Candidate Choice without Party Labels: New Insights from Conjoint Survey Experiments with Alexander Coppock.  Forthcoming.  Political Behavior.

In the absence of party labels, voters must use other information to determine whom to support. The institution of nonpartisan elections, therefore, may impact voter choice by increasing the weight that voters place on candidate dimensions other than partisanship. We hypothesize that in nonpartisan elections, voters will exhibit a stronger preference for candidates with greater career and political experience, as well as candidates who can successfully signal partisan or ideological affiliation without directly using labels. To test these hypotheses, we conducted conjoint survey experiments on both nationally representative and convenience samples that vary the presence or absence of partisan information. The primary result of these experiments indicates that when voters cannot rely on party labels, they give greater weight to candidate experience. We find that this process unfolds differently for respondents of different partisan affiliations: Republicans respond to the removal of partisan information by giving greater weight to job experience while Democrats respond by giving greater weight to political experience. Our results lend microfoundational support to the notion that partisan information can crowd out other kinds of candidate information.

Appendix: Candidate Choice without Party Labels: New Insights from Conjoint Survey Experiments

Working Papers

The Business of Being Mayor: Mayors and Fiscal Policy in U.S. Cities

From mundane tasks like plowing snow and picking up garbage to preventing crime and fighting fires, city governments provide essential services that are central to the public’s safety and quality of life. As a city’s chief executive, the mayor is the highest profile local politician, but can mayors influence policy choices and outcomes? Although case studies of American cities often carve out a prominent role for mayors, quantitative studies examining the effects of mayors on a range of outcomes have yielded mixed results. This paper examines the relationship between mayors and fiscal outcomes, focusing on mayors’ occupational experience. Specifically, do cities that elect mayors with executive business experience exhibit systematically different fiscal policy outcomes?  To identify the effect of mayors’ backgrounds on fiscal outcomes, I draw on an original dataset containing information on the occupational and political experience of more than 3,000 mayoral candidates and employ a regression discontinuity design.  I find that mayors with executive business experience do shape municipal fiscal policy by shifting the allocation of expenditures across policy areas, spending less on redistributive policies and investing in infrastructure.

Appendix: The Business of Being Mayor

Is Divided Government a Cause of Legislative Gridlock? (with Justin Phillips) (under review)

Despite compelling theoretical predictions that the presence of divided government increases the likelihood of legislative gridlock, the empirical literature has struggled to identify a causal effect. We suspect that a combination of methodological challenges and data limitations are to blame. We revisit the relationship between divided government and gridlock using new state-level data on the timeliness of budget adoption. By treating late budgets as gridlock we avoid measurement problems, particularly the challenges inherent in measuring the supply of and demand for legislation. To assess the causal effect of divided government, we develop and implement a regression discontinuity design (RDD) that accounts for the multiple elections that produce unified or divided government. We supplement our RDD analyses with an alternative approach that employs inverse probability weighting. Both approaches yield compelling evidence that divided government is a cause of gridlock. We also evaluate and find support for a new hypothesis that divided government is more likely to lead to gridlock when the personal and political costs that stalemate imposes on politicians are low.

America’s Mayors: Descriptive Representation in U.S. Cities

Despite advances in descriptive representation, U.S. politicians are still overwhelmingly white and male, and the wealth gap between elected officials and their constituents continues to grow. Scholars disagree, however, about why deficits of numeric representation persist.   These circumstances are especially concerning in light of considerable evidence supporting a link between descriptive and substantive representation. In this paper, I examine descriptive representation in the context of U.S. cities. Drawing on an original dataset that includes gender, race, occupational background, and political experience for nearly 4,000 mayoral candidates, I provide a comprehensive account of who runs for office and who serves in city government. Covering nearly 300 cities and 50 years, these data enable me to investigate whether and how representation varies systematically with characteristics of cities, such as geographic region, political institutions, and population.