Research and Publications
Research InterestsI am broadly interested in how geographic contexts and social interactions affect our political behavior, and how innate differences between people (genetic, physiological, and psychological differences) moderate the effects of those contextual exposures. My research uses the core methodological tools employed in our discipline, but I am also interested in integrating tools from other disciplines—such as behavior genetics and psychophysiology—to inform our approach in understanding key questions within political science.
DissertationMy dissertation focuses on the relationships between political competition, emotion, and voting. I examine how exposure to political contention in a competitive electoral context affects the way people respond emotionally to political stimuli. Using data from the National Election Study, I demonstrate that respondents who live in politically competitive areas are more likely to report emotional responses to presidential candidates. Further, emotional response in part mediates the mobilizing effect of competition on voter turnout. I elaborate on these relationships by using a novel source of data resulting from a collaboration with the research team at Facebook: a sample of over 100 million status messages from the 2008 election season. Content analysis of this data using approaches designed for large datasets allows me to better identify which aspects of living in a politically competitive area provoke political discussion broadly, and emotional response more specifically. An additional benefit of this data is that I can unobtrusively collect real-time response to the political environment, which helps me avoid the pitfalls of hindsight and self-report as applied to measuring opinion and emotion.
In the second part of the dissertation, I examine whether individual heterogeneity in sensitivity to threat—measured in terms of personality, psychology or genes—moderates the relationships between competition, emotional engagement, and voting. In other words, does a genetic or psychological sensitivity to threat condition the way that exposure to political contention affects voter turnout? I use datasets originally collected by behavior geneticists to test whether people predisposed toward feeling threatened or anxious are more emotionally responsive to the experience of political contention, and whether the level of political competition in their neighborhoods and counties serves as a source of threat which affects their voting behavior. I use a mix of observational regression analysis, paired with both lab and field experiments, to establish these effects.
Publications5. Integrating Social Science and Genetics: News from the Political Front (with Peter Hatemi, Christopher Dawes, Brad Verhulst, and Amanda Frost Keller), Biodemography, 57(1):67-87 (May 2011)
4. The Social Origins of Adult Political Behavior (with Robert Bond and Justin Levitt), American Politics Research, (March 2011)
3. Correlated Genotypes in Friendship Networks (with James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis), Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108(5): 1993-1997 (1 February 2011)
2. Friendships Moderate an Association between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology (with James Fowler, Christopher Dawes, and Nicholas Christakis), Journal of Politics 72 (4): 1189–1198 (October 2010)
1. The Heritability of Partisan Attachment, (with James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes) Political Research Quarterly 62(3): 601-613 (September 2009)
CHAPTERSFowler, James H., Peter John Loewen, Christopher T. Dawes, and Jaime Settle. Forthcoming. “Games, Genes, and Political Participation.” Eds. Rose McDermott and Pete Hatemi. Man is by Nature and Nurture a Political Animal. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
A Massive Scale Experiment in Social Influence and Political
Mobilization (with James H. Fowler, Robert Bond, Chris Fariss, Jason
Jones, Cameron Marlow, and Adam Kramer)
Partisan Heterogeneity and 5HTT Interact to Depress Voter Turnout (with Christopher Dawes and Peter Loewen)
Genes, Anxiety, and Turnout: A Field Experiment (with Christopher Dawes and Costas Panagopoulos)
A Natural Experiment in Proposal Power and Electoral Success (Peter John Loewen, Royce Koop, Jaime Settle, and James H. Fowler.)