Research

 

PRESIDENTIAL RHETORIC AND PUBLIC OPINION (DISSERTATION)

Presidents move public opinion by “going public.” Challenging the scholarly consensus that presidents benefit little by speaking to the public, I show that presidential communications have a strong effect on Americans’ policy preferences—once we recognize that presidents may be seeking to shape the opinions of fellow partisans more than the general public.  Presidential communications also play an important role in shaping public assessments of which party can best handle various policy challenges. Reversing the causal arrow common in the parties literature, I show that party reputations for competence determine long-term partisan attachments, rather than party identification driving assessments of competence.  My data include responses to Gallup’s most important problem question from 1956 to 1999, content analysis of every major presidential address from President Eisenhower to President Clinton, and survey data of policy preferences on major policy initiatives of Presidents Reagan through Obama.  Employing regression and time-series analyses, I reveal that actions of the presidents are not detached from the party system but instead drive the evolution of that system in important ways. 

Papers:

“Governing the Nation, Leading the Party: The Party Politics of President Bush’s Actions on Stem Cell Research.” [view]

“Presidential Rhetoric and the Economic Policy Image of the Parties.” under review. [view]

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POLITICAL ADVERTISING IN JUDICIAL ELECTIONS

I study political advertising in judicial elections from both a political behavior and a judicial politics perspective.  From a political behavior perspective, I suggest looking at these low-information races – characterized by relatively unequal distribution of campaign finance and, in some states, limitations on use of party cues – as a quasi-experimental setting to examine the effect of political advertising on the vote.  From a judicial process interest, I argue that these races offer tremendous leverage for studying how institutional differences governing the election process and the availability of political funding affect the composition of judges in state supreme courts as well as the decisions they make.  Using data on the content of ads aired in the last four election cycles (collected at the Advertising Project of the University of Wisconsin), I assess how the volume and content of these ads (1) affect electoral behavior; and (2) correlate with decisions judges make once elected.

Papers:

“From Shaking Hands to Buying Air Time: Political Advertising in Judicial Races,” with Matthew Holleque and Jacob Neiheisel. in progress. [view

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AMERICAN PUBLIC SUPPORT TOWARD ISRAEL

My interest in the effect of presidential rhetoric and mass media on public opinion adds to my active research agenda on media coverage of foreign events with specific interest in American mass opinion about Israel.  In these projects I address the sources and consequences of the puzzling gap between the low level of knowledge Americans have about foreign events and their relative high interest and knowledge about Israel.  I find that presidential rhetoric and official administrative statements have a significant effect on public support toward Israel.  I plan to expand this research by exploring trends in public support toward Israel and systematically evaluate the determinants of change.  I focus on the effect of individual level factors as well as the agenda setting power of the president and the media.

Papers:

“Religious Beliefs, Elite Polarization, and Public Opinion on Foreign Policy: The Partisan Gap in American Public Opinion toward Israel,” International Journal of Public Opinion Research (forthcoming)

“Six Decades of Public Affection: Trends in American Public Attitudes toward Israel,” in Robert O. Freedman (ed.), The US And Israel; Six Decades Of Relations (Westview Press, 2012)

“Foreign Affairs and the Local Newsroom: Television News Coverage of the Second Lebanon War,” with Itay Gabay.  under review. [view]

“Mediating Public Attitudes of Foreign Policy through the Israeli Prism,” with Joshua M. Cowen. in progress.

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ADDITIONAL RESEARCH PROJECTS

“Constitution by Compromise:  Justiciability and Democracy in Israeli Constitutionalism,” with Howard Schweber. in progress. [view]

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OTHER PUBLICATIONS

Review of Judicial Power & National Politics: Courts and Gender in the Religious-Secular Conflict in Israel by Patricia Woods. Albany, NY: State University of New York, 2008. Israel Studies Forum 25(2).

Policy Paper. 2007. “The Override Model of Judicial Review:  Assessing the Ability of the Model to Regulate Inter-Branch Tensions in Israel,” Israel Democracy Institute (in Hebrew).