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

Is Divided Government a Cause of Legislative Delay?  with Justin Phillips. (accepted, Quarterly Journal of Political Science)

Despite the compelling theoretical prediction that divided government decreases legislative performance, the empirical literature has struggled to identify a causal effect. We suspect that a combination of methodological challenges and data limitations are to blame. Here, we revisit this empirical relationship. Rather than relying on traditional measures of legislative productivity, however, we consider whether divided government affects the ability of lawmakers to meet critical deadlines—specifically, the ability of state lawmakers to adopt an on-time budget (as mandated by state law). By focusing on delay instead of productivity 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 in separation-of-powers systems. Our RDD approach yields compelling evidence that divided government is a cause of delay. We also evaluate and find support for a new hypothesis that divided government is more likely to lead to lead to delay when the personal and political costs that stalemate imposes on politicians are low.

Working Papers

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

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


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.  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 U.S. cities. Drawing on an original dataset that includes gender, race, occupational background, and political experience for more than 3,000 mayoral candidates, I provide a comprehensive account of who runs for mayor and who serves. Covering 248 cities and more than 50 years, these data indicate that like politicians at higher levels of government, mayors tend to be white and male with prior political experience and white-collar careers. Business owners and executives are especially well represented, accounting for about 32% of the candidates in the sample. Despite their numbers, I find little evidence to suggest that business owners and executives win at higher rates than other candidates. However, business owners and executives make up a larger share of mayoral candidates in cities with reform institutions. In particular, candidates in council-manager cities are systematically more likely to have a background as a business owner or executive than candidates from cities with a mayor-council government.