territorial control and strength of local institutions are therefore pivotal for the success of wartime DRR interventions (Walch 2018). Both can be expected to vary within a conflict-affected country, and in this paper we look at how armed conflict influences local disaster risk resilience across Pakistan. Specifically, we compare how household disaster risk resilience has changed over time in violent and non-violent districts of the country. To measure household/local disaster resilience we rely on data from three waves of the Pakistan Rural Household Panel Survey (PRHPS). To identify violent provinces we use the UCDP Georeferenced Event Dataset, making it possible to assess whether, and how, conflict dynamics influence the effectiveness of DRR.

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Aya Kachi, University of Basel;
  • (Presenter) Amber Ellen Boydstun, University of California, Davis;
  • (Presenter) David D. Laitin, Stanford University;
  • (Presenter) Kazimierz M. Slomczynski, Ohio State University;
  • (Presenter) Irina Tomescu-Dubrow;
  • (Presenter) Nicole Yadon, Ohio State University

Session Description:

In light of the conference theme “promoting pluralism,” the methodological pluralism is arguably one of its most well-recognized dimensions. This roundtable aims to host sincere discussions on urgent issues and opportunities for research that arise from data possibilities, replication, and transparency – topics in which various issues around methodological pluralism tend to manifest. The topic is important not only for defining design requirements that ought to be considered by scientists in conducting analyses and generating scientific outputs. We must also acknowledge the fact that new data possibilities in recent years have been joined by various possibilities for data visualization, including new tools facilitating visualization. These developments have likely made our scientific activities and findings more apparent in political discussions happening in broader communities such as among policymakers and the general public. This tendency has further accelerated as we are increasingly supposed to collaborate and communicate more densely with parties outside of academia, such as industry actors and policymakers. Major research funding agencies have certainly favored such efforts for collaboration (in addition to interdisciplinary collaboration!) and encouraged researchers to increase the visibility of science in communication with “non-academic” audiences. Needless to say, we as political scientists are largely delighted to see those movements.

And yet, the heightened availability of data, analytical methods, and visualization possibilities have also led to common pitfalls related to the usage and interpretation. Once again, these challenges appear both in the academic and “non-academic” circle. To address these challenges within the scientific community, it is necessary to discuss, first, what it means to ensure methodological rigor in the context of newly emerging or rapidly evolving data possibilities, and second, what good practices look like in achieving such methodological rigor. Similar challenges emerge in the communication involving non-academic communities, be it among policymakers and citizens or between academic and non-academic circles. From the literature of politically motivated reasoning and more broadly of the science of science communication, political scientists and communication scholars have long known that both misinformation (inaccurate understanding of a neutral kind) and disinformation (false information that is spread deliberately) hinder a sound policy debate. Addressing these issues is certainly not easier when the world celebrates the (seemingly) increased ease of data usage, visualization, and interpretation that come along with expanding data possibilities. In this circumstance, political scientists cannot simply address the need for methodological rigor the same way they do among themselves in a comprehensible manner. So, what can we do about it? This will be the central question of the second theme of the roundtable.

This roundtable hosts discussions by taking examples from emerging and evolving data possibilities in content analysis, cross-national survey research, and measurement of apparent race and ethnicity. We believe that addressing the issue of transparency beyond the mere replication and data usage will allow us to have more meaningful discussions on how these changes will transform the way we conduct political science research and the way we, scientists, engage with the public by providing information that is relevant to important policy agendas.

In-Person Full Paper Panel


  • (Chair) Matthew Landauer, University of Chicago;
  • (Discussant) Evelyn M. Behling, University of Notre Dame

Session Description:

This panel deals with the question of how democratic societies can produce the political education necessary for the task of responsible self-government. That central question ties to this year’s conference theme of pluralism, for pluralist institutions play a critical role in preparing citizens for the work of democracy. Civil society institutions are necessary in both checking certain despotic dangers and in fostering healthy programs of democratic governance. To that end, the papers on this panel deal with three important sites of formative pedagogic pluralism: The political party, the trade union, and the university.

From Plato to contemporary epistemic democratic skeptics, the oldest charge against democracy is that democratic regimes are incapable of effective, morally acceptable political rule. A tradition running from Aristotle and Polybius to Montesquieu and John Adams took the mixed constitution to be an indispensable means of tempering democracy’s excesses. That approach formally empowered the one and the few to check the vices of the many. In the nineteenth century, John Stuart Mill famously proposed plural voting to engineer a more educated electorate. Yet such proposals run afoul of contemporary egalitarian commitments, and so liberal and democratic theorists have sought alternative forms of democratic mediation in civil society, individual rights, or powerful non-political branches of government. Today, an influential strand of liberal and democratic theory insists that democracy requires much more than procedural majority rule: it requires a bevy of moral and political constraints on the majority’s potential abuse of power.

The aim of this panel is to explore how a variety of political theorists have sought to locate forms of democratic education within democratic practice and society. In that sense, it may be seen as working within the challenge posed by James Madison in Federalist 10: To find a “republican remedy for the diseases most incident to republican government.” What resources do democratic societies have within themselves to prepare their citizens and leaders for the work of self-rule?

Luke Foster’s paper deals with the question of democratic education by turning to the debate between Irving Babbitt and John Dewey over the kind of university learning most appropriate and necessary in a democratic society. Dimitrios Halikias’ paper turns to a very different kind of democratic or revolutionary pedagogy. It reconstructs Karl Marx’s argument that the formation of and even failure of trade union organization can be an indispensable education in proletariat political power. Finally, Soren Dudley raises the possibility of reading Max Weber’s charismatic theory of political leadership in a democratic vein. She emphasizes the important role Weber gives the political parties in cultivating and preparing democratic leaders for responsibly wielding power.


Karl Marx on the Pedagogic Power of Trade Union Failure
Dimitrios Ioannis Halikias, Harvard University

This paper treats Karl Marx’s account of the pedagogic role that mass political mobilization and trade union organization plays in the formation and maturation of the proletariat as a revolutionary class. From his early writings as a Young Hegelian through his mature account of economic crisis and revolution, Marx consistently maintains that the role of the philosopher or critic is not to establish an ideal of communism or emancipation, but to assist the proletariat class in better understanding its own situation, power, and aims. The third Thesis on Feuerbach, for example, rejects rival socialist philosophers who rely implicitly on the primacy of theory over practice. What such socialists forget is that “circumstances are changed by men and that it is essential to educate the educator himself.” Likewise, in his oft-quoted 1843 letter to Ruge, he writes that the socialist intellectual must not “confront the world in a doctrinaire way with a new principle: Here is the truth, kneel down before it!” Instead, the aim of criticism is to assist in the process of “self-clarification,” the proletariat’s own self-understanding of the real conditions obtaining in the world today and those that must be built for a new world of revolutionary freedom. Toward the end of his life, Marx famously notes, his economic project in Capital was criticized by positivists and socialists for confining itself “to the mere critical analysis of actual facts, instead of writing recipes (Comtist ones?) for the cook-shops of the future.” The paper explores Marx’s account of critical, philosophical “self-clarification” by turning to his discussions of the pedagogic role played by proletariat union organization and even failure. As he and Engels put it in the Communist Manifesto, through the development of industrial capitalism, “the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more.” And again: “the workers begin to form combinations (Trades’ Unions) against the bourgeoisie … now and then the workers are victorious, but only for a time. The real fruit of their battle lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers.” The aim, in other words, of trade union organization is not, primarily, the amelioration of exploitative economic conditions. Instead, the aim is to help the proletariat feel itself as a revolutionary, universal, political class. Striking too is Marx’s periodic concession that workers’ unions fail to systematically raise wages and the proletariat’s quality of life. The classical economists are correct in predicting that labor organizations will be unable to raise wages beyond the bare subsistence levels demanded by market economics. They are correct, Marx writes in 1847, that “in the long run [unions] cannot withstand the laws of competition.” Perhaps paradoxically, however, this inevitability leads not to despondency or resignation, but is on the contrary indispensable for cultivating in workers the courage and spirit necessary for true revolutionary potential. As he puts it in an 1853 article for the New York Daily Tribune, “we must not allow ourselves to be blinded by the apparent insignificance of [union organizing and strikes’] economical results, but hold, above all things, in view their moral and political consequences.” I conclude by contrasting Marx’s emphasis on the pedagogic power of trade union organizing and economic defeat to Tocqueville’s account of the democratic education found in local government and associational life. These, Tocqueville famously insists, are the “primary schools” of democratic citizenship, and are necessary for training democratic citizens to govern responsibly by tempering their worst political instincts. Both Marx and Tocqueville are attentive to the need of training democratic citizens for the work of serious politics, but where Tocqueville insists that this training will be found through local, intimate social activity, Marx identifies it with mass, often apparently futile, class struggle.

Socratic Remnant or Creative Democracy: Irving Babbitt’s Critique of John Dewey
Luke Foster, University of Chicago

This paper forms part of a larger project that aims to provide resources for thinking about the role of universities in American public life today through the history of political thought and the history of education. Describing higher education explicitly as (in part) an elite-formation project may help the (highly-selective) university acquire a measure of self-consciousness about its goals. “Elitism” and “populism” have become frequent accusations in American politics, with the college-educated increasingly seeming to possess the habits of mind and heart of a distinct class. To understand this dynamic, I return to one of its sources, the  dramatic reforms in American higher education in the decades following the Civil War. These saw the small, Protestant colleges of the Antebellum period overhauled after the image of the German research university: more secular, scientific, and formal. Some reformers, such as Woodrow Wilson, were conscious of the need for elite formation and sought to provide the training that rational administrators would need to help operate a modern state. I focus on two, often opposed, critics of the new research university who both saw themselves as friends of democracy and worried about a social faultline being widened by the new system.    Irving Babbitt, a scholar of comparative literature at Harvard, led a New Humanist school that made the case for liberal learning as a good in itself that needed no further justification, but one also capable of instilling an ethic of self-restraint. In many ways Babbitt arrived on the scene a generation too late or too early. The first generation after the Civil War had seen a great flurry of debate about the purposes and shortcomings of the American college and its consequent need for reform into a research university. The protagonists in the educational reform debate were often the university presidents themselves. Charles Eliot, President of Harvard from 1869 to 1909, was ending his extraordinarily influential reformist career as Babbitt entered the fray as his trenchant critic. The new institutions were largely established and consolidating themselves by the time Babbitt began to publish, making his period as a polemicist not one in which critique of the fundamentals of the institution was likely to be received warmly. In the following generation, a different set of reformists including Mortimer Adler and Robert Maynard Hutchins would indeed follow some of Babbitt’s prescriptions, though Babbitt did not live to witness most of their work in the 1930s and following. Hutchins’ eventual Great Books model created a compromise with the research university. Undergraduates would be given a general exposure to an array of important texts, without being subjected to the traditional dogmatic assertions about the unity of knowledge or about the place of knowledge in the moral life, allowing them to specialize and acquire practical training to a limited degree. One of the earliest critics of this synthesis was John Dewey, who had explicitly rejected Platonism in his 1916 Democracy and Education, arguing that learning must be practical and experimental because in democracy truths are created through living, speaking, and practicing politics together. In other words, Dewey sought to bolster democracy by cultivating democratic soul, an anti-Platonism on Platonic grounds. Against Babbitt, Dewey charged that the Great Books model was too hierarchical and authoritarian in its assumptions about knowledge. He focused on the public school as the true locus of democracy’s future. This paper examines several major works of Babbitt’s corpus to develop his educational and political theory, showing them to be a unified whole deeply concerned with the relationship between the structure of the soul and the constitutional order of the United States. Because much of it is a critique of Dewey, I then turn to summarizing Dewey’s much better-known theory, before comparing their two competing strands of American Platonism to characterize their views on the kind of authority knowledge confers and the role it is to play in American political life. I conclude with some reflections on the relative merits of their theories of good and bad elites. This study illuminates an aspect of the origins of the research university system as well of the class division between highly-educated Americans and those who lack the privilege of elite university degrees, with an eye to putting present political polarities into a wider context.

The Education of Charisma in Max Weber
Soren Dudley, Harvard University

This paper addresses the fraught question of democracy in Max Weber’s political thought, specifically focusing on the relationship between democracy and the education of the charismatic leader. The place of democracy in Weber’s schema is contested and ambivalent; against a democratic portrait of Weber, critics have read in his work latent justifications for caesarism (Strauss 1950), quasi-Fascist elitism (Mommsen 1984), and proto-Nazism (Rehman, 2013). Such arguments use as evidence Weber’s particular form of imperialism and nationalism, as well as his signature emphasis on politics as legitimate domination. Weber famously characterizes the state as “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory” (Weber, 1919). On some readings, this stark depiction of political community leaves little room for the possibility of legitimate democratic governance; how could a form of government which aspires to non-domination through complete identity between ruler and ruled fit into Weber’s framework? Yet Weber’s descriptive efforts must not be mistaken for normative argumentation. Though Weber’s relentless realpolitik offers a description of an increasingly un-free and bureaucratized modern world caught between rational control and the irrationality of epistemological fragmentation, his normative project turns on a search for the charismatic leader who might confront the ever-hardening iron cage. In this regard we might think of strands of Weber’s oeuvre as a modern mirror for the prince, a pedagogical effort aimed at moulding the character of a leader rather than the institutions of a state. By tracing this education, and the character that it aims at, Weber’s democratic commitments are revealed. Weber’s charismatic leader is the one who can through force of will supersede the seeming contradictions between a consequentialist worldview and Kantian moral conviction through his political action. The defense and indeed celebration of such a strong-willed and singular leader might suggest a sinister sympathy with caesarism, yet Weber is clear that such a tenuous fusion of responsibility and conviction is most likely to emerge from a democratic setting rather than an authoritarian one. For Weber, charismatic leaders are forged in the furnaces of electoral party politics where they daily confront the bare power struggles which constitute political life. Further, Weber views as fertile ground the pluralistic local associational life of a democracy, a situation which allows not only singular leaders but also laypeople to receive a civic education through experience. The circumstances of Weber’s preferred civic pedagogy therefore demonstrate a proclivity for democratic attitude rather than ideals; he may not privilege traditionally “democratic” concepts like rights and equality in his search for freedom in the modern era, but a civically engaged and energetic public are the cradle of Weber’s charismatic moment. Finally, there is a distinct element of tragedy to Weber’s charismatic leader. Just as he bestrides the logically contradictory dictates of consequentialism and deontology, the charismatic leader himself stands as something of a paradox: he knows his efforts against the routinization of charisma and human freedom to be ultimately unrealizable, yet nevertheless commits himself to them. The tragedy of the contradiction that defines this leader shows that Weber does not romanticize or inflate the capacities of the traditional strong-man. Rather, he seeks a personality who can harness the democratic impulse and with it, defend the ever-flickering flame of human freedom. This paper draws primarily from The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1905), Science as a Vocation (1917), and Politics as a Vocation (1919).

In-Person Paper Panel

Co-sponsored by Division 4: Formal Political Theory


  • (Chair) Ryan Hubert, University of California, Davis;
  • (Discussant) Andrew Little, University of California-Berkeley

Session Description:

In pluralistic societies, citizens are surrounded by other people who have different perspectives than their own, and/or have different information than they do. How do citizens understand and respond to the world around them in light of this? These papers explore these fundamental questions with a series of novel theories that push the boundaries of “traditional” formal theory. Schnakenberg and Wayne integrate non-standard assumptions derived from psychology to study the role of emotions in a model of political conflict. Serra studies how a political party comprised of “sincere” (and thus irrational) voters will be dominated by extremists, and that this extremism can spill over and induce a party dominated by strategic (and thus rational) voters to become more extreme too. Kocak and Horz study why some societies are more prone to anti-government protest than others, focusing on the way that leaders can exploit and distort citizens’ subjective beliefs about the effects of protest. Fariss and Tyson demonstrate how the production of information (“data”) is a byproduct of strategic dynamics induced by institutions, which often distorts the relationship between substantive concepts and measured data. In addition to shedding theoretical light on the role of pluralism in political contexts, these papers also underscore the promise of methodological cross-pollenation.


Anger and Political Conflict Dynamics
Keith E. Schnakenberg, Washington University; Carly Nicole Wayne, Washington University in St. Louis

Passions run high in politics. From protest mobilization, to crisis diplomacy, to political violence and war, emotions such as fear and anger can play a prominent role in shaping attitudes and structuring behavior. However, formal strategic models of politics typically do not account for the ways in which emotions can alter preferences, shape information processing, and, as a result, affect equilibrium outcomes. Rather, these models emphasize the strategic context of decision-making, using standard rational choice assumptions regarding actors’ preferences and processing abilities. Likewise, behavioral researchers have historically relied on empirical research to map associations between emotional states and political outcomes, rather than explicitly theorizing how rational choice assumptions should be modified to account for emotions’ role in politics. In this article, we aim to address this gap, developing a formal model that explicitly integrates behavioral assumptions regarding the role that anger plays in shaping actor preferences, learning, and actions. Specifically, we analyze a dynamic psychological game of conflict in which beliefs about prior actions lead to angry emotional states which can cause preferences for uncooperative behavior. We show that two parties who initially have dominant strategies to cooperate may reach permanently non-cooperative states as a result of self-reinforcing anger cascades. These findings demonstrate the role that anger can play in shaping adversarial interactions, locking adversaries into cycles of retaliation that prevent learning and, as such, become difficult to break.

How To Keep Citizens Disengaged: Propaganda and Causal Misperceptions
Korhan Kocak, Princeton University; Carlo Matthias Horz, Texas A&M University

Why are some countries more prone to frequent anti-government protests than others under similar conditions? Using Bayesian networks to explore causal misconceptions, we propose a model of subjective belief formation that gives a prominent role to history in explaining how protest cultures are formed and persist. We propose that past anti-regime actions may influence the inferences citizens make regarding the effect of protests on economic performance, even in the absence of a direct causal relationship. When regime strength is related to both economic performance and protests, it induces a correlation between the two. The regime can leverage this spurious relationship to sustain subjective beliefs that postulate a negative effect of protesting on economic performance. The strength of the correlation is driven by the empirical frequency of protesting in the data, with fewer instances of past protests leading to a stronger inferred correlation, thus making protests less likely in the current period. Our analysis has important implications regarding the plausibility of propaganda claims uttered by authoritarian rulers around the world.

Sincere vs Strategic Voting: Is Irrationality Contagious?
Gilles Serra, CIDE (Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas)

Members of different political parties can influence each other, for instance, in their preferences for a party platform. However, the ability and willingness to react to each other depends on their sophistication, meaning whether they are sincere or strategic, which is akin to being boundedly rational or fully rational. This formal model studies the policies chosen by two parties in competition when one of them has a certain probability of having sincere members while the other one is sure to have strategic members. Each party is conceived as a collection of individual members with heterogeneous preferences that choose the campaign platform in a closed primary election. I find that a party composed of sincere members will tend to be extremist. However, surprisingly, the extremism of the sincere party will have a contagious effect on the rival strategic party: as the expectation that members of the former party are sincere increase, the extremism of the party with strategic voters also increases. Hence the expectation of sincere voting in one of the primaries will pull both parties away from the center. This increases polarization and makes government policy more volatile. These results engage in the empirical debate about whether primaries produce significant polarization or not. My theoretical results indicate that primaries may produce very large polarization, or none at all, depending on a parameter that has been previously neglected in statistical and theoretical studies: the sophistication of primary voters.

How Data comes to Be
Christopher J. Fariss, University of Michigan; Scott Tyson, University of Rochester

The collection and consumption of information that is used to measure and judge substantive concepts involves several different actors, all of whom come from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. Importantly, different actors’ theoretical interpretation of substantive concepts may, and often do, differ. In some cases these differences can be beneficial, leading otherwise dispersed insights to aggregate into something closer to the true estimate. However, in other cases where strategic considerations matter, such differences can undermine the ultimate goal of empirical inquiry by producing a biased estimate. We conceptualize the collection and categorization of information as a process involving distinct stages, and develop a new theory that focuses on the actors who participate at each stage. The process starts with the documentation/observation stage, which represents the original transcription or tabulation of information into primary sources. The second stage is the measurement phase, where information from primary sources is used to construct empirical measures. The last stage is the consumption stage where empirical measures are used. By analyzing this sequence of stages, we show how differences of opinion regarding a substantive concept, and the knowledge of these differences, create incentives that undermine the relationship between substantive concepts and the empirical measures meant to represent those concepts. Our approach allows us to formalize the construct validity of empirical measures at different stages and assess what problems arise from strategic issues in the empirical process.

In-Person Full Paper Panel


  • (Chair) Sonja M. Amadae, University of Helsinki;
  • (Discussant) Jared Clemons, Duke University

Session Description:

This panel explores how stereotypes associated with race and gender contribute to systematically biased decision-making processes.  Both formal models and experiments contribute new understandings of how discriminatory outcomes occur, and what types of mechanisms could be at work in causing these outcomes.  We discuss two experiments which analyze subjects’ decision-making, one in a judicial context in which judges are white or Black, and one in a public context involving responses to requests for help made by ostensibly white or Black subjects.  Both of these experiments offer evidence regarding the routine interactions of members of different ethnic groups.  McConnaughy, Tucker, and White’s paper analyzes how perceptions associated with ethnic identity lead subjects to either trust or distrust elites independently of whether their conduct corroborates this degree of confidence.  Block, Crabtree, Holbein, and Monson’s large-scale experiment involving 250,000 individuals drawn from voter registration records provides direct evidence of discrimination routinely encountered by Black individuals within US society.  Two other papers use formal models to elucidate how stereotypes, which could be ethnic or gender-based, can support systemic discrimination.  Chwe’s paper uses a formal model to examine how the need for societies to coordinate enforces the typing of individuals according to a coarser set of features that can reduce to simply “male” and “female” attributes.  This then results in binary typing in which identifying features, such as footwear choice or eye glasses, communicate group membership which can in turn serve the function of facilitating coordination.  Amadae’s paper also uses a formal model which shows that (a) given the ability to apply a binary recognition scheme along the lines of ethnic typing or gender typing; and (b) given that such a binary scheme assists in achieving social coordination; (c) we should expect systemic discrimination to be the norm and not the exception.  This paper explores when conditions are conducive to either minority or majority domination. The aim of this research is to assist us in developing pluralistic communities and institutions without discriminatory practices.


Race and Judgment in Choice of Representatives
Corrine M. McConnaughy, Princeton University; Tina Tucker, Duke University; Ismail K. White, Princeton University

For American democracy, race has been an ever-ready tool of elite influence over mass decisions, making central questions the extent to which the elite-created “information” of race in politics can constrain processes of citizens’ decisionmaking such that it obscures information uptake about who is and is not best representing their interests. In observational contexts, difficulties for empirically assessing this question abound. We thus turn to an abstracted, experimental approach, embedding participants in a rigged decisionmaking game-a game where we provide “interests” via small monetary payouts, “elections” that are full-individual-control exercises of choice over by whom to be “governed,” and “judges” that (seem to) exert full control over the outputs from the governors to the governed. Across a set of studies we vary 1) the racial makeup of the two-judge set from which participants can choose; 2) whether or not participants can choose their first-round judge; and 3) the race of their opponent. We uncover several empirical patterns of “benefit of the doubt” for black judges (governors) and a racial divergence in willingness to update this belief in the face of information that it did not serve one’s interests. We also find some evidence of hyper-vigilance of Black participants under the “rule” of white judges. These patterns suggest potential mechanisms of race as constraint based on (mis)trust, stereotypes of (un)fairness, and potentially expressive choosing to be governed by the minority-race-identified judge until sufficient certainty about the losses experienced under them is established.

Race, Representation, and Mundane Anti-Black Discrimination in the United States
Ray Block, Penn State University; Charles David Crabtree, Dartmouth College; John Holbein, University of Virginia; Quin Monson, Brigham Young University

Authors: Ray Block, Charles Crabtree, John Holbein, and Quin Monson Abstract: In this article, we present the results from a novel large-scale field experiment designed to measure racial bias among the American public. We conducted the first audit study on the public—sending correspondence to 250,000 citizens randomly-drawn from voter registration lists. Our within-subjects experimental design tested the public’s responsiveness to simple requests for help with completing a simple task from either an ostensibly Black or an ostensibly White sender. We show clearly that in everyday interactions, on average, the public systematically discriminates against Black people. Our results give us a snapshot into a subtle, but pernicious, form of racial bias that is systemic in the United State. This form of what we term everyday or “papercut” discrimination occurs among all racial/ethnic subgroups, outside of Black people themselves. We benchmark this type of discrimination among the public to that shown among their elected officials and show that politicians are just as discriminatory as the constituents they serve. Our results provide a window into the discrimination that Black people in this country face in day-to-day interactions with their fellow citizens by providing clear and concrete evidence from a nationally-representative study that Black people face substantial levels of papercut discrimination. Our results also show that in our contemporary society, elected officials have strong incentives to mirror the patterns of discrimination that their constituents themselves demonstrate.

Coordination Causes Coarse Concepts
Michael Chwe, UCLA

This paper uses a game-theoretic model to show that when a group of people has a greater need to coordinate their actions, the group uses coarser concepts, concepts that are more blunt and less nuanced.  In other words, this paper understands concepts as resulting from the need for social coordination, not just from individual cognitive processes.  In this paper, a concept is a set of attributes which are all highly correlated.  For example, when we think of “male,” we think of a person with many typical attributes that are highly correlated in the population, including clothing, hair, name, tone of voice, and so forth.  There is no obvious reason why people should use things like eyeglasses and socks to communicate gender, but they do.  Communicating using multiple correlated attributes instead of multiple independent attributes makes communication less specific, and makes concepts coarser, but better generates the common knowledge necessary for coordinating actions.  When there is less need for coordination, the greater specificity of multiple independent attributes maximizes social welfare.  This paper also shows that certain concepts can maximize social welfare but be particularly bad for some people, who would greatly benefit if society adopted different or more varied concepts.  Similarly, people well-served by existing concepts might actively resist new concepts.

How Pressures to Coordinate can Foster Systemic Discrimination
Sonja M. Amadae, University of Helsinki

This paper builds a game theoretic model which demonstrates the ease with which systemic discrimination arises in populations with two groups, such as two ethnic groups, or males and females.  The model enables correlating the costs of coordination resting on the subjugated group with whether the majority or the minority is advantaged in the interactions. It shows that when the costs of coordination are relatively low on average, then it is more likely that the majority will dominate, while if the costs of coordination are relatively high, then it is more likely that the minority will dominate.  This model paves the way for illuminating the following points which are relevant to providing remedies for discriminatory practices.  First, if discrimination arises easily in populations with binary-identity markers, then we should expect it to be prevalent.  Second, expecting discriminatory practices to be the norm rather than the exception invites extensive interventions to provide means to achieve social coordination without placing the burdens on the individuals from one group.  Third, if costs (and benefits) are correlated to the relative proportions of the two groups, then we may gain insight into how pernicious the discrimination is, and the extent of the incentives and alternative means necessary to lessen biased practices.

In-Person Café


  • (Chair) Amy Gould, Evergreen State College;
  • (Presenter) Teresa Mosqueda, City of Seattle

Session Description:

How can local governments create opportunities to increase diversity and representation in campaigns and achieve greater equity for underserved communities? Our discussion will focus on the Democracy Voucher Program in Seattle, innovations in campaign finance, public contracting with community based organizations, and promoting equity in running for elected office.

In-Person Roundtable


  • (Presenter) Julie E. Taylor, IIE;
  • (Presenter) Steven A. Cook, Council on Foreign Relations;
  • (Presenter) Jan E. Leighley, National Science Foundation;
  • (Presenter) William P. Ruger, Charles Koch Institute;
  • (Presenter) Daniella Sarnoff, Social Science Research Council;
  • (Chair) Gretchen M. Bauer, University of Delaware

Session Description:

External funding is important not only because it supports research, but because it plays an important role in promoting other aspects of a scholar’s professional development.  Panel participants represent a variety of funding opportunities covering research, teaching, and professional development in the U.S. and abroad.  They will discuss the activities they support, the type of applicants they are looking for, and the process for applying.

In addition, the panel will cover how external funding opportunities—whether they be grants or fellowships—can benefit professional development. From promoting research, to providing critical feedback, to expanding collaborative networks, external funding organizations can be important partners for scholars beyond the specific opportunities that they fund.

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Jan E. Leighley, National Science Foundation;
  • (Presenter) Reggie S. Sheehan, National Science Foundation;
  • (Presenter) Paul K. Huth, University of Maryland, College Park;
  • (Presenter) Mark S. Hurwitz, National Science Foundation;
  • (Presenter) Lee D. Walker, University of North Texas

Session Description:

This session provides an overview of current funding opportunities at the NSF.  Both current and past program officers will discuss the proposal review process and address attendees’ questions.

Virtual Mini-conference

Co-sponsored by Division 32: Race, Ethnicity and Politics and Division 31: Women, Gender, and Politics Research

Panel 1:

  • Intersectional Praxis and Solidarity Intersectional Advocacy: How She Reconfigures the State Margaret Teresa Brower
  • Moving Beyond Trickle-Down Intersectionality (or Why Protest Can Only Get “the” Women’s Movement So Far) Zakiya Luna
  • Intersectionality, Social Justice, and Activism Ethel Tungohan and Fernando Tormos-Aponte
  • Intersectional Movement Building: A Case Study on the National Domestic Workers Alliance Megan Unden

Panel 2:

  • Latinx and Latin American Intersectional Praxis Developing a Mestiza Consciousness: Interrogating Latina Intersectional Identities and Praxis Celeste Montoya
  • ¿El pueblo unido?: Immigrant Organizing, Intersectional Solidarity, and Demobilization Ramón Garibaldo Valdez
  • Exploring the Campaigns for Equal Marriage in Uruguay and Argentina Erica Townsend-Bell
  • Intergroup Dialogue in Faith Communities and Tensions over Immigration Felipe A. Filomeno

Panel 3:

  • Burdens and Risks of Intersectional Activism How the Punishment of Black Women Affects the Civic and Political Participation of Black Women Sally A. Nuamah
  • The Lonely Activist Akwugo Emejulu and Leah Bassel
  • Privilege and Protest: Race, Gender, and Political Responses to Threat Jenn M. Jackson

Panel 4:

  • Intersectional Agency and Structure How Policy Structure Shapes the Politics of Intersectionality and Mobilization Jennifer Hochschild and Kirsten Walters
  • An Intersectional Analysis of BLM Movement and its Implications for American Democracy Natasha Behl
  • Intersectional Advocacy and Activism in Time, and in Crisis Chaya Crowder, Maraam Dwidar, Ashley English, Mary Kroeger, Katie Marchetti, and Dara Z. Strolovitch
  • Understanding Democracy through an Intersectional Lens: Class, Race and Gender and the Extension of the Franchise Lee Ann Banaszak

Panel 5:

  • Intersectional Mobilization and Representation Representing a Movement: Congresswomen’s Issue Uptake of the 2017 #MeToo Movement Kristen Essel
  • Social Movements or Elected Politicians? Ethnic/Racial Minoritized Citizens’ Assessments of Their Political Representation in the Netherlands Judith de Jong and Liza Mügge
  • Community and Connections: Black Lives Matter’s influence on Black women STL-area lawmakers Nadia Brown

Panel 6:

  • Intersectional Consciousness and Coalition Politics The ABB, SNCC, and BLM and Intersectionality: Between black radical tradition & Intersectionality Darryl C. Thomas
  • Black Gay Everyman: The Subject of AIDS Marcus Lee
  • On Publicity and Publication: Intersectionality, Autonomy, and Authority in Lesbian Feminist Publishing, 1976-1989 Elena Gambino
  • Is intersectional racial justice organizing possible in the UK? Confronting generic intersectionality Ashlee Christoffersen


Co-Sponsored by Indigenous Studies Network

This year, APSA calls for proposals that promote pluralism across multiple dimensions.  The Indigenous Politics Mini-Conference embraces this call.  The scholarship in the Mini-Conference is multimethod and advances dialogue across subfields.   We value the 2021 Theme Statement’s recognition that “diversity of our scholars in terms of racial and ethnic background, nationality, gender, sexuality, and gender expression, institutions and professional career stage contributes to knowledge and ways of understanding the world.”  

We acknowledge that APSA has planned to gather in 2021 on the unceded land of the Duwamish people at QulXáqabeexW, a place also known as downtown Seattle, alongside the shared waters of the Duwamish, Puyallup, Suquamish, Tulalip, and Muckleshoot nations.

(Mini-Conference Organizer) Laura E. Evans, University of Washington

Proposed Participants and Paper Titles:

Panel I: Roundtable: Settler Colonialism, Indigenous Politics, and Political Science: Critical Histories and New Directions

The Mini-Conference opens with a roundtable to discuss the discipline’s recent and future engagement with settler colonial and Indigenous studies. It is designed to cultivate disciplinary pluralism by bringing together scholars from across subfields, methodological and epistemological traditions, and with varying regional expertise to address areas that have long been underrepresented in political science. After recent critical accounts of disciplinary neglect and erasure, and amid a broader interdisciplinary surge of interest in settler colonialism and Indigeneity, what developments have there been in different sectors of political science?

Chair: Kennan Ferguson University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee


  • Kouslaa Kessler-Mata, University of San Francisco
  • Kevin Bruyneel, Babson Colleg
  • Tulia Falleti, University of Pennsylvania
  • Nathaniel Shils University of Pennsylvania
  • Sheryl Lightfoot, University of British Columbia
  • Marcela Torres Wong, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO) Mexico

Panel II: Self-Definition is Self-Determination:  Indigenous Political Identity
The second panel focuses on Indigenous political identity, which is shaped by varying experiences of sovereignty, colonialism, and racism.  Also, Indigenous political identity has been the target of potent nation-state campaigns of subjugation and erasure.  These papers consider how Indigenous peoples today define their political identity.  Indigenous self-definition is an act of self-determination that engages and challenges the past and ongoing agendas of nation-states.  With awareness of Indigenous epistemologies, these scholars deconstruct and reconstruct both quantitative and qualitative research methods.  

Chair:  Thomas Klemm, University of Michigan


  • Edgar Franco Vivianco, University of Michigan
  • Kevin Bruyneel, Babson College

Voting Reservations: The Identity Politics of Land

  • John Burnett (presenting co-author), University of California, Riversid
  • Loren Collingwood, University of New Mexico
  • Sean Long, University of California, Riverside

Towards a Decolonial Quantitative Social Science: Indigenous Self-Identification in the 2019 Native Hawaiian Survey

  • Ngoc Phan (presenting co-author), Hawaii Pacific University
  • Kevin Lee, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Like Water Slipping Through Cracks in a Basket: Teaching and Learning Yurok at Hoopa Valley High School, California

Mneesha Gellman, Emerson College

What are ‘Indigenous problems’ represented to be in the long-term care policies in Taiwan’?

Wasiq Silan, University of Helsinki

Panel III: Indigenous Political Participation:  Harnessing Influence and Affecting Change
The third panel centers on Indigenous political participation.  The papers consider how Indigenous peoples choose to use their votes and their political organizing skills.  The papers also examine how other political actors may facilitate new political opportunities for Indigenous participants or may erect barriers.

Chair: Andrew Szarejko, University of Cincinnati


  • Mneesha Gellman, Emerson College
  • Tessa Provins, University of Pittsburgh

Native American Voting in the 2020 Election

  • Gabriel Sanchez, (presenting co-author), University of New Mexico
  • Raymond Foxworth, First Nations Development Institute

Voting by Mail: A Comparison Between the Access of Rural White and Reservation Populations in Arizona

  • Jean Reith Schroedel (presenting co-author), Claremont Graduate University
  • Joseph Dietrich, Claremont Graduate University
  • Kara Mazareas, Claremont Graduate University
  • Melissa Rogers, Claremont Graduate University

Politics of Coalition Building: An Examination of the Indigenous and Black Movements in the U.S.

  • Danielle Hiraldo (presenting co-author), Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona
  • Miriam Jorgensen, Native Nations Institute, University of Arizona

Diplomacy as Representation: Congress, Indian Nations, and Legislative Success

Kirsten Matoy Carlson (solo author), Wayne State University

Panel IV. Indigenous Autonomy and Sovereignty:  Practices of Governance

The fourth panel considers Indigenous sovereignty, which operates in the face of nation-state policies that undermine and challenge Indigenous rights.  In addition, as Indigenous peoples reject nation-state threat and impositions, they make choices about how they will define and exercise sovereign practice.  This panels considers the obstacles that nation-states have created for Indigenous sovereignty, and the choices that Indigenous peoples make about how they apply their sovereignty.  

Chair:  Laura E. Evans, University of Washington


  • Kouslaa Kessler-Mata, University of San Francisco
  • Nina McMurry, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Historical Failure of the IHS and the Restoration of Healthcare Sovereignty

  • Dr. Joseph Dietrich (presenting co-author), California State Polytechnic University, Pomona,
  • Jamaica Baccus-Crawford, Claremont Graduate University
  • Kara Mazareas, Claremont Graduate University
  • Dr. Jean Reith Schroedel, Claremont Graduate University

The Search for Native American Political Development

Thomas Klemm, University of Michigan

Indigenous’ Land Rights and Contentious Politics in Africa: The Case of Uganda

Matthew Mitchell, University of Saskatchewan

Urban Autonomy: Moving Toward a Cosmopolitan Idea of Indigeneity

Elizabeth Camacho, Arizona State University

Per-capita payments and tribal governance

  • Paasha Mahdavi (presenting co-author), University of California—Santa Barbara
  • Adam Crepelle, Southern University Law Center
  • Dominic Parker, University of Wisconsin—Madison

Panel V: Native Lands, Native Waters:  The Politics of Climate Change and Native Nations

The fifth panel focuses on Indigenous peoples and climate change.  The papers consider the political opportunities and obstacles that Indigenous peoples must confront in climate change mitigation and adaptation politics.   Indigenous peoples’ response to climate change is influenced by past and present actions of nation-states, by international organizations, and by specific political resources that Native nations have cultivated.

Chair:  Arturo Chang, Williams College


  • Rick Witmer, Creighton University
  • Ngoc Phan, Hawaii Pacific University

Indigenous Influence in Global Climate Governance

Fernando Tormos-Aponte,  University of Maryland —  Baltimore County

Political Recognition, Resource Access, and Indigenous Environmental Governance in America

Clifton Cottrell (solo author), University of Maryland, Citizen of the Cherokee Nation

The Determinants of Governmental Responses to Climate Change? An Examination of Indigenous Nations

Tessa Provins, University of Pittsburgh

Climate Policies of Native American Casino Industry

  • Laura E. Evans (presenting co-author), University of Washington
  • Nives Dolsak, University of Washington


In-Person Created Panel
Co-sponsored by Division 30: Urban Politics


  • (Discussant) Amber Wichowsky, Marquette University;
  • (Discussant) Tony Affigne, Providence College; (Chair) Amber Wichowsky, Marquette University

Session Description:

The movement for racial justice is taking place on the streets and in the neighborhoods of cities across the world. In the United States, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked new momentum for police reform, accountability of law enforcement, and housing reforms. Yet these calls for racial justice are not new, and have been active at the grassroots throughout American history. This panel examines how very local political factors — district attorneys and sheriffs’ offices, local police departments, grassroots political organizations, and even block parties — shape political engagement and the quest for racial justice. Importantly, they draw attention to important political and social factors, including partisanship, citizen empowerment, political networks and social capital in shaping political participation and prospects for reform. By drawing from diverse methodological and theoretical approaches, this panel uncovers the local roots of political life in the United States

This panel highlights the diversity of political life in American cities and towns. For example, “Criminal Justice, Inequality, and Voter Behavior” is a comprehensive study of inequalities in local criminal justice politics. The paper examines Americans’ voting behavior in elections for local prosecutors and sheriffs using both election results across the country and original surveys of Americans at the national-level and in 11 individual cities and counties. Focusing on police reform, “Local Government: Social Accountability and #Black Lives Matter” introduces a new model of police accountability that focuses on horizontal ties and citizen empowerment. Though not explicitly about race, “Shared Space, Social Capital and Voter Turnout: Block Parties in Philadelphia” also emphasizes the importance of horizontal linkages and social capital, finding that they have a causal impact on voter turnout. Finally, drawing from participant observation research, “Grassroots Political Organizations in American Political Development” explains how grassroots organizations in the Deep South contribute to policy making in a federal system.

This set of papers highlights the surprising and pluralistic spaces of politics, which include activist organizations in the Deep South, Black Lives Matter protests across the country, block parties in Philadelphia, and district attorneys’ offices. Moreover, they require diverse methodological tools. In line with the meeting theme “Promoting Pluralism,” this panel puts participant observers, survey researchers, content analysts, and spatial data experts in conversation with one another to discuss the quest for racial justice, one of the most important political challenges of our time. It will highlight the power and potential of local interventions, choices, and movements to driving progress and transforming American society and politics from below.


Criminal Justice, Inequality, and Voter Behavior
Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, Harvard University; John M. Sides, Vanderbilt University; Christopher Warshaw, George Washington University

The movement for racial justice and protest of police killings in 2020 put renewed focus on the local political offices that oversee law enforcement and criminal justice. These offices – district attorneys and sheriffs, for the most part – are elected in thousands of cities and counties across the United States. Yet little work has assessed how much sheriffs and district attorneys reflect the views of the voters who elect them, as well as how much ideology and attitudes about criminal justice shape voters’ choices for these offices. As a result, the potential for substantial inequalities in representation by these officials remains largely unexamined. In this project, we conduct a comprehensive study of inequalities in local criminal justice politics. We examine Americans’ voting behavior in elections for local prosecutors and sheriffs using both election results across the country from the past decade and original surveys of Americans at the national-level and in 11 individual cities and counties. We find that attitudes about criminal justice policies have large partisan divides, and that these attitudes do shape voting decisions. Moreover, we find substantial differences in criminal justice attitudes between voters and non-voters in local elections, suggesting that inequalities in turnout may worsen effective representation. Thus, our findings demonstrate how elections fail to remedy biases in representation of attitudes about criminal justice and policing, despite the increasing salience of these biases.

Grassroots Political Organizations in American Political Development
Gwen Prowse, Yale University

The COVID-19 pandemic and mass protests of police violence have highlighted the role of local grassroots political organizations and the myriad ways they shape political discourse and outcomes. Yet little is known about how small, grassroots political organizations form or the role that they play in promoting policy agendas within a federalist system; nor are there many theories explaining the conditions under which such organizations coalesce into what is conventionally described as a social movement. This paper uses one-year of participant observation and in-depth interviews with a multi-racial coalition of 30 activist organizations in a large city in the Deep South. I thematically code and analyze these interviews to identify conditions under which grassroots political leaders form organizations and choose certain political strategies, including when and how to form coalitions and associate with broader movements. I accompany these interviews with an original dataset of contemporary grassroots political organizations in three states in the Deep South. This analysis yields two findings from which I theorize. First, local grassroots political actors are heavily networked and engage in what I term “issue delegation” to discern organizational gaps in what are often intersecting political issues at the local or regional level (e.g., affordable housing, community safety, environmental justice). Second, grassroots political coalitions form during the opening of a policy window not only to pool resources, but also to intentionally strengthen the dimensionality of a political issue and policy demand. These findings build on a foundation from which we may better understand the role of local grassroots political groups in American Political Development.

Local Government: Social Accountability and #Black Lives Matter
Rosa Castillo Krewson; Lorita Daniels

Local police departments in the U.S. are facing increasing pressures for accountability after all recent events surrounding police misconduct and the use of unnecessary force in police work. All over the country, there have been cases of police misuse of their authority and unresponsiveness to the needs of the citizens, which led to many African Americans being killed between 2014-2020.  In a more recent cases in 2020, the killing of George Floyd, officers were charged with second-degree murder while the other three officers were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.  However, in the killing of Philando Castile, the officer was initially charge, but was acquitted of all charges after five days of deliberation. If the mechanisms of accountability are artificially applied because of an absence of answerable discipline created by the blue walls of silence in the police culture, then we have a problem.  It is a significant problem for citizens who may have experienced police misconduct or police corruption of that jurisdiction or entity.  It is a problem not only because of the trust and accountability issues that the jurisdiction must face going forward, but because of the reputational or judicial impact to the jurisdiction resulting from the misuse of power in the police departments.   That misuse of power, could be deliberately ignored through administrative or political means, may cause adverse impacts due to the failure of the mechanism to hold police accountable for their actions at both the federal and local government levels. However, there is little evidence or understanding of how citizens can exact power to hold public officials accountable and answerable for their actions in local governments.    The article extends the literature on accountability by examining the impact of citizen empowerment on social accountability. Because accountability usually involves the obligation of government officials to answer for their performance (Mulgan, 2019; Gregory, 2017; Bovens, 2007; Dubnick, 1998), and is often seen as the principal and agent relationship, it is easy to understand how accountability could be internal checks and balances that ensure that government carries out their duties appropriately and are held accountable if they fail to do so (United Nations, 2011)—using accountability mechanisms such as administrative and political is likely more useful in the public sector than any other forms of accountability mechanisms and one may be less hidden than the other. It also examines how the lack of accountability hampers the proper operations of public institutions and oversight board that were designed to ensure public officials were held accountable for their actions and decisions.   This article argues that by expanding our focus from the traditional forms of accountability to the more demand-driven accountability, or social accountability, we are able to examine other forms of controls relying on the actions of citizens and organizations to hold public officials accountable.

Shared Space, Social Capital and Voter Turnout: Block Parties in Philadelphia
Michael Jones-Correa, University of Pennsylvania; Tanika Raychaudhuri, Princeton University

Along with their socio-economic resources, the “strong ties” of individuals’ family and friends are key predictors of political engagement.  But most interactions in individuals’ daily lives are with acquaintances, colleagues at work, and neighbors.  How do these “weak ties” shape individuals’ political participation?  Using geocoded Census and voting data, and drawing on a unique dataset of city permits for neighborhood “block parties” in Philadelphia over time, this study explores the ways one-off community events that draw neighbors together such as block parties may influence individuals’ voting behavior.  Initial analysis of these data suggest that neighborhood block parties are positively associated with individual level voting.  Taking advantage of the fact that some blocks may request permits some years and not others, the data also allow for causal inference directly linking neighborhoods’ “weak ties,” indicated by block parties, with individual voter turnout.  This research suggests that even casual interactions among individuals in shared spaces shape political engagement.

Virtual Created Panel


  • (Chair) Matthew H Graham, Yale University;
  • (Discussant) Jennifer Jerit, Stony Brook University;
  • (Discussant) Scott Clifford, University of Houston

Session Description:

A great deal of research relies on survey measures of misperceptions and misinformed beliefs. What are we measuring and how should we measure it? This panel presents four answers to this question. Each paper highlights an important measurement challenge and proposes an empirical solution.


Reconsidering Political Knowledge and Misinformation
Robert C. Luskin, University of Texas, Austin; Gaurav Sood, Independent

Knowledge has long been a central variable in the study of mass politics. Misinformation is now also drawing sadly deserved attention. But separating each from ignorance and mere, unconfident belief requires drawing conceptual lines and poses operational challenges. Conceptually, we identify five belief states—knowledge, correct belief, ignorance, incorrect belief, and misinformation—distinguished on the basis of the presence or absence of relevant cognition, the confidence with which that cognition is held, and its correctness or incorrectness. Operationally, we trace expectable relationships between correct, incorrect, and DK responses, on the one hand, and knowledge, misinformation, ignorance, and mere correct or incorrect belief, on the other.   Much in the measurement of both knowledge and misinformation depends on the items deployed. We argue that the near universal multiple-choice format (including true-false as a special case) is inappropriate, inevitably overstating both knowledge and misinformation. Here we urge a superior approach, focused on the respondent’s confidence that given propositions are true or false. Using data from several original surveys, we offer evidence of this approach’s superiority to conventional, multiple choice measures; examine the differences between knowledge and mere correct belief, between misinformation and mere incorrect belief, and between mere belief and ignorance; and, finally, sketch the behavior of knowledge and misinformation (and mere correct and mere incorrect belief), so measured, in relation to participation and choice.

Measuring Misperceptions?
Matthew H Graham, Yale University

Survey data are commonly cited as evidence of widespread misperceptions among the general public. Using five studies covering a wide range of subject matter, this paper shows that survey measures rarely, if ever, succeed in identifying respondents whose true beliefs are consistent with prevailing descriptions of misperceptions and misinformed beliefs. Respondents who claim to be 100 percent certain of falsehoods about well-studied topics like President Obama’s birth certificate, vaccine side effects, and COVID-19’s origin are no more temporally stable in their responses than are respondents who claim to be certain that the incorrect party controls Congress or that electrons are larger than atoms. A short frame-of-reference training exercise reduces this form of measurement error. The findings recast existing evidence as to the prevalence, predictors, correction, and consequences of misperceptions.

The Prevalence and Consequences of Certainty in Political Misperceptions
Brian Guay, Duke University

There is widespread concern today that much of the public is misinformed, holding factually inaccurate beliefs that they believe to be correct. However, few studies to date have measured the certainty with which political beliefs are held. Those that do often use methods that cannot meaningfully distinguish actual beliefs from uncertain guesses and have led to differing conclusions about the prevalence of certainty in inaccurate beliefs. In this paper I introduce a new measure of certainty that provides meaningful context to existing self-report measures of certainty and adjusts for differential item functioning (i.e., differences in how respondents use response scales). I show that past work exaggerates the degree to which the public is misinformed and that inaccurate beliefs are four times more likely to represent uncertain guesses than actual beliefs. I then provide the first empirical test of the widespread expectation that certain beliefs are more likely to resist correction and influence attitudes than uncertain ones. The findings presented here have implications for how researchers interpret findings from the growing body of research that documents and attempts to correct misperceptions.

A Multilevel Approach to COVID-19 Misperceptions
Jianing Li, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Michael W. Wagner, University of Wisconsin, Madison

There is growing recognition of the importance to go beyond unidimensional strategies to measure misperception (e.g., a single Likert scale). Li and Wagner (2020) recently highlighted the utility of studying both the dimension of belief accuracy and the dimension of belief certainty (see also Pasek, Sood, and Krosnick 2015; Graham, 2020). Even these advances, however, continue to treat misinformation as a purely individual-level issue. Although individual-level factors like partisanship and partisan media use are found to be robust contributors to misperceptions, the formation of misperceptions is an inherently multilevel problem. In April 2020, we conducted an online survey with 2,139 U.S. adult respondents living in counties with differing numbers of local newspapers (0, 1, 2+) and COVID-19 cases (but otherwise share similar demographic features). We examined how misperceptions (including belief accuracy and certainty) related to COVID-19 are shaped by the intricate relationships between individual-level partisanship, media trust and contextual variances in one’s local information environment and local public health conditions, casting a revealing light upon how misinformation operates within different critical political and social contexts.

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Heather L Ondercin, Appalachian State University;
  • (Presenter) Daniel Q. Gillion, University of Pennsylvania;
  • (Presenter) Amber Mackey, University of Pennsylvania;
  • (Presenter) Melina Much, UC Irvine;
  • (Presenter) Heather L Ondercin, Appalachian State University;
  • (Presenter) Lorrie Frasure, UCLA;
  • (Presenter) Janelle Wong

Session Description:

The study of race, ethnicity, gender raises epistemology questions and methodological considerations.  Race, ethnicity, and gender are often studied at the individual level as identities.  However, they are also institutions that shape the larger contextual environment.  Moreover, race, ethnicity, and gender do not exist in isolation requiring our methods to account for their intersection. Careful consideration of our methodical choices’ impact is critical to ensuring that the knowledge produced by social science research is both equitable and inclusive.

The empirical study of political science seeks to develop knowledge through observation and identifying systematic patterns in data.  As a discipline, political science has long embraced the myth that our modes of inquiry are value-neutral and unbiased.  However, our understanding of politics is fundamentally shaped by how those observations are made and how those systematic patterns are identified.  For example, our understanding of voting behavior in the United States has a white male bias due to the survey research used to develop our theories.  Some of the earliest studies had a limited number of women respondents because women were assumed not to be politically active. If active, women were allowed to follow their husband’s political direction.  Moreover, standard sampling techniques meant that the number of racial and ethnic minorities was so limited it was impossible to identify systematic patterns in their behavior.  Analysis of heterogeneity within gender, racial, and ethnic groups was next to impossible. How we observed political behavior fundamentally influenced what we know about politics.  This round table will discuss the unique challenges associated with researching race, ethnicity, and gender in order to develop a more inclusive understanding of politics.  We will address how embracing the study of race, ethnicity, and gender should not be done in isolation. We contend that political science needs to develop methods to study politics that understand race, ethnicity, and gender relationally and contextually.

Virtual Full Paper Panel


  • (Chair) Aya Kachi, University of Basel;
  • (Discussant) Alison Craig, University of Texas, Austin;
  • (Discussant) Matthew C. Ingram, University at Albany, SUNY

Session Description:

This theme panel reflects the APSA Annual Meeting’s theme of Promoting Pluralism. The theme panel brings together four sets of authors presenting papers on differing approaches for dealing with methodological complexities presented by data. The four papers are unified by a focus on alternative modeling approaches for addressing dependent data.


Vera Eva Troeger, University of Warwick

The problem of endogeneity is ubiquitous in the empirical analysis of social phenomena. Social, political and economic processes are complex and this implies that everything depends on everything else. Yet, our theories and empirical models are notoriously under-determined and often do not take into account causal heterogeneity across units and over time. Endogeneity comes in different shades: unobservables, selection, simultaneity, co-determination, reversed causality and many more. The empirical examples are manifold from institutions and economic growth to wage and performance. The underlying problem is the unobservability of counterfactuals. The identification revolution in the social sciences has understood this very problem and the simple solution is random assignment to treatment, or the simulation of this. However, not all research questions that are of interest lend themselves to this simple solution and if they do, questions of external validity and generalizability arise. This paper discusses these issues, the theoretical and empirical solutions and the problems these solutions create. I will theoretically discuss and empirically investigate the performance of endogeneity tests and show that they are rather part of the problem than the solution. I will discuss the merits of instrumental variable approaches as well as exploiting variance over time with fixed effects and first-difference models as proposed solutions to endogeneity.

A Unified Framework for Dynamic Causal Inference
Suzanna Linn, Pennsylvania State University; Clayton McLaughlin Webb, University of Kansas

The growing interest in causal inference has been one of the most noteworthy trends in political methodology over the last twenty years. Causal inference encompasses a wide array of estimation strategies but there are important commonalities among the various methods. Most approaches reduce the causal inference problem to the evaluation of a single-shot treatment on an outcome of interest at a single point in time. Through clever data manipulation and design strategies, the analyst attempts to recover an exact causal effect of a treatment on an outcome, as opposed to satisficing for mere evidence of a treatment effect. While this turn in political methodology has produced a number of important insights, it is not clear that the standard framework for causal inference is well suited to the empirical problems we face today. While many of the popular data strategies deployed for causal inference tend to ignore temporal variation, time is one of the most important dimensions of the new social science data. The big data revolution is producing large volumes of data collected from commercial transactions, social media platforms, and continuous monitoring sensors. This has produced a veritable explosion of high-resolution time series data. As access to longitudinal social media, text, and event data continues to progress; the continued utility of single-shot causal identification strategies is more and more in question. This chapter elucidates a general framework for dynamic causal inference. This endeavor has three components. First, innovation in this space has been hindered by differences in the complex nomenclature used in both time series analysis and causal inference. Some concepts, like Granger causality and causal identification, seem to be related when they are not. Some concepts, like weak exogeneity and exchangeability, are related in important ways that are not readily obvious. For scholars that have spent more time and energy focusing on either time series problems or causal inference problems, these differences in nomenclature represent important barriers to progress and for political scientists that are unfamiliar with both of these areas of research, these nomenclatures represent significant barriers to entry. Our first goal is to resolve confusion around critical concepts in an attempt to lay a foundation for causal inquiry. Our second task is to outline the contours of the framework. Most of this work has already been done for us. Time series econometricians have been wrestling with the problems created by dynamic systems for decades. The novel element of this exposition is our effort to place existing causal identification strategies in their appropriate context. Most human phenomena of interest exist is dynamic systems where they cause and are caused by other human phenomena. In some circumstances, causal sequences within these systems can be identified. Single shot causal identification strategies can be effectively deployed in some of these contexts. In many circumstances, however, these causal identification strategies are inappropriate and efforts to apply these methods to dynamic systems produce misleading inferences. The framework we present describes when and how these dynamic systems can be restricted for causal identification, outlines the limits of traditional approaches to causal inference, and highlights new estimands of interest. Our final task is to prescribe existing methods for causal inference within this framework. Where sequential cuts are plausible, many of the popular tools for causal inference can be applied. Where they are not, time series analysts have developed an alternative class of inferential strategies which can be theoretically informative. Tests for Granger causality, Sims causality, Structural causality, and other procedures that have been developed for policy analysis provide a set of tools that can be deployed in these contexts. Some facilitate what proponents of causal identification would call causal inference and some do not. The inferential limitations of some of these tools do not reflect an indolence among time series analysts or an ignorance of the importance of causal identification, but an awareness that some causal relationships cannot be easily reduced to simple cause and effect connections. Understanding which methods can be applied in which circumstances is critical to ensuring that the causal inference movement does not come to a sudden halt as it begins to come to terms with new challenges presented by the ever-growing volumes of dynamic data.

The Network Science of Public Policy Diffusion
Ishita Gopal, The Pennsylvania State University; Bruce Desmarais, Pennsylvania State University

Public policy diffusion is a process that connects policymakers, advocates, and publics across political institutions and jurisdictions. The sociopolitical structure that best represents such connections is the network. Network structures and processes were at the cores of the classic and foundational theoretical works on public policy diffusion. However, for decades, due in large part to methodological norms and limitations, network analysis was not a common approach to the study of policy diffusion. This divide between theory and method has been narrowing rapidly over the last decade. Network science, in which network theory and analytical methods are integrated, is an emerging, and now represents a relatively common approach to the study of policy diffusion. In this paper we present three related discussions. First, we review the early theoretical and empirical work on policy distribution that laid the groundwork for the development of a network science of policy diffusion. Second, we discuss the recent empirical and theoretical advances that reflect the development of network-analytic approaches to the study of policy diffusion. Third, we discuss opportunities for future development in the network science of policy diffusion. We conclude that, over a relatively short time, the network scientific approach has led to several important contributions in the study of public policy diffusion, and that network science represents a robust and promising approach to policy diffusion research.

Harnessing the Power of Event History, Spatial, and Network Analysis
David Darmofal, University of South Carolina

Dependent data are frequently a feature of the event processes that social scientists seek to model. Conditional on covariates, units continue to exhibit dependencies due to factors such as geographic proximity and shared network ties. These dependencies present both complications and opportunities for social scientists seeking to understand inherently social event processes. This paper explores frontiers of event history research on spatial and network analyses and how survival modeling can benefit from approaches that incorporate and integrate both spatial and network approaches. Despite their shared interest in dependent data, to date research on spatial and network survival models has largely developed on independent paths. This has led to different research foci in both sets of event history approaches. For example, spatial survival models often treat dependencies as a nuisance to be accounted for via frailty modeling approaches. Conversely, relational models in survival network analyses often seek to provide substantive explanations of processes of network tie formation. This paper charts paths for a greater integration of these two sets of survival modeling approaches. It explores how the social selection models of network tie formation employed by de Nooy (2011) and other scholars can be advanced by incorporating spatial weighting functions examined by spatial analysts. The paper also examines how endogenous spatial dependencies can be incorporated more directly into survival modeling approaches rather than the current standard spatial frailty modeling approach. The paper also examines how approaches integrating spatial and network analyses, such as Hays, Kachi, and Franzese (2010), can be extended to the event history setting.

In-Person Full Paper Panel


  • (Chair) Joshua A. Tucker, New York University;
  • (Discussant) Ronald R. Krebs, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities;
  • (Discussant) Jacob Norman Shapiro, Princeton University

Session Description:

The deliberate misuse of information has increasingly become a salient feature of domestic politics and foreign policy in recent years, especially with the advent of misinformation campaigns, “fake news,” and foreign interference operations. As democracies face internal political battles fueled by disinformation, authoritarian regimes are also increasingly turning to information operations as a tool of geopolitical influence. This panel convenes four papers that examine, both theoretically and empirically, how the misuse of information shifts the nature of great power competition in the realm of international security, as well as the functioning of democratic political processes.

The first two papers examine how authoritarian peer competitors, notably Russia and China, can use external propaganda to target democracies and their political processes therein. Goldstein expands on the concept of “influence operations,” which have been undertheorized in international relations and security studies: what the constituent components are, how influence operations differ from other forms of statecraft, their significance for the field, and the path forward for research. Wong develops the notion of “informational statecraft” to analyze how China manipulates the information environments of diaspora populations within democracies, and uses external propaganda in efforts to mobilize diasporas for foreign policy goals and undermine internal democratic cohesion.

The second set of papers examine the consequences of misinformation on domestic governance and democratic representation. Lin looks at how leaders can use disinformation in the form of “whataboutism” narratives to deflect and dismiss the loss of national prestige by pointing out that other peer competitors or rising challengers are suffering from the same problems. Kreps analyzes how advances in machine learning have created synthetic texts which can be used to manufacture inauthentic constituency positions, and how this use of misinformation can undermine political representation and distort democratic governance.

Taken together, the papers provide new theoretical frameworks to understand the role of misinformation in both international security and domestic politics, drawing on multi-method evidence from experiments, text analysis, and case studies. The findings presented in this panel make contributions to understanding information as a new arena of great power contestation and how the misuse of information has created additional stresses on democratic political processes.


Interstate Influence Operations and International Security Studies
Joshua A. Goldstein, University of Oxford

In the aftermath of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, influence operations have become a central focus among policymakers, foreign policy pundits, and publics alike. Yet, influence operations remain under-explored and under-theorized in the international security studies literature. Existing studies diverge over how to define influence operations, and few studies in top journals of political science, international relations, or security studies focus on the topic. I engage in concept building by constructing a definition in component parts and showing how influence operations differ from related forms of statecraft. I then argue that security studies scholars should pay greater attention to influence operations for two reasons. First, influence operations are policy-relevant and will likely remain so for three reasons: they are cost effective, foreign propagandists are prone to inflate their impact, and they are difficult to deter. Second, studying influence operations can contribute to the academic discipline of security studies by helping to expand restrictive notions of state power and challenge dominant models of foreign policy decision-making by problematizing the domestic/foreign divide. I conclude by addressing likely counterarguments and charting possible avenues for a security studies research agenda on influence operations.

Informational Statecraft and Diaspora Mobilization
Audrye Wong, Harvard University

Authoritarian regimes such as Russia and China are weaponizing the flow of information to alter public discourse and interfere in democratic political processes – what I call “informational statecraft”. Building on its considerable experience with domestic propaganda and information control, China is increasingly applying its authoritarian influence efforts in foreign countries. This includes renewed targeting of diaspora communities. Despite these communities’ heterogeneity, they are often perceived to be instruments of Beijing — both by host country governments and by the Chinese government. I ask two key questions on the use of informational statecraft for diaspora mobilization. First, how does the Chinese government shape the flow of information to overseas communities? Second, what are the informational narratives propagated by Beijing to shape diasporic attitudes and behavior? To answer these questions, I draw on Chinese-language primary documents, text analysis, and case study evidence from two ‘most different’ cases, Australia and Malaysia, where diaspora mobilization has been politically salient. I characterize the economic and political tools used to manipulate diaspora populations’ information environments and show how politically-independent media outlets have been largely muscled-out, leaving Beijing-aligned information sources dominant. Additionally, text analysis of overseas Chinese-language platforms shows that a major goal of the Chinese Communist Party is to drive a wedge between diaspora communities and their host societies, pushing narratives of host-country ethnic discrimination and the shortcomings of host countries’ democratic political systems. The paper’s findings advance theoretical understandings of how authoritarian regimes can use informational tools – specifically in the context of diaspora populations – to simultaneously pursue foreign policy objectives and undermine internal democratic cohesion. This has implications for understanding a theoretically underspecified and rapidly evolving arena of great power competition between the United States and China.

Managing Status Loss: Damage-Limitation through Whataboutism
Alex Yu-Ting Lin, University of Southern California

Existing scholarship suggests that states are sensitive to episodes in which their international status – prestige, influence, and ranking – are compromised (i.e., status loss). Conventional wisdom suggests that leaders can deal with these episodes of status loss in front of their domestic audience by striving for achievement elsewhere, such as joining prestigious international institutions, obtaining nuclear weapons, or initiating and winning interstate conflict against rising challengers or smaller states. In this paper, I highlight – and develop the theoretical basis of – a different strategy that leaders adopt: the use of “whataboutism” narratives to deflect and dismiss status loss. By pointing out that other countries such as the country’s primary competitor or other high-status peers are having the same problems, the strategy aims to convince the domestic audience that the episode of status loss is not as bad as it seems. As such, this is a way in which leaders can strategically use (dis)information to limit the damage that status loss creates by actively encouraging motivated reasoning among domestic constituents. Through a survey experiment, I find that respondents who are exposed to “whataboutism” narrative are less likely to regard potential episodes of status loss as harmful to the country’s international status. This research has implications for thinking about how leaders might manage status loss and perceptions of national decline. It also has implications for US domestic and foreign policy in the age of great power competition.

The Effect of Emerging Technologies on Democratic Governance
Sarah E. Kreps

Advances in machine learning have created natural language models that can mimic human writing style and substance. The technology can increase the efficiency of journalism but the ability to generate synthetic, yet not plagiarized text may also present challenges to democracy. While responsiveness to constituency preferences is both electorally wise and a definition of sound governance, using technology to manufacture inauthentic constituency positions is tantamount to unequal participation and influence. In this research, we conduct a field experiment in which we send both hand-written and machine-generated letters—across six policy issues and on the right and the left—to ~7200 state legislators to test the potential for advances in machine learning and text prediction to distort the process of democratic representation. We compare legislative response rates and tone for the authentic versus machine-generated constituency letters to gauge whether emerging technology can both approximate and scale up inauthentic constituency participation and manipulate democratic representation.

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Jennifer McCoy, Georgia State University;
  • (Presenter) Laura Gamboa, University of Utah;
  • (Presenter) Tom Ginsburg, University of Chicago;
  • (Presenter) Melis Gulboy Laebens, Yale University;
  • (Presenter) Adrienne LeBas, American University;
  • (Presenter) Tahmina Rahman;
  • (Presenter) Murat Somer, Koç University;
  • (Presenter) Andreas Ufen, German Institute of Global and Area Studies

Session Description:

This roundtable will discuss and illustrate how we need a comparative and integrative approach bringing together different methodological approaches in order to explain how democratic oppositions can stop and reverse autocratization in fully or partially democratic regimes.  An expanding body of research has been arguing in recent years that, first, democracy has been in retreat in the 21st century, even though some countries are still democratizing, and, second, that post-third wave autocratizations display some features different from previous eras. While previous work focused on incumbents, more recently, an emerging literature has been investigating how oppositions both contribute to and can help reverse autocratization. Research has asked, for example, through which strategies and actions institutions, opposition political parties, civil society and social movements can help overcome autocratization and related ills such as pernicious polarization. In this respect, various contributions have investigated what may be the best institutional policies, mobilization strategies, discourses and emotions to serve the cause of pro-democratic movements in contexts of autocratization. This research often demonstrates that successful and two-way cooperation among opposition actors at different levels of the pollical system, such as civil society, social movements and political parties, is crucial for opposition success. Furthermore, the chances of success of any opposition strategy depends on the particular stage and context of autocratization: it is an interactive process where the perceptions and responses of other actors is as crucial as the intentions of the agents employing these strategies.

Jennifer McCoy will chair the panel and introduce the topic. She has written extensively on pernicious polarization and democratic erosion and is now working on opposition strategies to overcome polarization and autocratization, with Murat Somer.

 Seven presenters in this roundtable will show how they combine different levels and methods in their own research and how their perspectives complement each other in order to reach a better understanding of opposition strategies. Adrienne LeBas will discuss how polarization and autocratization are shaped by the organizational resources available to opposition actors. Her approach highlights the utility of historical institutionalism as a method for understanding boundary creation, group solidarity, and regime outcomes. Tom Ginsburg’s presentation will be on whether and how international law can retard—and sometimes facilitate—autocratization.  He will present some large-n data, but will place emphasis on the qualitative dimension. Laura Gamboa will offer a nuanced overview on the combination between institutional/extra-institutional, radical/moderate strategies and the mechanisms by which these can hinder or help the potential autocrat erode democracy. She will discuss in detail the process tracing strategies –from the case selection, to the empirical implications, to the use of shadow cases to assess some of the scope conditions of her theory.

Andreas Ufen will discuss how various factors came together to enable the success of opposition strategies ahead of the 2018 elections in Malaysia. He will highlight the importance of the “day after” oppositions manage to unseat authoritarian incumbents and explain why the new government collapsed in 2020. Tahmina Rahman examines how civil society sympathizers of repressed political parties can help them propagate their policy agenda amid a restrictive information environment and reinforce partisan polarization, with a focus South Asia.  She uses quantitative content analysis and deep interviews.

Focusing on the 2019 elections in Istanbul, Turkey where the opposition was able to win, Melis Laebens will combine quantitative analysis of election results with survey analyis. The former will show who switched their votes from incumbent to oppositon and how polarization is not so stark in every demographic or political group, and supplement these findings with survey findings offering insights into the question of why. Finally, Murat Somer will discuss how the main challenges of democratic oppositions in autocratizing contexts are vertical and horizontal coordination among actors such as different political parties and social movements, as well as coordination of different discursive, emotional and mobilizational strategies. He will then argue that multilevel analysis and mixed methods are necessary to uncover and theorize when and how oppositions manage to meet these challenges.

Chair:  Jennifer McCoy, Professor, Georgia State University


  • Laura Gamboa, Asst Prof, University of Utah
  • Tom Ginsburg, Professor of Law, University of Chicago
  • Adrienne Lebas, Assoc Prof, American University
  • Melis Laebens, Post Doc, Oxford University
  • Tahmina Rahman, PhD Candidate, Georgia State University
  • Murat Somer, Professor, Koc University, Istanbul
  • Andreas Ufen,  Sr Research Fellow, GIGA, Hamburg, Germany

Full Paper Panel

Co-sponsored by Division 48: Health Politics & Health Policy

(Chair) Kim Yi Dionne, University of California, Riverside

Session Description:

COVID-19 has made clear how deeply political factors drive each element of the response to disease outbreaks—from initial public health surveillance to the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions like lockdowns to the creation and distribution of vaccines. The COVID-19 pandemic is far from unique on this front.  Cross-national differences in political contexts have long interacted with global power structures during disease outbreaks to produce highly uneven impacts and outcomes between and within countries. This panel explores the comparative and global politics of pandemics—the concurrent outbreak of an infectious disease across many countries. As they occur, biological phenomena uniquely expose political phenomena when simultaneous exposure to disease sparks social and government responses, allowing exploration of some striking similarities and glaring divergences. This panel takes a comparative approach across multiple axes—comparing across countries, time periods, and pandemics. Which theories help explain variation in policy choice and political reaction between countries faced with the same deadly disease? What explains differential public resistance to similar policies across sub-national and national units?  How does polarization and inequality explain responsiveness of governments to a rapidly spreading virus? What political factors drive differences in the interpretation of science and risk? These and other questions are explored in papers that look at pandemics ranging from Smallpox in the 19th Century to HIV in the late 20th/early 21st Century to the most recent decade’s pandemics of Ebola, Zika, and COVID-19.  Prerna Singh looks at divergent popular responses to the world’s first true vaccine (against Smallpox) and applies a historical institutionalist analysis to compare across subnational and national units of China and India. She shows how vaccines are less likely to be resisted if they are ideationally and institutionally embedded, which she links back to contemporary COIVD-19 politics.  Kavanagh and Wenham consider the idea of capacity and why all the current measures of pandemic preparedness and “global health security” have failed to predict effectiveness of responses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Looking at examples from Africa, Asia, North America, and Europe across COVID-19, AIDS, and Zika they offer an alternative definition and model of “political capacity” for pandemic response.  Willison, Singer and colleagues look at how the politics of credit and blame for disaster management intersect with elite party politics of a very polarized country, using SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and Zika in the United States to understand the politics of elite cueing and partisanship. Massard, Jarman, Greer and King explore cross-national variation in COVID-19 vaccination policies in places including Brazil, Russia, India, Brazil, Bahrain, Israel, the US and EU. Through these variations they explore a research agenda on the politics vaccines (how countries secure doses and the types of vaccines available for them) and vaccination (the political economy of allocation, territorial politics, and institutional legacies). Together these papers highlight understudied phenomena in comparative politics and add generalizable insights in public health politics and policy.


Cultural Embeddedness & Vaccine Hesitancy: Lessons From The First Ever Vaccine
Prerna Singh, Brown University

In recent years vaccine hesitancy—the delay in acceptance or refusal of available vaccines—has ballooned to become one of the gravest threats to public health across the world. The Covid-19 vaccine is unprecedented both for its pace of development and its potential to reign in a pandemic that has claimed millions of lives, wrecked livelihoods, and halted life as we know it. Yet the success of this scientific breakthrough hinges on societal willingness to vaccinate. What are the conditions under which people are more likely to accept a vaccine? History holds important lessons for this urgent question. This paper points to insights from an analysis of the popular reception of the world’s first ever vaccine, which coined the term itself . Variola vaccinae, the cowpox vaccine attributed to Edward Jenner,  provided immunity against the deadly human disease, smallpox, which is to date the only human disease to have been eradicated. The paper draws on case comparisons of the divergent popular responses to the vaccine across subnational units within and between the national units of China and India to show how vaccines are less likely to be resisted if they are ideationally and institutionally embedded.

Political Capacity for Pandemic Response
Matthew Kavanagh, Georgetown University

A pandemic similar to COVID-19 has been predicted for years—by everyone from the World Health Organization to the U.S. National Academy of Medicines to Bill Gates. This has led to extensive analysis about which countries have the greatest capacity to respond to a pandemic. Public health, social science, and international organization have offered clear answers, with multiple high-profile measures to compare countries on their “preparedness” to respond to disease outbreaks. During COVID-19, however, all of these measures failed to predict the countries that responded most effectively and those that failed to do so. We argue this stems from measures and discussions about global health security and preparedness that fail to take account of critical comparative political factors. We look at COVID-19, AIDS, Ebola, and Zika to construct a definition and model for “political capacity” in pandemic response which might better predict and explain the effectiveness of government response. We build on qualitative data from case-studies in South Africa, Brazil, South Korea, Thailand, the US and UK to understand the factors that drove government responsiveness or lack thereof in the face of cross-national infectious disease outbreaks. We include in this framework exploration of factors often suggested as variables in quantitative study (e.g. regime type) as well as more granular exploration of historical and institutional factors such as racism and economic inequality, recent experience with infectious diseases, relative political power of health-sector actors, and relationships between national governments and international institutions.   This work brings key insights from comparative politics and international relations to fill a surprising gap in global public health understanding. Following the SARS outbreak in 2003, UN member states revised the International Health Regulations in numerous ways, including a commitment by all to strengthen eight core public health and disease response capacities. Official Joint External Evaluations (JEEs), academic-think tank collaborations like the Global Health Security Index, and various World Bank and World Health Organization efforts have all sought to explain capacity. With none succeeding in explaining COVID-19 we argue a new concept of “capacity” is needed for both scholarship and practical purposes.

Democratic & Republican Disasters: SARS, H1N1, Ebola, and Zika & US Politics
Charley Willison, Harvard University; Phillip M. Singer, University of Utah

Disasters are natural sites for the politics of blame, avoidance, and credit claiming. How do the politics of credit and blame for disaster management intersect with elite party politics of a very polarized country? We use key public health emergencies of 21st century America to understand the politics of elite cueing and partisanship in general and in the increasingly important case of disaster response. Just how different are the parties, what influences the signals their elites send and voters hear, and how do these signals  change? To understand partisan policy differences and elite cueing of public opinion, we analyzed previous public health crises in the United States over the past two decades: the SARS epidemic, H1N1 influenza, and Ebola and Zika outbreaks. While all were smaller and more localized events than COVID19, they shed light on different partisan responses to public health crises. For elite cueing we use statements by federal-level politicians and partisan media to identify who spoke about disasters and what they said. For public opinion we rely on archived public opinion surveys. In elite cueing and public opinion, we are particularly interested in how partisanship is related to the politicization of the public health bureaucracy, or science, in the context of each epidemic overtime. We hypothesize that partisan credit claiming and blame in each epidemic may be increasingly related to the politicization of science, in line with growing differences between the parties over time on many issues related to public health, including trust in political institutions, ethnic antagonism, and preference for magical thinking.   Differences in the ways in which partisans discuss and perceive epidemics over time are important for public health as partisan responses may or may not align with the realities of public health need or threats. This risk is overwhelmingly evident in the age of COVID-19, but will be increasingly important with the rise of emerging infectious diseases due to anthropogenic climate change.

Vaccines and vaccinations: the comparative political economy of inoculation
Elize Massard da Fonseca, Fundação Getulio Vargas; Holly Jarman, University of Michigan; Scott L. Greer, University of Michigan

There has been an unprecedented global effort to develop an effective vaccine against the COVID-19. Also, never before has the World Health Organization made such an enormous coordination effort to bringing nations together, regardless of their income level, to ensure the procurement and equitable distribution of vaccines. Although vaccines became licensed and available to the public, there has been an unbalanced immunization delivery across countries. Even countries that were able to secure pre-commercial agreements with vaccine developers are struggling to roll out rapid vaccinations. That is the case of the US and most European countries. On the other hand, countries that lagged behind such as Brazil, as soon as vaccines were authorized in 2021, were able to catch up with Russia and India that had begun their vaccination programs almost a month before. Success stories are Israel and Bahrain, small nations in Asia. How do we account for such variation in COVID-19 vaccination policies? We propose a research agenda that focus on the politics vaccines (how countries secure doses and the types of vaccines available for them) and vaccination (the political economy of allocation, territorial politics, and institutional legacies).

Virtual Created Panel


  • (Discussant) Lisa Schur, Rutgers University;
  • (Discussant) Elizabeth A. Sharrow, University of Massachusetts Amherst;
  • (Chair) Anna Daily, Mount Holyoke College

Session Description:

How do perceptions of disabled people factor into policies, elections, and protests? The papers on this panel use diverse approaches (theoretical, experimental, and text analysis) to better understand discrimination towards and representation of disabled people. The papers consider how stereotypes about disabled people are used as tactics in protests; how disabled candidates frame their disability and how such frames are perceived by voters; how disability leads to discrimination in health and education policy in the middle of a pandemic; and who speaks for disabled people in policy debates. This panel consists of scholars attempting to bring attention to the role of ableism in politics, since so often disabled people are rendered invisible in political science.


Who Speaks for Disabled Workers? Legislative Activity at Westminster
Amy L. Atchison, Valparaiso University

In 2017, the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission reported significant pay gaps for three of the United Kingdom’s protected groups: women, disabled workers, and Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) workers. This is not the first report to demonstrate wage gaps for all three groups, yet the United Kingdom has addressed the wage group for just one: women. Why is that the case? In this paper, I explore whether, how, and by whom the issue of disability and racial wage gaps is being discussed by members of parliament in the United Kingdom. I postulate that while gender pay equity is on the political agenda, disability equity and racial equity are not. I test this by analyzing Westminster speeches, debates, and questions regarding equal pay, looking for patterns in who speaks for whom. The fundamental question is this: on the issue of equal pay, who advocates for the disabled and/or minorities in Parliament?

Bodies in Resistance: ADAPT, The AHCA protests, and the Rhetoric of Rights
Ann Kathleen Heffernan, University of Michigan

On June 22, 2017, 82 disabled activists with the group ADAPT staged a die-in outside then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office to protest the most recent draft of the Senate’s bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Proposing dramatic cuts to Medicaid, the bill would also repeal the individual and employer mandates, reduce access to birth control, and limit protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions. Chanting “No cuts to Medicaid—save our liberty!” protesters were pictured being dragged from their wheelchairs and bodily carried from the building by Capitol Police. In all, 43 arrests were made, with many new outlets and commentators expressing alarm at the violence of the arrests. This paper returns to this moment to consider the tactics employed by the protestors, specifically the participants’ strategic enactment of bodily vulnerability and disability. Employing what Kevin DeLuca refers to as a “body rhetoric,” by which bodies—in this case disabled bodies—become “the site and substance” of political argument, I show how ADAPT protesters knowingly played on public perceptions of disabled people as the proper objects of compassion and care. Where prior analysis of disability rights has tended to view the extension of rights as an evolution away from charity, this paper reveals its persistence in arguments for disability rights.

Voter Evaluations of Disabled Candidate Self-Presentations in Campaigns
Stefanie Reher, University of Strathclyde

Disabled people continue to be stigmatised in our society, with stereotypes of incompetence and weakness dominating. At the same time, we often see portrayals of disabled people being inspirational, courageous, and heroic. This means that disabled candidates who stand for election are likely to think carefully about how to frame their impairment in order to gain – or at least not jeopardize – electoral support: ignore it; downplay its relevance; or frame it as a positive attribute that has provided them with valuable experiences, skills, or personality traits. This study uses data from original online survey experiments in two countries to examine how voters react to disabled candidates’ self-portrayals. It draws upon real election material of disabled candidates to develop images using different framings and test their effects on voter perceptions. The findings provide unique evidence that is relevant for scholars in electoral behaviour and disability studies but also for candidates and parties themselves.

The Last Ventilator: Disability, Discrimination and Resource Distribution
Elizabeth Bell; Ari Neeman; Monica C. Schneider, Miami University; Dara Z. Strolovitch, Princeton University

We investigate how stereotypes towards social groups contribute to American public opinion on who is deserving of scarce resources during the COVID-19 crisis, focusing on people with disabilities (PWD). Research reveals that the mass public’s willingness to confer government resources depends on the social construction of the population of recipients (e.g., Schneider & Ingram, 1993; van Oorschot, 2000). However, the literature has insufficiently studied social constructions of people with disabilities, with existing studies indicating both positive (e.g., Fiske et al., 2002; Schneider & Ingram, 1993) and negative social constructions (e.g., Nario-Redmond, 2020). We extend this literature by studying:  1) how multiple group identities intersect to shape perceptions of deservingness (e.g., disability, race, gender), 2) how individual behavior may moderate the relationship between intersectional group identities and perceptions of deservingness, and 3) the individual characteristics that may contribute to these effects, such as anxiety about death due to COVID-19. In January 2021, we will collect data using a choice-based conjoint experimental method, which allows us to manipulate several different group characteristics and calculate the average marginal component effects of each identity on the likelihood that respondents think the patient is deserving of “the last ventilator” during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research will not only uncover how the public is judging people with disabilities during this pandemic, but it will also contribute to the recent growing literature on deservingness by utilizing an intersectionality lens and investigating the role of individual behavior in deservingness perceptions

Virtual Panel
Co-sponsored by Division 29: States Politics and Policy


  • (Discussant) John D. Wilkerson, University of Washington;
  • (Chair) Matthew P. Motta, Oklahoma State University

Session Description:

This panel reflects APSA’s Promoting Pluralism theme in its timely and pluralistic approaches to understanding the pandemic. Specifically, the papers featured on this panel attempt to explain the states’ varied response to COVID-19. In the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic was left largely to the fifty states. States took plural approaches to containing the pandemic and managing its impacts on basic functions like elections and education. Scholars now are taking plural approaches to understanding states’ COVID-19 response. Their scholarship helps to expand theoretical and empirical understanding of response to crises in democratic, federal systems and to better understand timely challenges.


Understanding U.S. COVID-19 Policy Responses Across States Over Time
Deserai Anderson Crow, University of Colorado Denver; Manli Zhang, University of Colorado Denver; Rob A. DeLeo, Bentley University; Kristin Taylor, Wayne State University; Elizabeth Koebele, University of Nevada, Reno; Thomas A. Birkland, North Carolina State University; Elizabeth Ann Albright, Duke University; Nathan Jeschke, University of Colorado Denver; Honey Minkowitz, North Carolina State University

The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the worst crises in the past 100 years and poses unprecedented challenges for governance. Due to lack of federal leadership in the U.S. during 2020, state governments were forced to rapidly develop policies and plans for curbing the outbreak, closing and re-opening economies, testing, and vaccine distribution. State policy responses varied dramatically across the 50 states, with some states implementing much more stringent and wide-reaching policies than others. Many of the states adopting more stringent policies also acted earlier than other states to issue COVID-19 policies and kept their policies in place for longer periods of time, even as they made adaptations in response to the evolving public health situation. Understanding how the duration of the crisis influences state policy adoption is critical for advancing knowledge of policy diffusion. This empirical context provides a unique opportunity to analyze how pandemic-related policies were developed, diffused, and adapted across all 50-states over the course of a relatively long period of time, relative to other public health crises. Moreover, we can examine the factors that led some states to act earlier and with more aggressive policy approaches than other states, and how these policies correlate with a host of public health outcomes. Drawing on the policy diffusion literature, this research examines the factors influencing the adoption and timing of pandemic policy by U.S. states with a focus on COVID-19 policies in 2020. The policy portfolios developed across states vary both in terms of the tools used (i.e., stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, limits on gatherings, business closures) and stringency (i.e., sanctions for failure to abide by new laws, application to various populations or location). This  study hypothesizes that internal determinants are important predictors of  state policy adoption, including problem severity (state COVID-19 cases per 1,000 people), state political ideology, governor’s party affiliation, and hospital capacity (state estimated inpatient beds occupied per 1,000 people). We also hypothesize that external factors, including participation in a regional compact agreement, competition with neighboring states (proportion of neighboring states that have adopted COVID-19 policies), and the problem severity of nearest neighbors (rates of COVID-19 cases per 1,000 people in nearby states) are important predictors of state policy adoption. We quantitatively test the influence of these internal and external factors on state policy adoption using process tracing event history analysis.

State Capacity and Covid-19 Responses: Comparing the U.S. States
Kiran Rose Auerbach, University of Bergen; Joshua Yoshio Lerner, Duke University; Hannah Ridge, Duke University

How do variations in state capacity among U.S. states account for the speed and success of Covid-19 responses? We aim to create a measure of subnational state capacity that goes beyond traditional measures of wealth and resources. In line with Berwick and Christia (2018), we approach state capacity in terms of three underlying domains: extraction, coordination, and compliance. Extractive capacity is the ability of states to mobilize resources and raise revenue. Coordination relates to the ability to organize for collective action or the relationship between state agents and civil society. Compliance refers to the ability to overcome principal agent dilemmas and involves interactions between state agents, bureaucrats, and non-state actors. We view state capacity as the latent ability to accomplish these three tasks, namely, the state’s ability to enact its will (which is separate from the political will to accomplish a particular action). We use a latent trait modeling approach to measure state capacity. To do this, we leverage different indicators of outcomes caused by a singular dimension of state capacity that manifests in a variety of domains. This measurement approach allows us to focus on the downstream consequences of differential capacity, as opposed to theorizing about the necessary conditions. We will therefore create a singular framework to test if Covid-19 responses, such as vaccine distribution, fit this measure or not.  Using a variety of indicators to identify state capacity will ensure that we do not predict health policy success from previous health policy successes.  We will combine health and non-health indicators, such as maternal mortality, violent crime rate, and auditing capacity. These items reflect goals that are largely shared across states, allowing us to tap into capacity rather than particular instances of will. We predict that state capacity will lead to more effective vaccine distribution.  This is an excellent case to assess the predictive capacity of our state capacity measure because we can largely remove political will from the equation. We make the mild assumption that all states want to vaccinate the largest possible proportion of their citizens and that they want to use as many of their allotted shot units as possible. We will also control for institutional factors, such as the delegative structure of the health system and political parties in state government, that could influence the efficacy apart from general capacity. Our work will contribute to the literature on U.S. state politics and the literature on state capacity by creating a valid and comprehensive measure of state capacity at the subnational level. In addition, our research will help to better understand which aspects of state health infrastructure matter most for health outcomes.

State Adoption of Legal Immunity for Nursing Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Pamela Nadash, University of Massachusetts, Boston; Edward Alan Miller, University of Massachusetts, Boston; Michael K. Gusmano, Rutgers University

Since the pandemic reached the United States, 28 states have provided nursing homes (NHs) with immunity from legal liability related to COVID-19 – either for the facilities themselves (21) or for healthcare providers more generally (7). This study places these provisions in the context of prior actions protecting NHs from legal action and explores factors influencing the adoption of such immunity provisions across states. The quality of NHs is widely perceived as poor, and their inability to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic has only intensified that perception. Although quality control mechanisms have been instituted by both the federal government and states, these have proved less than effective in preventing NH residents and staff from bearing the brunt of the COVID-19 crisis, with roughly 40% of deaths attributed to NHs. Some argue that litigation can act as an alternative form of quality control, incentivizing NHs to maintain quality. However, both the federal and state government have historically sought to constrain this mechanism – most notably during the recent pandemic. This study discusses the steps states have taken to protect NHs from litigation by providing them with immunity from civil or criminal prosecution, and examines factors associated with states that adopt such provisions. The protectionist policy literature seeks to understand the influence of lobbying behavior on policy adoption. The comparative state policy adoption literature identifies factors that contribute to variation in state action, both generally and with respect to health and long-term care policy, specifically. This study focuses on state political, socioeconomic, and programmatic conditions, as well as the history of protective actions in the NH industry, drawing on theories about how such protective policies evolve. Political factors include political ideology, interest group activity, and economic climate and resources. Institutional capacities of the governor, bureaucracy, and legislature to govern — and existing NH-related policies — may also impede or facilitate policy adoption. This study provides an in-depth examination of state policy process around the adoption of state NH immunity provisions. It also uses cross-sectional data to examine patterns of policy adoption and to assess states’ likelihood of adopting immunity provisions using multivariate methods. To qualify as providing immunity, states must either have passed legislation or issued executive orders to protect NHs from civil and criminal liability. Variables of interest include information on state political, socioeconomic, programmatic, and COVID-19-related characteristics as well as data on campaign contributions and lobbying activity at the state level. Data come from a wide range of sources, including the Kaiser Family Foundation, National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, LTCFocus, Follow The Money, and the U.S. Bureaus of Economic Analysis, Labor, and Census. Results indicate that enforcing accountability for NH deaths during COVID-19 pandemic is a complex process, constrained by available policy tools and made more complicated by factors external to the NH environment that contributed to high death rates. Historically, the NH industry has been successful in avoiding consequences for poor quality care, a pattern that has persisted in the current crisis and which disproportionately affects low-income populations of color. The study finds that adoption of immunity has been consistent across states, with few variables predicting state adoption of NH immunity provisions. Factors significantly related in bivariate analyses included measures of state fiscal health (May 2020 unemployment), ideology (percent legislators Democrat), governing capacity (unified government), and NH characteristics (percent not-for-profit, hospital-based, and chain); many of these relationships became insignificant in the multivariate analyses. Population density and Medicaid as a percentage of state general fund expenditures proved significant as well. Against these complex influences, organizations lobbying on behalf of NH residents and their families have found themselves ineffectual in creating avenues for accountability. NHs have always been politically salient to state government due to their important (and expensive) role in the Medicaid program, but have largely flown under the radar of public interest. Thus, factors influencing NH policymaking are not well understood, although there is evidence for the influence of lobbying on NH oversight. This study sought to build on these insights by examining a wide range of factors that potentially influence adoption of state provisions granting NHs immunity from prosecution during the COVID-19 crisis, finding that NHs have generally been successful in avoiding liability for negligence during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Representation in State Legislatures and the Response to COVID-19
Nadia E. Brown, Purdue University; Erik Grant Hanson, University of California, Los Angeles; Natalie Masuoka, University of California, Los Angeles; Michael Strawbridge, Purdue University

Legislator outreach and communication has been identified as one of the many avenues in which representation is practiced. While roll call voting is important, there are several significant acts that a legislator engages in to serve their constituents. It is possible that legislator outreach and communication has never been more important in recent memory than it has been in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Particularly in a national atmosphere of confusion and a lack of leadership, state and local governments have been key actors for containing the spread of the virus. In this paper we investigate the dissemination of resource provision and public health information related to COVID-19 among state legislators in California, Nevada, New York, and Texas. To conduct this study we assembled an original data set of social media posts on the Facebook pages of state legislators. In our initial findings we have found significantly higher effort placed on this avenue of representation among women of color legislators, along with Democratic state legislators putting greater effort into dissemination of public health information. We believe that such distinction is important to discussions around substantive representation. While legislation passed is critically important, legislators who engage all avenues of their representational responsibilities are an understudied element of the literature on representation.

In-Person Roundtable


  • (Chair) Matthew P. Hitt, Colorado State University;
  • (Presenter) Nora Webb Williams, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign;
  • (Presenter) Sarah Shugars, New York University;
  • (Presenter) John R. Freeman, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; (Presenter) Yiqing Xu, Stanford University

Session Description:

A Discussion of Pluralistic Methodological Innovations

“A Matter of Perspective: Computational Social Science and Researcher Choice”

We are living in a golden age for social science. A time when researchers have both unprecedented access to human data and the computational power to interrogate those data. Innovation has proceeded with remarkable speed; new methods regularly deliver novel insights with increasingly improved accuracy. These data and tools promise to reinvigorate the social sciences, allowing researchers to ask new questions in meaningful, new ways and to revisit classic questions with renewed rigor. While computational capacity is no longer the insurmountable barrier it used to be, the opportunity presented by this methodological innovation underscores the urgent need to address another long-standing limitation of scientific advancement: the relative homogeneity of the research community. Methodological pluralism–diversity of both methods and methodologists–is essential for ensuring the collective creativity necessary to fully leverage the tools and data available to researchers. How we ask and answer questions matters. How we conceive of questions, what data and tools we bring to those questions, and how we interpret our findings are all intimately interconnected with researcher perspectives and identities. If social science ultimately aims to understand the human experience, it cannot do so without full consideration for the diversity of that experience. With particular focus on text and network methods, we illustrate the role of researcher choice in shaping scientific advancement and demonstrate the need for human interpretation of algorithmic output. By interrogating the role of human researchers in scientific discovery we showcase the value of methodological pluralism and argue that diversity is an essential and necessary condition for scientific advancement.

“What type of data are images?”

Images are an intriguing source of data for social scientists. Increasingly, the phrase “images as data” implies big data, digitized images, and quantitative analyses with elements of machine learning. This perspective, however, obscures the many other ways to conceive of what images are as data for social scientists. For example, big data, machine learning image researchers rely on labeled data to build classification algorithms. The process of labeling the data is essentially content analysis, a familiar tool to qualitative researchers. Thus, quantitative analyses are built on qualitative approaches and both are a potentially valid way to use images to better understand the world.

“Causal Inference with Panel Data”

Panel data are commonly used in the social sciences to study the causal effects of policy interventions on certain outcomes. Yet the assumptions under which popular panel data methods—such as difference-in-differences and two-way fixed effect models—can perform properly are often unsatisfied. We discuss the emerging literature on causal inference with panel data and focus on a special setting of a single, dichotomous treatment variable. We survey three broadly defined approaches: (1) non-parametric methods such as matching and reweighting; (2) parametric or semi-parametric methods that focus on modeling the response surface; and (3) hybrid methods.

“Human Rights in Space: Statistical Models of Machine Coded Vs. Human Coded Data”

Political event data are widely used in studies of inter- and intra-state political processes such as human rights abuses. Recent years have seen notable advances in the automated coding of political event data from international news sources. Yet, the validity of machine coded event data remains disputed, especially in the context of event geolocation. We estimate neighborhood- and continuous-spatial models using both machine and human coded event data. The former are spatial probit error models, estimated via a likelihood-based approximation and a univariate conditioning procedure. The latter models are also spatial probits but their error processes are assumed to be Gaussian Markov Random fields. These continuous-spatial models are constructed using the stochastic differential equation methods and estimated with integrated nested Laplacian approximation. We combine these models with data on subnational violence in Colombia to evaluate whether human and machine coded event data produce comparable inferences, predictions, and patterns of prediction error. All spatial predictions are validated against independently collected, gold standard records of human rights violations from Colombia. We find that machine geocodings are as accurate as human geocodings for analyses that locate events in a discrete set of subnational spatial units but are inferior to human geocoding in analyses that locate subnational events in continuous space.

In-Person Full Paper Panel


  • (Discussant) Elena Gambino, Rutgers University, New Brunswick;
  • (Chair) Lida E. Maxwell, Boston University

Session Description:

In 2009, the APSA Committee on the Status of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and the Transgendered in the Profession conducted a survey of the APSA membership discovered that while 41 percent of respondents deemed scholarship on LGBT topics to be ‘very appropriate’, there remains resistance. As one political scientist in the survey put it: “The biggest problem is [they’re] not doing real political science, [they’re] just focusing in on themselves. The LGBT faculty whom I respect professionally the most are the ones who do real political science. We don’t do heterosexual political science so why do . . . LGBT political science?” The irony of this sentiment was captured by Paisley Currah, who remarked only two years later at a symposium on “The State of LGBT / Sexuality Studies in Political Science,” that “perhaps the absence of research on LGBT topics, however, signals the largely unquestioned presence of heteronomativity[.]”

If indeed the dearth of sexuality studies within political science actually suggests that we have in fact been doing “heterosexual political science” all along, then this panel explores what foregrounding sexuality studies and queer theory contributes to the study of politics. In an effort to cultivate the rich intellectual pluralism that much of the discipline already embraces and promotes, “Pluralizing Political Theory: Contemporary Queer Contributions to the Study of Politics,” brings together a range of political theorists working on issues of gender and sexuality.Charting out contemporary queer contributions to the study of politics, this panel showcases the work of political theorists mobilizing queer theory to broaden our study of political movements – how they organize, how they develop, and also how they fail to protect those who they claim to speak for.

For the following papers, sexuality serves not only as a direct object of study, as presented in Anne Caldwell’s analysis on 20th century LGBT political strategies, but also as a method to study political sites historically understood to be either heterosexual, such as in aylon cohen’s study of the bourgeois public sphere, or lacking sexuality altogether, as in Samuel Galloway’s account of the Critical Mass bike protests. In this way, tracing queer sexuality functions alternately as both an object of curiosity and a horizon of intelligibility, a thing to be studied and a method of conducting research.

In her study of political strategies of inclusion in the LGBT political movement, Anne Caldwell’s work questions not only dominant methods of struggle in the LGBT community, but broaches questions concerning political practices of movement mobilization more broadly. In Samuel Galloway’s research on what he calls the institution of the Critical Mass bicycle ride, an urban and environmental protest that occurs once a month, he showcases how a political analysis attentive to queer practices of the fleeting encounter and anonymous cruise can illuminate political logics that have become common to 21st century protest politics. Attending to queer concerns of homosocial intimacy in the 18th century institution of the masonic lodge, aylon cohen demonstrates how freemasonry cultivated new gendered bodily practices of equality between men in the 18th century.

Together, this panel contributes to pluralizing our contemporary practices of political analysis by highlighting queer methods of political interpretation and theorizing. By displacing the heterosexist presumption to “real” political science, we instead queer our disciplinary expectations that the political be taken straight. Instead, we seek to trace the sexual in the struggles we conduct, how come together in contest and consensus alike, and the boundaries of belonging that connect us, historically and in ways still to be imagined.


“Why isn’t it better yet?”: How the LGBT Movement Failed Queer Existence
Anne I. Caldwell, University of Louisville

This paper seeks to understand the persistent truth of a claim made over 30 years ago, at a time when the LGBT rights movement had far fewer successes: we live in a world where the number of people “by whom the existence of gay people is treated as a precious desideratum” (Sedgwick). LGBT people have gained significant rights (particularly marriage) and acceptance over the last 50 years. Even so, persistent antagonism to gays, lesbians, and trans people persists. That antagonism is clearest in the regular death by murder or suicide of LGBT persons. But the hostility faced by queer people also appears in the narratives of contemporary public figures. For example, former candidate for the Democratic nomination, Pete Buttigieg, did not come out publicly until 2015, fearing for the impact it would have on a political career. He recently stated he had wished in the past that he could have taken a pill to make himself straight if he could have. Celebrities like Ellen have made similar claims. If their stories, where their youth is marked by the wish to be anything other than gay,  seem startling, they should not. The LGBT rights movement has spent the last 50 years largely holding that no one has chosen to be gay and no one would. That position is often credited for the success of gay rights: opinon polls suggests public support for gay rights is linked to the belief that people are born gay and many litigation strategies have sought to show that gays and lesbians deserve protection on the basis of possessing immutable traits. I want to explore the costs of that position: it’s failure to counter antagonism towards LGBT people. I begin by contenting the modern incarnation of the “born this way” position began in the 1970s to counter political hostility. Those born gay could not “recruit” children in order to “reproduce”—the incendiary charge anti-gay crusader Anita Bryant popularized. The self-presentation of gays and lesbians as a discrete and limited minority served to counter straight fears that gays and lesbians were child molesters or seducers. The claim that gays and lesbians were “born this way” echoed as well the argument that has been coeval with the emergence of modern homosexuality in the 19th century: gays and lesbians should not be punished for something beyond their control. Both positions—that homosexuality is not contagious and that it is blameless because unchosen—may have made the homosexuality of some more palatable to some of the straight population. But as queer theorists like Lisa Duggan and Jasbar Puar have shown, that acceptability has been limited to a small subset of LGBT people: those who are white, gender conforming, consumer oriented, sexually discreet, and increasingly, married. Ongoing violence against LGBT people makes the failure of the born this way argument, which essentially disavows the desirability and value of queer being, clear. To make this point, I examine the trial about the murder of Latisha King. King’s death in 2008 was treated at the time as a case of a gay boy being murdered by a class mate offended by his overtures. Later details suggested that the Latisha King was in fact a trans girl.Her gender presentation,  read by students, teachers, and jury members as a sign of homosexuality,  was seen as provoking her own murder. This case illustrates the way the gay and lesbian movements effort to gain acceptance by disavowing gender variance failed to gain traction with much of the public, and the extent to which efforts to defend gay and lesbian life by presenting as unchosen and unwilled have, in fact, failed to protect queer life. By failing to present queer life as valuable, by presenting queer existence as in need of deferrals, defenses, and denials, the LGBT movement has gained legal protections. But it has yet to call for a world in which there would be more gay people.

Queer Velocities: Critical Mass, Recurrent Institutions, and Political Trust
Samuel R. Galloway, Purchase College

The question of institutions recurs as a point of contention within pluralism. Rather than condemn or redeem institutions, I embark to queer our understanding of institutions through consideration of Critical Mass, a monthly bicycle-ridden protest. Critical Mass presents us with an event of agonistic democratic insurgency that has become an “institution” in cities across the United States and around the world merely through its recurrent assertion of destituent power. In this way, Critical Mass suggests that an incredibly skeletal institutional arrangement can nevertheless enable recurrent events of spontaneous, or else minimally predicated, democratic agonism. To be more precise, in naming the event of a Critical Mass bicycle ride an institution I mean that it is constituted, however sparsely, both temporally and spatially: The Mass begins on the final Friday of every month, at the height of the rush-hour commute, and every ride departs en masse from the same designated location, typically in the heart of an urban downtown center, allowing a critical density of bicycle riders to assemble prior to the ride beginning. Apart from these two constant variables, the initial from-where and when, which simply function to conduce the event, what follows is largely unpredictable by virtue of being a live, mobile assertion of a non-automotive right to the public thoroughfares of the city. This claim is made on the move, in a mobilized demobilization of automotive flows that enacts a real recoding of streets that prioritizes movement at a slower pace—a velo or human-powered velocity—even if momentarily. Streets become, as the Mass passes through, thoroughfares of physical and emotional pleasure, public performance, and political protest that route the interlinked global crises of climate change, white supremacy, capitalism, and pandemic to the local, street level. Thus, if Critical Mass is now an “institution” in so many municipalities, it is so in excess of the two constant, conducive variables of “from-where and when,” and this requires consideration of how Critical Mass is able to temporarily render the streets inoperable by putting them to a different, destituent use. This other use is both concrete and symbolic. On the one hand, the ride affects a real material disruption of normal traffic that, by blocking cars with an uninterrupted flow of bicycles, reprioritizes the uses of roads as servicing the needs of non-combustive movement. This is accomplished by the tactic of corking, or blocking intersections to enable the Mass to roll through, that is at turns cordial and combative. On the other, corking realizes a more symbolic strategy of enacting an alternative ordering of our cities, even if only fleetingly and on the fly, with such campy hyperbole that the prospect of the end of this world does not seem so catastrophic. Yet, while the effect of the bicycle bloc’s blockage is relatively ephemeral, what further distinguishes the Critical Mass bicycle ride as an event is its promise of eternal recurrence, a promise which only commits itself one month at a time, even as each act of fidelity to the event renews the promise, casting ahead a horizon that cruises the contingent and fleeting “then and there” of the political on its destination to “wherever.” This rhythm of recurrence, more finely, allows the event to enable participants to build relations of trust. Through the recurrence of the event, participants come to trust not only that the event will recur, and thus to trust a world in which events of democratic agonism are promised to irrupt, but simultaneously to build relations of trust with fellow participants in the event, as well as, ideally, those bystanders and motorists who are impacted by the course of the event, and beyond. Finally, and most decisively, one comes to trust one’s own capacity to act in meaningful and impactful ways through the concerted efforts of commonly mobilized strangers. The effect is that participants come to understand that they are the institution in their very enactment of it, that what gives any institution its durability is the people who show up to make their coming together something real and meaningful, simultaneously unpredictable and yet collectively oriented. This helps us understand how, beyond its repression in cities like New York, the tactic of massing or swarming that typifies Critical Mass has become the norm for 21st century protest politics. This tactic proved resurgent in NYC in 2019 with the FTP protests that swarmed Grand Central to render the MTA momentarily free to use and again in 2020 when cyclists assembling as Street Justice Riders NYC remobilized the Critical Mass tactic of corking in solidarity with Black Lives Matter. This trust in oneself, others, and the world as hosting demotic dissensus is powerful, potentiating rhizomatic lines of affiliation and solidarity.

Masonic Contracts, Fraternal Contact, and the Intimate Public Sphere
Aylon Cohen, University of Chicago

In Jürgen Habermas’s influential work,“The Structural Transformation of Public Sphere,” he argues that the formation of new egalitarian spaces of sociability in the 18th century bourgeois public undermined hierarchical relations of status characteristic of what he calls the ‘representative’ public at court. Whereas feudal relations of rank depended on the display of the aristocratic body at court, Habermas contends that bourgeois modes of communication rooted in the equal exchange of opinion gave rise to new egalitarian relations between citizens. Yet, since deliberation presupposes an equality between speaking subjects, how exactly did bourgeois speech, previously considered unworthy and unable of articulating political claims, suddenly politically intelligible? Feminist critics of Habermas’s account have pointed to the primacy of gender in the formation of the public sphere, arguing that women’s exclusion played a constitutive role, regulating not only which bodies could speak in public but how to speak in order to participate in the public voice of reason. Building on this feminist scholarship, this paper argues that women’s exclusion was a necessary but insufficient condition for the constitution of new gendered relations of equality between bourgeois men. Proposing a queer feminist reading of the 18th century public sphere, I show how new corporeal practices of homosociality premised on women’s exclusion enabled bourgeois men to subvert hierarchies of status and form new relations of equality. In constituting new gendered relations of equality, I contend that the historical transformations in men’s bodily relations made possible the kinds of deliberative exchange characteristic of the 18th century bourgeois public. In order to showcase the constitutive role played by the reorganization of men’s bodily relations in the bourgeois public sphere, this paper investigates the largest and most widespread fraternal organization of 18th century Western Europe, namely, Freemasonry. Unlike other institutional sites such as the coffeeshop or salon, the masonic lodge served a unique infrastructural node in what historians have described as a mass movement among the gentry and professional classes. Undergoing reorganization following the formation of the Masonic Grand Lodge in 1717, freemasons established a new and distinct set of associational practices across a growing landscape of lodges. Training men not simply in new arts of sociability but also in republican practices of self-government, involving elections, laws, and representation, masonic lodges were, in historian Margaret Jacob’s words, “microscopic civil polities, new public spaces, in effect schools of constitutional government.” Unlike most institutions of the public sphere, entry into the masonic lodge required its members to undergo a ritual of initiation through which men entered into contract with the fraternal society. In providing a political reading of these rituals, I argue that freemasons enacted theories of the social contract in order to oppose the hierarchical politics of monarchy and create new social relations between men. Drawing on Carole Pateman’s “The Sexual Contract,” I show how freemasons deployed a political logic of fraternity in order to reorganize men’s relations according to new gendered principles of equality between brothers. Situating freemasonry within a larger intellectual context of what Pateman calls the fraternal social contract, this paper explores how a republican political movement such as freemasonry instantiated the gendered egalitarian politics of the social contract in and through a transformation of men’s bodily relations. The ritual of initiation that transforms a man into a mason marks the threshold of entry into a new society of men organized on principles of fraternal equality. In entering the masonic contract, a mason symbolically breaks with the monarchical world and its patriarchal logics of subordination. Far from simply an exchange of words, the masonic contract involves an intricately choreographed traffic in men’s bodies that transgress the structures of conduct regulating the aristocratic world of status. By drawing men into new bodily relations of intimacy, masonic rituals sought to constitute new egalitarian attachments between men. As such, this paper shows how 18th century republican movements mobilized binary gender difference in order to transform individuals mired in the hierarchical politics of kingship and build a new world of masculine association based on principles of equality. The proliferation of novel bodily rituals of fraternity in the masonic lodge institute a new set of political relations based not on hierarchy and patronage but equality and reciprocity, which ultimately come to define not just a new egalitarian mode of publicity but a novel political form of association.

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Tali Mendelberg, Princeton University;
  • (Presenter) Christopher H. Achen, Princeton University;
  • (Presenter) Joshua D. Kertzer, Harvard University;
  • (Presenter) Gwyneth McClendon, New York University;
  • (Presenter) Diana C. Mutz, University of Pennsylvania;
  • (Presenter) Elizabeth R. Nugent, Yale University;
  • (Presenter) Ismail K. White, Princeton University;
  • (Presenter) Maya Sen, Harvard University

Session Description:

Much of political science is conducted in bounded disciplines and defined by arbitrary geographical divisions. However, the study of political behavior, once largely limited to the United States, has begun to cross these boundaries. What are examples of how to do so successfully? How can the study of political behavior continue to break out of narrow confines? This round-table features authors speaking about recent books that not only contribute to a discipline but carry implications beyond one discipline. These books often embed behavior in context, and study it using systematic comparison across time and space. They integrate the analysis of individual behavior with the study of history, institutions, organizations, social forces, or political systems. The authors will discuss how their books explain important political phenomena and shed light on fundamental dynamics of human behavior. These books have been recently published by Princeton Studies in Political Behavior, a book series designed to set a cross-disciplinary agenda that integrates behavior into core questions in international relations, comparative politics, and American politics, blurring unnecessary lines of demarcation. The books include explorations of race and partisanship, resolve in international relations, envy in comparative politics, voters’ departure from lofty standards of democracy, opposition to foreign trade, and authoritarianism in the Middle East.

In-Person Roundtable


  • (Chair) Alan M. Jacobs, University of British Columbia;
  • (Presenter) Vera Eva Troeger, University of Warwick;
  • (Presenter) Kevin Arceneaux, Temple University;
  • (Presenter) Michelle L. Dion, McMaster University;
  • (Presenter) Jonathan Woon, University of Pittsburgh;
  • (Presenter) Brian F. Crisp, Washington University in St. Louis

Session Description:

“Pre-registration” involves registering a hypothesis(es) along with a detailed pre-analysis plan on a registry site such as the Center for Open Science’s Open Science Framework, where it is preserved (in an anonymized format during the review process). “Results-blind review” means that a paper containing the hypotheses, study design, and analysis plan undergoes a first round of peer review prior to the collection of data, or at least prior to the presentation of results. If the results-free paper passes the first round, it is resubmitted with full results on the second round with the understanding that it will be accepted for publication so long as the initial research design is scrupulously followed and the author’s interpretation of the results is plausible – regardless of what the actual results are, i.e. whether the findings support or undermine the authors’ hypotheses. When pre-registration is combined with results-blind review, the combination may be referred to as a “registered report.”

The goal of these initiatives is to enhance the truth-value of work whose goal is theory-testing or estimation, mitigating problems such as fishing, p-hacking, ad hoc theorizing, and publication bias. These mechanisms are not intended to privilege confirmatory work over exploratory work — and the writeup of a pre-registered study may contain exploratory analyses and post hoc theorization — but rather to ensure that we can distinguish between the two.

In recent years, major political science journals have, in a variety of ways, engaged with the use of pre-registration and results-blind review. The beginnings of a track record now exist. And yet, we do not seem to be any closer to a disciplinary consensus. This is, no doubt, because these initiatives involve costs and potential risks and raise concerns that must be reckoned with. (For further discussion see Elman, Gerring, Mahoney (eds), The Production of Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, 2020.)

These issues are non-trivial and the solutions non-obvious. Accordingly, it is a propitious moment to reflect on the path we are on and the path we might choose to follow going forward. To do so, this symposium brings together editors from leading journals to discuss their experiences and perspectives on these important questions. The roundtable will include editors from the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Experimental Political Science, Journal of Politics, and Legislative Studies Quarterly.

In-Person Full Paper Panel


(Chair) Julie E. Cooper, Tel Aviv University

Session Description:

At first glance it seems that the most important issue at the world political agenda nowadays, is the Covid-19 and its economic consequences.  Yet a deeper look reveals that Covid 19 hardly overcame other conflicting issues in western societies, and even radicalized them. The old politics of race and identity still dominate the political debate in the western world, not least in the US electoral contest.

In short, liberal scholars have been dealing for more than 30 years with the problem of integration of minorities into the polity, and have been struggling against the living legacy of colonialism and racism.  Yet, the populist backlash questions the viability of the liberal strategy.

Thus, the panel will deal with these pressing questions:  Have the politics of  multiculturalism, openness, and toleration to diversity  have contributed to the populist backlash? Has liberal culturalism reached its end? Are there alternatives (assimilation/ integration) to openness and diversity?  How should liberalism evolve   in order to deal with the challenge presented by cultural and ethnic minorities and especially of the growing resentment of ethnic majorities which endorse the post-colonial discourse?


America’s New Racial Politics
Rogers M. Smith, University of Pennsylvania

The United States has been shaped by clashes between rival “racial orders” or “racial policy alliances” since the nation’s very beginning. For the last half century, those contests have chiefly been between proponents of “color-blind” and “race-conscious” public policies. Today, however, the nation’s dominant racial policy alliances are transforming into ones centered on significantly new themes. The racially conservative “color-blind” policy alliance is, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, becoming an alliance promising “white protectionism.” The “race conscious” policy alliance is, with the mobilizations around the slogan of Black Lives Matter, becoming an alliance focused on “racial reparations” to end “systemic racism.” These new, even more polarized racial policy alliances have counterparts across the globe, and they are likely to shape political life for many years to come.

Populism and Identity
Alberto Spektorowski, Tel Aviv University

A  growing number of scholars  consider that the current populist backlash against liberal democracy will soon banished. Populist in power   will pay the price of their own  inconsistencies for rejection of science and for ignoring the complexities of modern societies.  While this article does not dismiss this evaluation, it suggests that the backlash period may take longer that expected.  The reason is that Populism nowadays fits perfectly well as a challenge but also as an integral part of well established democracies. As against claims that populism is against globalization, I argue that it uses  globalization in its favor and it grows and thrives under the “politics of identities” in western societies.    Despite Populists lack of a thick ideology, they had radicalized the difficult link between liberalism and democracy. Now more than ever populists had radicalized the gap between a technocratic legalistic liberalism and the idea of popular sovereignty, and as such populist are reshaping the political debate on the meaning of a democratic identity in western societies.

What’s Wrong with Cultural Imperialism?
Alan Patten, Princeton University; Shuk Ying Chan, Princeton University

In this paper, we argue that there is a serious wrong associated with what we call neo-colonial cultural exchange—the patterns of unequal cultural exchange that are typical of relationships between developed and developing states in the contemporary world. Our main argument is grounded in an ideal of social equality that calls upon global institutions to establish and maintain egalitarian social relations. Patterns of cultural exchange, we argue, play an important role in creating and preserving the relationships of equal recognition that are partly constitutive of social equality. When global structures limit the opportunities of historically disadvantaged groups to express and demonstrate their agency, this also undermines efforts to build or maintain social equality between groups. Our argument has implications for two broad policy areas: free trade in cultural goods, and international law on cultural appropriation.

From Ethnic Democracy to Ethnocracy?  Israel Nation State Law
Yoav Peled, Tel Aviv University

Basic Law: Israel as the Nation State of the Jewish People, which enjoys constitutional status, was enacted in 2018. It stated, inter alia, that Jews have a unique right of national self-determination in the State of Israel; that unified Jerusalem is the state capital; and that the state will work to promote settlement by Jews, without specifying the territorial boundaries of that settlement, if any. In addition, the status of the Arabic language was downgraded from official state language to a language enjoying special status. Unlike Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Independence the law does not include a commitment to equality of rights for all citizens; unlike two basic laws dealing with human rights that were enacted in 1992 it does not mention the word “democracy.” The law was born out of concern that the “constitutional revolution” that resulted from the enactment of the two basic laws in 1992 had upset the delicate balance between the Jewish and democratic elements in Israel’s constitutional law. Since human dignity and freedom were entrenched in a basic law, so the argument went, while Israel’s definition as a Jewish state was not, Israel’s democratic values had gained the upper hand over its Jewish values, and the balance between them needed to be restored. Opponents of the Jewish nation law contend that it violates Israel’s basic value system, which is both Jewish and democratic, by excluding the country’s non-Jewish citizens from participation in the sovereign demos. In doing that the law transformed Israel’s regime from an ethnic democracy, where a majority ethnic group dominates but minority groups enjoy a basic set of individual and collective rights, to a non-democratic, ethnocratic regime.

In-Person Roundtable


  • (Chair) Tulia G. Falleti, University of Pennsylvania;
  • (Discussant) James Mahoney, Northwestern University;
  • (Presenter) Sheri Berman, Barnard College, Columbia University;
  • (Presenter) Stephan Haggard, University of California, San Diego;
  • (Presenter) Alan M. Jacobs, University of British Columbia;
  • (Presenter) Julia Lynch, University of Pennsylvania;
  • (Presenter) Rudra Sil, University of Pennsylvania;
  • (Presenter) Prerna Singh, Brown University

Session Description:

During the last decade, political science graduate training has increasingly focused on experimental methods and other tools for conducting research with strong causal identification strategies.  This shift has been accompanied by new standards regarding the kinds of questions and methods that are appropriate for the study of causality in political science. In this roundtable, participants critically discuss and debate these developments and their implications for knowledge generation and methodological pluralism in political science. Special attention focuses on the question of alternatives to the experimental approach and whether scholars using these alternatives need to reclaim causality in political science.

Panel discussants are asked to address questions such as the following:  

(1) Is political science in fact converging on methodological standards for causal inference in which experimental research designs are the gold standard?

(2) Is it accurate to assert that causal inference is best achieved via experimental research designs?  What are the consequences of the rise of experimental methods (and strong causal inference methods) for research agendas and knowledge generation in the discipline?

(3) What other approaches to causality exist?  For example, does comparative-historical analysis offer a coherent alternative?  How do other approaches compare to experimental methods?  

(4) What is the standing of alternative approaches to causality in contemporary political science?  What are the consequences of this standing for the discipline?

(5) Do scholars in comparative-historical analysis or other fields need to “reclaim causality” for the discipline of political science?  If so, what does this reclaiming look like and how could it happen?

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Maria Federica Carugati, King’s College London;
  • (Presenter) Margaret Levi, Stanford University;
  • (Presenter) Jenna Bednar, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor;
  • (Presenter) Rebecca M Henderson, Harvard Business School;
  • (Presenter) Nils Gilman, Berggruen Institute;
  • (Presenter) Nick Joseph Hanauer, Civic Ventures;
  • (Presenter) Darrick Hamilton, The New School

Session Description:

The neoliberal framework of political economy that has shaped capitalist democracies for the last half century is fraying. The financial crisis in 2008 and the subsequent rise of populism were harbinger of a collapse that now seems inevitable. As we witness the fraying of capitalist democracy, many political scientists joined forces with scholars from other fields, civil society activists, and social entrepreneurs to articulate the next steps. This roundtable invites some of them to discuss their proposals to build new institutions, strengthen democracy, and restore the social fabric. The discussion will revolve around proposals articulated in several books and articles the participants have recently published, or that will be published before the meeting. Together these contributions build a vision of a reimagined democratic political economy, where the public and the private sector work together to foster inclusive human flourishing.

Jenna Bednar will consider how public policy might work to rebuild our social connectivity using a framework of human flourishing.  The four pillars of the framework—dignity, sustainability, community, and beauty—each tap into a value that makes us human and expresses a different aspect of our relationships.  These values may help to rebuild our fraying social fabric and the norms that sustain our democracy. Darrick Hamilton will discuss the pivotal and inseparable roles of economics, politics, and identity group stratification as it relates to political economy. Levi will present the findings of Moral Political Economy: Past, Present and Future (Cambridge University Press, coauthored with the panel chair Carugati), which argues for the need to build participatory spaces to strengthen democracy, foster relational equality, and support inclusive, expanded communities of fate. Nick Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker will challenge neoliberalism on the grounds that it provides, in their words, “a protection racket for the rich.” Drawing on Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire (New York: Public Affairs), Rebecca Henderson will articulate how today’s enormous problems – from climate change to inequality to exclusion – can only be solved by rebalancing the power of the free market with strong, competent, democratically accountable government and a revitalized civil society. The book explores whether and how the private sector might be able to contribute to such a shift. Finally, Nils Gilman will discuss the Berggruen Institute’s proposal for a new model of personal and public wealth-building designed to ensure a more equitable wealth distribution in the future. The proposed “mutualist” model of political economy would accelerate the large-scale diffusion of productivity-enhancing general-purpose technologies, while forging a new social contract based on a radical notion of shared ownership of returns on capital.

The roundtable aims at showcasing these ideas for a political science audience and elicit feedback on their merits, as well as integrating suggestions for building a path toward policy implementation.

Virtual Roundtable

Co-sponsored by Division 8: Political Methodology


  • (Presenter) Rebecca D. Gill, University of Nevada, Las Vegas;
  • (Presenter) Virginia Sapiro, Boston University;
  • (Presenter) Lorraine Bayard de Volo, University of Colorado, Boulder;
  • (Presenter) Rosalee A. Clawson, Purdue University;
  • (Presenter) Janet E. Johnson, CUNY-Brooklyn College;
  • (Presenter) Carol A. Mershon, University of Virginia;
  • (Presenter) Paula D. McClain, Duke University;
  • (Chair) Stacey Leigh Hunt, Auburn University

Session Description:

Pressured by the #MeToo movement, American political scientists have recently undertaken efforts to address sexual harassment in workplaces such as professional meetings and university departments. Little has been said, however, of sexual harassment and assault experienced by political scientists during field research. This is a particularly glaring omission given that many political scientists spend extended periods of time in the field, field research is essential to data collection and career development in many subfields, and there is strong anecdotal evidence that young female scholars and graduate students are at acute risk of sexual harassment and violence in the field.  This roundtable brings together a team of researchers from Auburn University and the University of Illinois who have been collecting data on sexual harassment and assault experienced by political scientists during field research with field research methodologists and administrators versed in workplace sexual harassment policies from the MeToo Collective, APSA’s Ethics Committee, and university administration. With an eye toward protecting and advancing pluralism among field researchers and the discipline at large, this roundtable aims to start a broader conversation about sexual harassment and assault during fieldwork by delineating the magnitude of the problem, investigating its causes, and envisioning practices and policies to address it in the future.

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Limor Peer, Yale University;
  • (Presenter) Florio Arguillas, Cornell University;
  • (Presenter) Thu-Mai Lewis Christian;
  • (Presenter) Alexander Coppock, Yale University;
  • (Presenter) Conor M. Dowling, University of Mississippi;
  • (Presenter) Nicole Janz, University of Nottingham;
  • (Presenter) Sebastian Karcher, Syracuse University

Session Description:

Political Science has been on the forefront of transparency and reproducibility (T&R), leading the way with initiatives such as Data Archiving and Research Transparency (DA-RT) and JETS (Journal Editors’ Transparency Statement). The past five years have brought more awareness and recognition of these issues, including real changes in policies and practice. Yet, there is a long way to go to ensure that political science research is as T&R as possible. This roundtable brings together participants who are actively working on these issues, representing a wealth of experience with T&R practices, policies, and challenges. Participants will provide the perspectives of researchers, publishers, data archives, third party verification services, and other initiatives to stimulate a focused discussion on how to best support the discipline. Participants will explore the following questions:

  1. What is the state of the field in terms of T&R? What are the policies and requirements? What do we know about uptake? What do we know about challenges and obstacles? What would success look like?
  2. At a practical level, what does T&R look like in the various sub-fields? Is there variation in requirements, incentives, trade-offs, training and education?
  3. What support is currently available to researchers?

The roundtable’s goal is to explore these issues from multiple perspectives, to recognize the significance and appeal of this topic within various methodologies and approaches in the discipline, and to stimulate discussion that can help better assess what we should expect going forward.

In-Person Full Paper Panel

Co-sponsored by Division 51: Experimental Research


  • (Chair) Federica Izzo, UCSD;
  • (Discussant) Konstantinos Matakos, King’s College London

Session Description:

The diverse papers on this panel share a common interest in formalizing the theoretical frameworks and assumptions that undergird empirical techniques commonly used in political science, but that have not yet been clearly articulated. These approaches unite formal models, social choice theory, quasi-experimental data, and survey design. Abramson et al. propose a survey design related to forced-choice conjoint experiments that allows researchers to directly measure how voters trade off candidate valence features (e.g. race, gender, and experience) with other attributes like ideology and electability. Tyson and Sun connect causal inference with a branch of formal theory that prioritizes the articulation of mechanisms, with an application to conflict studies. Montagnes et al. examine how survey design features affect the estimation of average outcomes conditional on membership in a particular subpopulation. Minaudier develops a formal model of campaigning to analyse what field experiments on canvassing can tell us about the equilibrium effects of large-scale campaigns.


Theoretical Implications of Empirical Models: An Application to Conflict Studies
Scott Tyson, University of Rochester; Jessica Sun, Emory University

Establishing causal relations with the data that is typically available is an effort that is plagued by endogeneity concerns in many areas of substantive interest. Confronting these challenges has stimulated a growing literature, drawing on methods from statistics, bid data, and formal theory. The most important concern in causal studies is the articulation of a clear mechanism at work in the data, and how that mechanism can be isolated empiricallly. Given this importance, a natural connection arises with a branch of formal theory that prioritizes the articulation of mechanisms. To study how this process should unfold we consider an application to conflict studies and generalize the canonical bargaining model of conflict focusing specifically on the different kinds of uncertainty that facilitate the incidence and outcome of conflict, and discuss the kinds of quasi-experiments that emerge from these sources of uncertainty. We identify two distinct mechanisms that may introduce exogenous variation into potential conflicts. First, incidence risk is the uncertainty regarding whether a crisis escalates into violence, and arises from private information between potential combatants. Second, result risk arises from imperfect information about the ultimate outcome of conflict, which implies that the initiation of conflict essentially triggers a lottery. We discuss the kinds of substantive questions that can be addressed using each, with particular emphasis on highlighting the theoretical underpinnings of different empirical strategies.

Ideology, Electability, and Valence
Scott Abramson, University of Rochester; Korhan Kocak, Princeton University; Asya Magazinnik, Princeton University

Political scientists regularly interpret the results of conjoint experiments in the context of electoral contests. However, researchers’ typical estimand, the Average Marginal Component Effect, does not generally admit statements about elections. In this paper we present a design related to forced-choice conjoint experiments that allows researchers to recover meaningful quantities of interest for the entire distribution of voters. We conduct this experiment on a representative sample of Florida Democrats and characterize how voters trade off candidate valence features (e.g. race, gender, and experience) with other attributes like ideology and electability. Besides recovering the direction of preferences for the entire distribution of voters, our design allows us to describe the marginal rates of substitution between any pair of attributes in the survey.

Priming Self-Reported Partisanship: Implications for Survey Design and Analysis
Brendan Pablo Montagnes, Emory University; Zachary F. Peskowitz, Emory University; Kaylyn Jackson Schiff, Emory University

In many survey settings, researchers seek to estimate an average outcome conditional on membership in a particular subpopulation. We conduct two studies to examine how survey design features affect these conditional outcomes. In our first study, we implement a preregistered survey experiment to quantify how question ordering affects respondents’ willingness to identify as a Republican partisan and presidential approval conditional on self-identifying as a Republican. While our estimates are generally imprecise, the overall pattern of results is consistent with the hypotheses that the treatment increases the probability that a respondent identifies as a Republican and decreases the probability that self-reported Republicans approve of the president. In our second study, we show that an informational intervention reduces the probability that a respondent identifies as an in- dependent. Our analysis shows that seemingly minor features of survey design can affect self-reported subpopulation membership and average outcomes for these subpopulations.

Doors and Perceptions: Motivations, Beliefs, and Returns to Canvassing
Clement Minaudier, University of Vienna

A large empirical literature has documented that canvassing significantly affects voting behaviour. However, returns are heterogeneous across campaigning methods and across countries. This paper proposes a formal model of canvassing to (1) rationalise these differences, (2) suggest ways to optimise campaign strategies, and (3) interpret evidence from field experiments. Activists, who differ in their motivations for engaging in political activities, decide how often to participate in canvassing, and what message to share with voters if they do. Both the participation decision and the message shape the voters’ beliefs and their voting behaviour. I show that, in equilibrium, activists with instrumental motivations are more effective at persuading voters but can be less motivated than activists with non-instrumental motivations. Returns to canvassing are therefore non-monotonic in the share of activists with instrumental motivations. As a result, parties can optimise campaigns by recruiting the right types of canvassers. In particular, the optimal recruitment strategy balances different types of activists. Because activists internalise the effect of their participation on their persuasiveness, returns to door-to-door canvassing are always positive, in line with empirical evidence. This arises even when simple communication would generate no returns. Finally, I show that if voters think that the choice of participation carries some information, one should be cautious when extrapolating results from small-scale field experiments that artificially control participation.

In-Person Paper Panel

Co-sponsored by Division 13:Politics of Communist and Former Communist Countries


  • (Chair) Ian M. Hartshorn, University of Nevada, Reno;
  • (Discussant) Chelsea C. Chou, National Taiwan University

Session Description:

The discovery or extraction of fossil fuels brings the promise of new jobs and economic growth — and the potential for labor unrest, environmental degradation, and repressive states eager to benefit from the energy sector. The papers on this panel investigate the pluralistic politics of resource extraction in Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Romania, the United States, and China. In-depth analysis of Russia’s so-called “oil capital,” Surgut, reveals that levels of protest within the city do not neatly coincide with oil prices – nor are most protest events even connected with the oil industry. Instead, variation over time in Surgut’s economic development, its level of dependence on the central state, and local political reforms best explain protest patterns. In Russia and in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, economic, political, and industry-specific factors —  such as macroeconomic developmental models, government management of hydrocarbon revenues, and within-energy sector diversification — have yielded divergent trajectories for energy giants emerging from a shared Soviet institutional, managerial and physical heritage. Sub-national comparison also reveals surprising similarities in the pluralistic politics of resource extraction within and beyond communist and formerly communist states. For example in northern China, like Appalachia in the United States, protests by mine workers resisted national industrialization efforts and local political machines targeting regional coal resources, while state-led anti-poverty initiatives failed to gain traction. In contrast, subnational differences in land ownership, fiscal, and legal systems contributed to divergence in shale gas development in Romania and Pennsylvania. The panel exhibits pluralism in the presenters’ career stages, methodological approaches, and geographical scope of research, including multi-sited fieldwork and novel sub-national comparisons that challenge nation-state boundaries and conventional analytical frameworks.


Mountains & Mobilization: Appalachia and North China in Comparative Perspective
Manfred Elfstrom, University of British Columbia, Okanagan

This paper compares the political economy of and history of popular unrest in Appalachia and North China. Although the countries involved obviously differ on a host of dimensions, not the least regime type, these two particular regions within them share much in common. After genocide opened up the Appalachians to European settlement, poor immigrants from England, Scotland, and Ireland subsistence farmed on difficult to cultivate mountain plots(Caudill 1962, chap. 1), while arid and rugged North China was the site of devastating famines into the late nineteenth century (Li 2007). The coal industry, vital to the industrialization and defense of the United States and China alike, subsequently made these regions national investment priorities (Eller 2013; Wu 2015). Yet, neither coal nor subsequent state-led anti-poverty initiatives succeeded in preventing the Appalachia or North China from continuing to lag behind their countries economically—and coal, in particular, fed crooked local political machines in both places  (Eller 2013; Wang 2009). Social movements in these two regions, meanwhile, developed along a somewhat different trajectory from the U.S. and China as a whole. Mine worker organizing in Appalachia peaked early, in the 1920s, with showdowns like the Battle of Blair Mountain (Green 2015; Shogan 2006). North China was the site of intense guerilla warfare and Communist Party recruitment during WWII (Yang 2017). As captured by the Dynamics of Collective Action dataset (see McAdam and Su 2002), unrest in places like West Virginia spiked the 1970s just as social mobilization in America more generally was dipping. The China Strikes dataset shows unrest in Shanxi Province rising in the early 2000s, ahead of China’s national wave of labor activism (Elfstrom 2017). My paper will examine the distinctive structural conditions and contentious politics of these areas using protest event data from the aforementioned collections, was well as others like the Mapping American Social Movements project, alongside historical news reports and secondary literature. By delving into a variety of issues, including underdevelopment, resource extraction, corruption, and political efficacy, in parts of the world that are rarely studied together, the paper epitomizes the emphasis in this year’s APAS theme statement on “complex issues that do not respect…  geographic boundaries.” It also answers the same statement’s call for greater methodological pluralism. My approach is essentially comparative historical analysis: qualitatively approaching big questions with “a concern for causal analysis, an emphasis on processes over time, and the use of systematic and contextualized comparison” (Mahoney and Rueschemeyer 2003, 10). However, rather than employing the sort of broad, cross-national juxtaposition that is typical of this approach, I have chosen to analyze specific regions from within two countries. If the countries represent “most different” cases on many dimensions, the regions that are the focus of this paper show the similar outcomes that can result from shared conditions amidst more general dissimilarities (on most similar and most different research designs, see Przeworski and Teune 1970). Hurst (2017) has argued for precisely this method of matching “subnational units or phenomena across national boundaries” as a means of exploring Chinese politics in a deeper and more regionally-attuned manner than much recent scholarship, while at the same time placing the country in a global perspective, thereby testing “the limits and scope of generalizability not only in terms of broad causal arguments but also very precisely of specific causal mechanisms.” The paper’s findings should add to important discussions in American politics and China studies concerning socioeconomic dislocation, populism, and the power of marginalized people.

Shale Gas in Eastern Europe: Local Hostility and Grassroots Protests
Andreea Raluca Maierean, Wilkes University

In the United States, shale gas has revolutionized the energy industry. Several circumstances made it possible: a land ownership system that rewards owners for production of what lies beneath their holdings, a fiscal and legal system that encourages production and an advanced oil and gas industry that provides services like drilling and hydraulic fracturing quickly and at an affordable cost. A few years ago, Central and Eastern Europe looked like the region with the best opportunity in Europe to put the lessons learned in the United States to work. The most recent developments show however that all major players left the region and abandoned all efforts to find and produce natural gas from shale rock in Central and Eastern Europe. So, why didn’t shale gas work in Eastern Europe? In order to explore the various models of shale gas management, my project compared and contrasted policies adopted in Romania (the case selected to represent a weak institutional environment) and the state of Pennsylvania (the case selected to represent a strong institutional environment). The article documents the results of my fieldwork in Romania. With the aim of collecting original and comprehensive information, I organized a fieldwork trip to five different locations in Romania where citizens mobilized in large numbers against shale gas exploration. Snowball sampling was the method used to select respondents for the in-depth interviews. In order to explain why local hostility remains the largest obstacle to unconventional gas development in the region, I interviewed journalists, academics, geologists, protest leaders, protest participants and local officials. My main research question attempted to identify the factors that made the experience of Pennsylvania difficult to replicate in Romania. The project studied the relationship between democratic institutions, public participation and natural resources. It attempted to answer a few key questions surrounding the large-scale anti-fracking protests that occurred in 2013 in Romania: Why did the protesters decide to take the risk of confronting gas companies and local authorities? Why did they continue to protest even when they faced severe repression? How did the people involved in anti-fracking protests differ from other environmental activists in their experiences and ideas? 

Protest and Elite Strategies in the Oil Capital of Russia: Surgut in Transition
Allison D. Evans, University of Nevada, Reno

What happens to the development of civil society and labor relations when countries decide to privatize vital and strategically important extractive industries, like oil? As oil industries become increasingly independent from the state, do the well-known consequences of rentierism (such as, repression and co-optation of the masses and labor) dissipate? This paper seeks to answer these questions by studying the experience of such a transition in Russia’s so-called “oil capital,” Surgut. During the chaos of the 1990s transition, how did locals and oil workers react to the myriad political, economic, and social crises felt broadly across Russia? What strategies did elites employ to maintain social order? Surgut presents an interesting case because resource extraction is a particularly fraught sector due to the highly volatile nature of the global commodity market into which Russia’s oil industry was thrust. Nevertheless, the reorganization of the oil industry in the early-1990s allowed Surgutneftegaz to consolidate a vertically-integrated company under the leadership of Vladimir Bogdanov (Surgutneftegaz’s oil tycoon). Although production crashed dramatically in the early-1990s, Surgutneftegaz stabilized in the mid-1990s, and consolidated and rebounded in the late-1990s. Simultaneously, Surgut’s political institutions became more democratic with the creation of a directly elected City Duma and Mayor, and the administrative apparatus became more open to societal input and collaboration on projects to improve conditions in the city. However, the protest waves Surgut experienced neither neatly coincide with oil prices, nor are the majority of protest events directly connected to the oil industry. The within-case variation in Surgut’s economic prospects, level of dependence on the central state, and local political reforms allows for the comparison of protest patterns within a company town to isolate causal factors leading to the protest patterns observed. Drawing on interviews with local scholars as well as content analysis of local newspapers and archival documents, this paper will clarify the effects of the transition to a capitalist economy, privatized oil industry, and semi-democratic political regime on protest and civil society in one of Russia’s most strategically important cities.

Varieties of Eurasian Petrostates: Limits of the “Resource Curse” in the FSU
Rudra Sil, University of Pennsylvania; Mikhail A. Strokan, University of Pennsylvania

The collapse of the Soviet Union with its highly unified and centralized energy sector has produced five new energy giants, which have simultaneously started to build their independent energy policies from the common Soviet institutional, managerial and physical heritage. Today, 30 years after this fundamental critical juncture for the region, we can analyze their pathways and decisions that led to various results. Different intersections of structural constraints and agency of three of these five Eurasian energy giants – Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, are of particular focus in this paper. Crisis after crisis, each country has adapted its national policy to changing the international and domestic environment with various degrees of success. This paper presents a comparative historical analysis of the pathways the three countries have followed. It finds that the classical resource curse thesis has severe limitations. Although the “no-curse” argument offered by Jones Luong and Weinthal (2010) has effectively differentiated ownership structures of various post-Soviet petrostates, there are other dimensions that can be usefully probed for comparative insights. Moreover, the distinctly structurationist approach adopted in this article reveals and theorizes new structural elements previously undiscussed in the literature, such as the size and quality of the domestic market, physical features of oil and gas fields, and within-energy sector diversification, and draws special attention to the political decisions of a state as it relates to management of hydrocarbons revenues, relations with foreign and domestic companies, and the broader macroeconomic developmental models each country adopted.

Virtual Full Paper Panel


  • (Chair) John Gerring, University of Texas, Austin;
  • (Discussant) Arthur Lupia, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor;
  • (Discussant) Erin Hartman, UCLA;
  • (Discussant) Julio Saul Solís Arce, WZB Berlin Social Science Center

Session Description:

A common observation about work in the social sciences is that there is little knowledge cumulation. Everyone runs his/her own shop, searching for new truths, and no hypotheses are ever adequately proven or disproven. Theoretical fertility is high, mortality low. Attention to each new theory may rise and fall but this cannot be taken as a sign that the theory is right or wrong; it is simply a sign of scholarly excitement, which waxes and wanes. Moreover, each new theory strikes out with a new framework and new vocabulary, which doesn’t successfully integrate previous theories.

To many observers, the non-progressive nature of social science is an inevitable by-product of the subject matter, which is transient, open to interpretation, and affected by myriad factors – including the very theories that we create. But to say that human action is difficult to study scientifically is not to say that it is impossible. With respect to cumulation, it is surely a matter of degrees. One cannot draw a bright line between subjects that are “cumulative” and subjects that are not.

We need to cumulate knowledge about cumulation. In this panel, we take a close look at the topic as it plays out in political science. Papers address a variety of related questions… How can cumulation be measured (how do we know it when we see it)? For what research questions can we say cumulation is occurring? Why is it more characteristic of some field than others? How might further cumulation be fostered?


Accidental Cumulation in Studies of Clientelism, Corruption, and Governance
Miriam A. Golden, European University Institute; Stephane Wolton, London School of Economics

Political science and political economy research in less developed countries is currently centered on problems of governance, with a focus on clientelism and corruption. With the exception of the Metaketa work on information campaigns, research in this area has proceeded without explicit coordination. Yet some findings seem to have cumulated, as studies build on one another. Among these are that clientelism is common, that politicians who participate in clientelism are trapped in an inefficient equilibrium, that clientelism occurs in systematically different ways throughout the electoral cycle, and that voters are poorly equipped to overcome clientelism on their own. In this essay, I reflect on specific characteristics of this research program that facilitate research cumulation, as distinct from research in other areas of comparative politics. I argue that research on clientelism and corruption occurs within broader shifts favoring increased quantification, conceptual and analytical precision, and research transparency in political science. These shifts make spontaneous cumulation of knowledge more likely because they facilitate informal borrowing and replication among scholars.

Meta-Analysis in Domains Where Many Studies are Proprietary: Voter Turnout
Donald P. Green, Columbia University; Thomas Leavitt, Columbia University

In principle, voter turnout research is well suited to meta-analysis and other statistical methods that aim to extract insights from research literatures.  Most studies of voter turnout in the past decade randomly assign interventions and rely on administrative data to measure outcomes; thus, the prevailing research design is far more standardized than in other substantive domains, and the resulting estimates are expressed in comparable units.  Moreover, academic researchers who study voter turnout have been early and earnest adopters of pre-registration, which lessens the threat of publication bias.  However, an increasing share of the research literature in this domain is conducted by consultants or staff working within organizations that do not register and disclose all of the studies they conduct.  This paper reflects on the special challenges that arise when researchers attempt to summarize research literatures that are only partly visible due to selective reporting by proprietary research operations.

Loosely Coordinated Studies in Evidence-Based Policymaking
Jacob Bowers, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

The Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act of 2019 in the US Government has accelerated the number policy evaluations occurring in the federal government. Even before the act passed, the Office of Evaluation Sciences had executed nearly 70 randomized controlled trials using administrative data to measure policy-relevant behavior change and implementing new designs for state-citizen relations inspired by the behavioral science literature and built on the experience of civil servants. This evidence-based policy movement is only increasing in scope and reach across levels of government and the world. At this point hundreds of RCTs have been run around the world aiming to inform policy-makers about their next steps in decision making: vaccination communication is one such area where many studies have been done, but where the studies have not been directly coordinated (say, following the EGAP Metaketa model), but where there scientific cumulation beckons. Taking the example of attempts to encourage vaccination across institutions and the example of a loosely coordinated study of early childhood language learning (the Providence Talks Replication Study), we offer some reflections on how the scientific workflow might need to change in order for future collections of studies to be most policy relevant while also most effectively and quickly advancing scientific explanation. For example, we show that transparency and replicability principles arising to serve the sciences are not directly political enough for use in policy and we advocate tighter coordination between ethnographic teams of human centered designers, social scientists, and data scientists.

The “Rolling Metaketa” Approach to Knowledge Accumulation
Macartan Humphreys, Columbia University; Cyrus Samii, New York University; Alexandra Scacco, WZB Berlin Social Science Center; Anna Maria Wilke, Columbia University; Julio Saul Solís Arce, WZB Berlin Social Science Center

In recent years, social scientists have grown increasingly concerned about challenges that make it difficult to learn across studies—including heterogeneity in study design, effect heterogeneity, and selective reporting—and about challenges for establishing the external validity of empirical findings. These are features of the so-called “replication crisis.” At the same time, developments in “data fusion,” causal modeling, and extrapolation methods offer ways to formally assess strategies for accumulation. We present a new approach to cross-study collaboration and integration. A starting point for our efforts has been the “Metaketa” model, pioneered by the Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) network. This model involves the simultaneous coordination of a set of field experiments with harmonized designs in multiple sites that feed into a meta-analysis. Our follow-up initiative offers researchers the opportunity to collaborate in asynchronous ways. We build a platform which serves as a hub that summarizes existing knowledge within a research program. Accessing this hub, researchers are able to design their studies in ways that maximize learning and to feed their results into the existing knowledge base. An overarching theoretical structure aids the aggregation of research findings. We demonstrate our approach by applying it to research on intergroup contact and prejudice reduction.

In-Person Full Paper Panel

Co-sponsored by Division 35: Political Organizations and Parties


  • (Chair) Jay Goodliffe, Brigham Young University;
  • (Discussant) Jay Goodliffe, Brigham Young University;
  • (Discussant) Eitan D. Hersh, Tufts University

Session Description:

With the ever-rising costs of electoral campaigns in the United States, money continues to be an important determinant of the emergence and success of political candidates. Moreover, the changing campaign finance landscape–e.g., the rise of small donors and the increasing adoption of online fundraising platforms (e.g., ActBlue and WinRed)–presents new challenges and opportunities for politicians, donors, and interest groups. This panel brings together four papers that highlight a few of the promising directions of research on the effects of the campaign finance system on democratic representation in the United States.

Two of the papers on this panel focus on structural and technological factors that affect the fundraising and electoral success of candidates. Adam Bonica and Jake Grumbach shed light on an important yet under-explored cause of under-representation for people of color in legislatures: the money primary. The racialized system of money in politics in the U.S. presents a disproportionate barrier for prospective candidates of color to enter politics. This is particularly true in the early stages of primary elections, where fundraising success is critical for candidate viability and particularly reliant on elite networks to which minorities have limited access. Bonica and Grumbach construct a data set on congressional candidates’ educational and professional backgrounds (including those who filed to run and then drop out before their respective primary elections) and the racial identities and professional backgrounds of campaign donors from 2010 and 2014. Bonica and Grumbach’s analysis of this data set demonstrates how the American campaign finance system is biased against racial minorities, who have been historically excluded from these elite educational and professional networks.

Silvia Kim and Zhao Li examine the implications of WinRed, a digital fundraising platform endorsed by the Republican party, for candidates’ fundraising as well as power dynamics within the GOP. Kim and Li argue that WinRed serves as a public good for the party, since it reduces transaction costs in digital fundraising and creates a centralized data warehouse of contact information and observed conduct of campaign donors. Whether WinRed, like other public goods, suffers from under-provision in the absence of coercion by party leadership (i.e., a suboptimal number of Republican candidates migrate to WinRed) depends on how much individual candidates stand to gain in fundraising by joining the platform. Kim and Li estimate the effects of joining WinRed on Republican candidates’ campaign receipts using an original data set of the timing of candidates’ adoption of WinRed and a difference-in-differences design with various robustness checks. Moreover, Kim and Li explore how WinRed changes the balance of power within the Republican party by analyzing heterogeneity effects across candidates’ legislative, electoral, and demographic characteristics.

The other two papers on this panel explore how campaign donors navigate a changing and increasingly complex political fundraising marketplace. Zachary Albert and Raymond La Raja investigate four structural factors–technological changes, organizational activism, media, and campaign finance laws–that may shape the participation of small donors. Albert and La Raja  analyze fundraising platforms (e.g., ActBlue), online campaign solicitation appeals, interviews with fundraisers, and state campaign finance laws. Albert and La Raja discuss whether small donors may ameliorate the distortionary effects of traditional “big money” donors in elections, the incentives that campaigns and political organizations may face in their attempt to court small donors (e.g., appealing to these donors’ consumption values), and implications for descriptive and ideological representation through the campaign finance system.

Last but not least, Zhao Li examines the rise of “scam PACs,” i.e., political action committees (PACs) that raise campaign donations to enrich their creators (such as campaign consultants) instead of advancing the campaigns or causes that they purport to champion. Donors face significant informational barriers to distinguishing scam PACs from bona fide campaigns and political organizations. The proliferation of scam PACs and the lack of regulatory oversight over them not only undermines PACs’ accountability to donors, but also generates a lemons problem in a marketplace for contributions. Li presents a quantitative assessment of scam PACs that have been identified by media and government reports, including these PACs’ distinct expenditure patterns, donor characteristics, treasurer and vendor networks, and communications materials. Building on these descriptive analyses, Li estimates a supervised learning algorithm that systematically identifies scam PACs in U.S. federal elections.


How Early Fundraising Keeps Candidates of Color Out of Office
Jake M Grumbach, Princeton University; Adam Bonica, Stanford University

Why do American elected officials remain racially unrepresentative? Research in race and ethnic politics has offered potential answers, including electoral geography, discrimination by voters, and a lack of party support. Other research, however, has pointed to early primary election fundraising as critical for candidate viability (Bonica 2017; Bonica 2020). Despite new evidence that money American politics is racialized (Grumbach and Sahn 2020; Grumbach, Sahn, and Staszak 2020), we know little about the role of early fundraising as a potential obstacle for the emergence of candidates of color in American politics. We investigate the relationship between early fundraising, racial identity, and candidate viability. A key determinant of success is a candidate’s ability to raise early money from their professional networks, especially in the legal profession. The historical exclusion of Black Americans and people of color from law leads us to a set of hypotheses: 1) racial inequality in early fundraising; 2) a strong relationship between the racial identities of candidates and early donors; and 3) the exclusion of candidates of color from early fundraising networks dominated by elite lawyers. Using data on the educational and professional backgrounds of candidates who ran for Congress from 2010 to 2014, as well as data on the racial identities and professional backgrounds of donors, we estimate racial inequality in candidates’ early fundraising. Building on prior work on the role of professional networks in candidate fundraising, such as the important role of seed funding from networks of elite lawyers (Bonica 2020), we illuminate the ways that American campaign finance system is biased against racial minorities, who have been historically excluded from these elite educational and professional networks. Existing data on candidate racial identities tends only to cover major party nominees and incumbents. However, in today’s polarized politics, congressional representation is largely determined at the primary stage—and, especially, early on in the primary election cycle where seed money determines whether a candidate is ‘serious’ or not viable. We thus collect data on even the candidates who file to run and then drop out before the primary election.

Keep Winning with WinRed? Online Fundraising Platform as the Party’s Public Good
Seo-young Silvia Kim, American University; Zhao Li, Princeton University

Online campaign fundraising platforms—ActBlue for Democrats, WinRed for Republicans—increasingly dominate the fundraising landscape of U.S. elections. Both are conduits that strive to boost fundraising efforts and streamline giving for potential donors. ActBlue grew organically,gradually incorporating Democratic campaigns since 2004; WinRed was fast-track implemented in 2019, endorsed by the Republican National Committee, and strongly encouraged by the party and the sitting president.While not mirror images of each other, both party’s campaigns use the platform for similar rea-sons: they lower transaction costs in digital fundraising campaigns, solve a coordination problem,and help centralize and standardize data collection of the contact information and observed behavior of campaign donors, including small donors. In particular, the GOP advocated for the use of WinRed—twisting quite a few arms in the attempt—to unify and replace the various plat-forms formerly used by Republican candidates and committees. WinRed was indeed GOP’s first successful party-coordinated platform, after multiple failures to replicate the success of ActBlue.Such a party-coordinated data warehouse can serve as a form of public goods within parties,helping parties design more effective campaign strategies such as micro-targeted solicitation and advertising (Albert 2020). However, public goods often suffer from under-provision (Ostrom,1990), and online fundraising platforms may be no exception. Since individual campaigns need not fully internalize the positive externalities of enhanced data infrastructure of their parties,the rate at which campaigns migrate to party-endorsed digital platforms may be sub-optimal for parties seeking to improve overall fundraising outcomes and electoral performance of their candidates. To understand the extent to which candidates under-utilize party-endorsed fundraising plat-forms in the absence of coordination or coercion by party leadership, we first need to understand whether candidates find it individually rational to join these digital fundraising platforms. Does Joining a party-endorsed platform lead to a fundraising boost? Moreover, are there heterogeneity effects by salient candidate characteristics, including electoral traits (e.g., party, prior fundraising levels, incumbency), descriptive representation (e.g., gender, race, socioeconomic status), and legislative power (e.g., legislative committee and party rank)? To answer these questions, we construct a panel data set of all Republican federal candidates in the 2020 election cycle, taking advantage of the rapid, party-pushed transition to WinRed in mid-2019. For all candidates that joined a party-endorsed digital fundraising platform at some point during this period, we record the dates of these events through web scraping of archived campaign websites. Moreover, we collect all campaign contributions received by each campaign,including both itemized and unitemized contributions from the Federal Election Commission(FEC). Finally, we compile candidates’ biographic information and electoral characteristics from the FEC, and legislative attributes from Congress’s official websites and the two major parties.We start with a difference-in-differences (DiD) design to estimate whether candidates on average raise more money after joining WinRed. The treatment variable is whether a campaign joined the platform in a given year-quarter. The outcome variable is a campaign’s total fundraising in each year-quarter, and we analyze whether fundraising increases in the quarter(s) after treatment. We include candidate fixed effects as well as a separate year-quarter fixed effect by party.We recognize that candidates strategically decide whether and when to join a party-endorsed fundraising platform, which may violate the parallel-trends assumption. Hence we will apply recent methodological advances (Xu, 2017; Imai et al., 2020) to construct valid counterfactuals for treated units. We will also explore theoretically important heterogeneity in treatment effects. For example,suppose the marginal benefits of joining ActBlue or WinRed are higher for those who already raise more money than other co-partisan candidates. In that case, these platforms may further consolidate legislative power within the hands of star fundraisers, who disproportionately control the party and legislative agenda through formal appointments to leadership positions and informal influence-buying within legislatures (Kistner, 2020). Also, if candidates who are male,white, and wealthy benefit more from joining party-endorsed platforms, this may threaten to undo recent progress in descriptive representation in elections (Lawless and Fox, 2005; Fox and Lawless, 2005; Carnes, 2013; Grose, 2011) and undermine the increasing diversity in donor pools(Alvarez et al., 2020; Grumbach et al., 2020; Grumbach and Sahn, 2020).

The Impact of Structural Factors on Small Dollar Donors in American Politics
Zachary Albert, Brandeis University; Raymond J. La Raja, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Many view small donors as a counterweight to the corruption concerns and representative distortions introduced by “big money” in American elections. As part of a larger project, we investigate structural factors that might increase (or decrease) small donations in American politics and, when possible, how these factors impact normative considerations like the demographic and ideological representativeness of the donor pool. We theorize that small donor giving is primarily a consumption-based dynamic, which puts a premium on structural features that enable emotive and identity-based mobilization. To explore these dynamics, we investigate four interrelated factors that might impact small donor giving, including technological change, organizational activism, the media environment, and campaign finance rules. We leverage a range of data and both qualitative and quantitative methods in this analysis, including analysis of financial records from fundraising platforms like ActBlue, public fundraising appeals on social media and through email, interviews with fundraisers, and a cross-state analysis examining how campaign finance programs and laws affect variation in small donor giving over two decades. In this latter analysis, we also explore how institutional features can affect the demographic and ideological makeup of the small donor pool, with important implications for our understanding of small donors and reforms that might facilitate their most positive effects.

Lemons in the Political Marketplace: A Big-Data Approach to Detect ‘Scam PACs’
Zhao Li, Princeton University

Scam PACs are political action committees (PACs) in the United States that use the campaign donations they raise to enrich their creators instead of advancing the candidate campaigns or political causes that they purport to champion. Based on numerous media reports, scam PACs have successfully targeted supporters of the Tea Party movement (Lipton and Steinhauser 2015), Ken Cuccinelli (Janetsky 2018), Donald Trump (Severns 2019), the “Blue Lives Matter” movement (Ellis and Hicken 2020), and many more. Because campaign donors face difficulty in distinguishing scam PACs from PACs that are backed by bona fide ideological or issue-advocacy groups, and that there exists minimal regulatory oversight under current campaign finance laws, the rise of scam PACs not only undermines PACs’ accountability to donors, but also generates a lemons problem in the broader political marketplace (Ravel and Weintraub 2016). Based on my calculation, in the 2018 election cycle alone alleged scam PACs collectively raised at least $57 million, which could have fully funded 74 average House campaigns in the same cycle. To reduce the information asymmetry that donors face in discerning scam PACs, I first quantitatively assess how scam PACs that have been identified by media outlets, non-profit organizations, and government agencies differ from comparable non-scam PACs on fundraising and expenditure patterns (e.g., abnormally high fraction of spending on operating expenses rather than direct contributions or independent expenditures in elections), donor characteristics (e.g., conservative, elderly small donors), PAC treasurer and vendor networks (e.g., shared political consultants among scam PACs), and campaign solicitation and other communication materials distributed on social media and other online platforms (planned analysis to be carried out soon). Building on these descriptive analyses, I construct a supervised machine learning algorithm that systematically detects scam PACs in U.S. federal elections, using a rich set of model features that include all of the above summary statistics of observable PAC attributes, itemized individual contributions to PACs, itemized PAC disbursements, and PACs’ links to individual treasurers and vendors. Preliminary results from my random forest model achieve an out-of-sample Area Under Curve (AUC) metric of 0.891, which is close to the gold standard of 0.90 for most applications of machine learning classifications (Hosmer, Lemeshow, and Sturdivant 2013, p. 177). Manual inspection of model predictions also reveal that my algorithm helps to identify scam PACs that have yet to receive widespread media coverage or government scrutiny. Moreover, through feature analysis of the estimated algorithm, I identify key model features that help to distinguish scam PACs from non-scam PACs, including not only summary statistics of PAC conduct (e.g., itemization ratio and proportion of campaign expenditures devoted to fundraising) but also transaction-level data (e.g., identities of individual campaign vendors and donors).

Virtual Roundtable


  • (Chair) Jessica Soedirgo, University of Amsterdam;
  • (Presenter) April Biccum, University of Lancaster;
  • (Presenter) Rachel George, University of Alberta;
  • (Presenter) Aarie Glas, Northern Illinois University;
  • (Presenter) Frederic C. Schaffer, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Session Description:

There are growing debates in political science around epistemology and methodology as the discipline expands in new directions and the sophistication of our methods increases. Given these developments, this roundtable unites scholars of different ranks and from different subfields to address a broad question: How do varied ontological assumptions and commitments influence the choice and use of concepts and methods in political science research? This roundtable examines this expansive question by surveying the state of the literature on methodological pluralism, unpacking embedded ontological assumptions in the deployment of methods, and examining the effects of varied ontological and epistemological commitments for methods and concepts in political science research. In doing so, this roundtable explicates both productive methodological complementarities and underscores necessary divisions.  

Participants in the roundtable are contributors to “Section II. Understanding the Role of Methodologies” in the planned Oxford Handbook of Methodological Pluralism, edited by Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, and Dino Christenson. Participants examine varied ontological assumptions and commitments across the positivist-interpretivist spectrum and explore their effects on research outputs across a range of substantive focal points. These include new data and practices in the digital age, varied indigenous and reflexive methodologies and methods, and the contribution of interpretive methodological commitments to the use and understanding of central concepts in social science research.

Collectively, this roundtable makes the broader argument that political scientists need to be more aware of the ontological assumptions embedded in the methodological choices they make, as these assumptions shape the kinds of knowledge that are produced and not produced in political science research. By being aware of these assumptions and both valuing and understanding the varied methodological tools that arise from different ontological commitments, political science as a discipline can move toward pluralism and inclusivity.

Virtual Full Paper Panel

Co-sponsored by Division 36: Elections and Voting Behavior


  • (Chair) Stefanie Reher, University of Strathclyde;
  • (Discussant) Hanna Wass, University of Helsinki;
  • (Discussant) Elizabeth Bell

Session Description:

Studies have repeatedly shown that disabled people participate in elections at lower rates than non-disabled people. While the reasons are manifold they are not yet fully understood, as political science has so far paid scant attention to this group that comprises between 15 and 20% of people in our societies. The four papers in this proposed panel approach the issue of barriers to political participation for disabled voters with both theoretical and methodological pluralism. They focus on a set of key factors influencing access to politics, political engagement, and political representation. These include accommodations to facilitate voting, partisanship, and public opinion polling. The studies draw on novel and large-scale survey data from the U.S. and Europe, as well as an audit experiment. Taking an inclusive approach to disability, the panel highlights not only the experiences of people with physical, sensory, and other impairments but also mental health conditions. The papers will be presented and discussed by a group of scholars who are diverse in terms of seniority, including established professors, ECRs, and PhD students; nationality and location; gender; and lived experience of disability.

Keywords: Disability, mental health, voting, accessibility, political inequality, surveys, audit experiment


Progress or Regress? Disability and Voting Accessibility in the 2020 Elections
Lisa Schur, Rutgers University; Mason Ameri, Rutgers University; Meera Adya, Syracuse University; Douglas Kruse, Rutgers University

People with disabilities have faced a long history of political marginalization and exclusion in the United States, as well as in other countries. While voting is one of the most fundamental aspects of a democracy, in the U.S. barriers to voting have included laws that prohibit people under guardianship from voting independently, physically inaccessible polling places, ballots that are difficult to read or understand, and election officials who do not know how to operate accessible voting equipment or who treat voters with disabilities with a lack of respect and consideration. This paper uses nationally representative surveys conducted after the U.S. presidential elections in 2012 and 2020 to examine the voting experiences of citizens with and without disabilities, sponsored by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The 2012 survey had 3,022 respondents and the 2020 survey had 2,569 respondents, both with oversampling of people with disabilities who represent about two-thirds of all respondents. The goal is to identify continued barriers to full participation, as well as to determine how much progress has been made for voters and potential voters with disabilities between these two elections. Preliminary results indicate progress has been made in the experience of voting for citizens with disabilities between 2012 and 2020, but they are still more likely than voters without disabilities to experience difficulties whether voting in person or by mail ballot. We also examine the relationship of disability to treatment by election officials, voter comparisons of 2020 voting to their pre-pandemic experience, facilitators of voting, preferred method of voting in the next election, and other topics.

Election Accessibility: Responses to Accommodation Requests by Disabled Voters
Mandi Eatough, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

As of the 2020 presidential election, disabled voters in need of accommodations when voting are instructed to contact their local election officials to ensure their access to the ballot thus creating an unofficial system of accessibility provision that is not included in existing evaluations of election accessibility. Through an email audit experiment of local election officials, I evaluate the effectiveness of this informal system by measuring the comparative responsiveness of local election officials to requests for information about voting from home in the 2020 presidential election with and without requests for an accommodation needed because of their disability as well as the quality of their responses. I find that while there is some variance in the responsiveness of local election officials to requests for accommodations by disabled voters, in conditions where the disability is explicit and the requested accommodation requires more work to provide local election officials are less likely to respond to the request and when they do, they take longer to do so. These results raise considerable questions about the reasonableness of the use of such an informal method of accommodation provision in elections particularly in light of the long-reported difficulties disabled voters face when voting in the United States.

Partisanship and Political Participation Among People with Disabilities
April A. Johnson, Kennesaw State University; Sierra Powell, Mount San Antonio College

The disability politics literature has found that having a disability significantly decreases an individual’s voting propensity. Using data from the American National Election Studies of 2012, 2016, 2018, and 2020, the present paper explores several mechanisms that may explain such depressed levels of voter turnout. Considering the central role of partisanship in American political behavior, we investigate whether individuals with disabilities express weak partisan ties, moderate ideological preferences, and inconsistency in vote choice. We observe that those with disabilities are more likely than those without disabilities to report Democratic Party affiliation and liberal ideological orientations. In terms of vote choice, additional models reveal that disability status has a multifaceted and variable relationship with candidate preference. We conclude by providing suggestions for how Americans with disabilities might be better served by political parties and by reflecting on how this growing constituency might be better incorporated into the U.S. electoral system as a whole.

Leave Me Alone: Depression, Item Response, and Political Representation
Luca Bernardi, University of Liverpool; Robert Johns, University of Essex

Response to polls and surveys is an important means by which citizens’ policy preferences are communicated to and represented by elites (Brehm, 1993). The representation process is thus skewed if certain groups are less likely to respond — either to the survey as a whole or to individual items within it. Mental health, and particularly depression, is an obvious source of skew when it comes to item non-response. Sufferers from depression are prone to avoid exactly the kind of cognitive and emotional effort that is involved in tasks like recalling considerations or reconciling internal conflicts, and so will be attracted by non-response or other satisficing options such as acquiescence. Drawing on a wide range of health and social attitudes surveys, including the European Social Survey and Understanding Society, we test this hypothesis by modelling the likelihood of non-response (and other satisficing devices) based on depression and various other individual characteristics. Then, shifting to a meta-analytic approach in which the unit of analysis is the survey item, we test various hypotheses about the types of questions on which depressives are particularly prone to non-response. Together, these analyses provide a detailed picture of how – and how far – depression affects this channel of political participation and representation.