My research focuses on American politics (often from an historical angle) and political methodology, though I have also made forays into comparative politics and international relations.
My scholarly publications are listed below and are organized as follows:
- Substantive research
- Methodological research
My non-refereed publications, active working papers, and dormant projects are listed at the bottom of this webpage.
- Dynamic Democracy: Citizens, Parties, and Policymaking in the American States (with Christopher Warshaw). 2022. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 248 pages.
AbstractScholars of American politics have long been skeptical of ordinary citizens’ capacity to influence, let alone control, their governments. Drawing on over eight decades of state-level evidence on public opinion, elections, and policymaking, *Dynamic Democracy* poses a powerful challenge to this pessimistic view. It reveals that although American democracy cannot be taken for granted, state policymaking is far more responsive to citizens’ demands than skeptics claim. Although governments respond sluggishly in the short term, over the long term, electoral incentives induce state parties and politicians—and ultimately policymaking—to adapt to voters’ preferences. The authors take an empirical and theoretical approach that allows them to assess democracy as a dynamic process. Their evidence across states and over time gives them new leverage to assess relevant outcomes and trends, including the evolution of mass partisanship, mass ideology, and the relationship between partisanship and ideology since the mid-twentieth century; the nationalization of state-level politics; the mechanisms through which voters hold incumbents accountable; the performance of moderate candidates relative to extreme candidates; and the quality of state-level democracy today relative to state-level democracy in other periods.
Excerpt from “The Best Scholarly Books of 2022” citation in The Chronicle of Higher Education"It is easy to be pessimistic about American democracy. Elected officials appear far more interested in scoring partisan points than crafting policy that represents their constituents…Dynamic Democracy presents a powerful, data-drenched rejoinder to this line of thinking. The authors argue that, at the state level, policy has been surprisingly reflective of public preferences. Slowly but surely, as voters’ preferences change, so too have the policies of the states in which they live. In the typically staid field of quantitative American politics, Caughey and Warshaw have written a book that speaks to urgent concerns about the state of our democracy."
- Press coverage in The Economist and The New York Times
- Buy from Chicago University Press or Amazon
- Download updated estimates of state policy and mass ideology 1936–2020
- “Policy Preferences and Policy Change: Dynamic Responsiveness in the American States, 1936–2014” (with Christopher Warshaw). 2018 American Political Science Review 112 (2): 249–266. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0003055417000533.
AbstractUsing eight decades of data, we examine the magnitude, mechanisms, and moderators of dynamic responsiveness in the American states. We show that on both economic and (especially) social issues, the liberalism of state publics predicts future change in state policy liberalism. Dynamic responsiveness is gradual, however; large policy shifts are the result of the cumulation of incremental responsiveness over many years. Partisan control of government appears to mediate only a fraction of responsiveness, suggesting that, contrary to conventional wisdom, responsiveness occurs in large part through the adaptation of incumbent officials. Dynamic responsiveness has increased over time but does not seem to be influenced by institutions such as direct democracy or campaign finance regulations. We conclude that our findings, though in some respects normatively ambiguous, on the whole paint a reassuring portrait of statehouse democracy.
- Replication archive
- “The Ideological Nationalization of Partisan Subconstituencies in the American States” (with James Dunham and Christopher Warshaw). 2018 Public Choice 176 (1–2): 133–151. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11127-018-0543-3.
AbstractSince the mid-twentieth century, elite political behavior in the United States has become much more nationalized. In Congress, for example, within-party geographic cleavages have declined, roll-call voting has become more one-dimensional, and Democrats and Republicans have diverged along this main dimension of national partisan conflict. The existing literature finds that citizens have only weakly and belatedly mimicked elite trends. We show, however, that a different picture emerges if we focus not on individual citizens, but on the aggregate characteristics of geographic constituencies. Using biennial estimates of the economic, racial, and social policy liberalism of the average Democrat and Republican in each state over the past six decades, we demonstrate a surprisingly close correspondence between mass and elite trends. Specifically, we find that: (1) ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans has widened dramatically within each domain, just as it has in Congress; (2) ideological variation across senators’ partisan subconstituencies is now explained almost completely by party rather than state, closely tracking trends in the Senate; and (3) economic, racial, and social liberalism have become highly correlated across partisan subconstituencies, just as they have across members of Congress. Overall, our findings contradict the reigning consensus that polarization in Congress has proceeded much more rapidly and extensively than polarization in the mass public.
- “Partisan Gerrymandering and the Political Process: Effects on Roll-Call Voting and State Policies” (with Chris Tausanovitch and Christopher Warshaw). 2017. Election Law Journal 16, no. 4 (Symposium on Partisan Gerrymandering and the Efficiency Gap): 453–469. http://dx.doi.org/10.1089/elj.2017.0452.
AbstractRecent scholarship has documented the advantages of a new measure of partisan gerrymandering: the difference in the parties' wasted votes, divided by the total number of votes cast. This measure, known as the efficiency gap (EG), can be calculated directly from aggregate vote totals, facilitating comparison of the severity of party gerrymandering across states and time. In this article, we conduct the first analysis of the EG's effects on legislative representation and policymaking in the states. We first show that the partisan outcome of legislative elections has important causal effects on the ideological representation of individual districts, the ideological composition of legislative chambers, and the conservatism of state policymaking. We then show that variation in the EG across state-years is associated with systematic differences in the ideological location of the median state legislator and in the conservatism of state policies. These results suggest that partisan gerrymandering has major consequences not only for who wins elections but for the political process as a whole.
- “Incremental Democracy: The Policy Effects of Partisan Control of State Government” (with Christopher Warshaw and Yiqing Xu). 2017. Journal of Politics 79 (4): 1–17. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/692669.
AbstractHow much does it matter whether Democrats or Republicans control the government? Unless the two parties converge completely, election outcomes should have some impact on policy, but the existing evidence for policy effects of party control is surprisingly weak and inconsistent. We bring clarity to this question, using regression-discontinuity and dynamic panel analyses to estimate the effects of party control of state legislatures and governorships on a new annual measure of state policy liberalism. We find that throughout the 1936–2014 period, electing Democrats has led to more liberal policies, but that in recent decades the policy effects of party control have approximately doubled in magnitude. We present evidence that this increase is at least partially explained by the ideological divergence of the parties’ office holders and electoral coalitions. At the same time, we also show that party effects remain substantively modest, paling relative to policy differences across states.
- Replication archive
- “The Dynamics of State Policy Liberalism, 1936–2014” (with Christopher Warshaw). 2016. American Journal of Political Science 60 (4): 899–913. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ajps.12219.
AbstractApplying a dynamic latent-variable model to data on 148 policies collected over eight decades (1936–2014), we produce the first yearly measure of the policy liberalism of U.S. states. Our dynamic measure of state policy liberalism marks an important advance over existing measures, almost all of which are purely cross-sectional and thus cannot be used to study policy change. We find that, in the aggregate, the policy liberalism of U.S. states steadily increased between the 1930s and 1970s and then largely plateaued. The policy liberalism of most states has remained stable in relative terms, though several states have shifted considerably over time. We also find surprisingly little evidence of multidimensionality in state policy outputs. Our new estimates of state policy liberalism have broad application to the study of political development, representation, accountability, and other important issues in political science.
- The Unsolid South: Mass Politics and National Representation in a One-Party Enclave. 2018. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 240 pages.
AbstractThis book examines congressional representation in the Jim Crow South in the decades following the New Deal. Marshaling a combination of qualitative and qualitative evidence, I dispute the conventional wisdom that lack of partisan competition destroyed the electoral connection between Southern members of Congress (MCs) and their constituents. I show that although Black Southerners were almost totally disenfranchised, the class-biased exclusion of White Southerners (through devices such as the poll tax) was both less extensive and, given sufficient motivation and mobilization, more easily overcome. Furthermore, while the South did lack partisan competition, the so-called White primary offered meaningful opportunities for electoral competition within the one-party system. The consequence, I argue, was that Southern MCs' responsiveness to their enfranchised (i.e., White) constituents was not noticeably weaker than their non-Southern counterparts.
These conclusions have major historical as well as theoretical implications. From the standpoint of historical interpretation, they provide an alternative explanation for Southern MCs' rapid turn to the right in the late 1930s, which set sharp limits on the scope of New Deal reform. This conservative reaction was driven less by incentives internal to Congress than by a broad-based reaction in the Southern White public. More generally, my findings suggest that Southern MCs were neither autonomous agents nor pliant tools of the economic elite, but rather electorally motivated politicians operating within a regime that mixed racist and authoritarian features with inclusive and democratic ones. The theoretical implications of these conclusions are broad in scope, not least because many regimes around the world have a similar hybrid character. The example of the one-party South suggests that public opinion can and does play an major role in such regimes, but in ways that may be heavily conditioned by institutional context. In particular, intraparty competition can be sufficient to incentivize responsiveness to constituent preferences, but only where non-party informational cues are available, as they were in congressional but not state-level Southern politics.
- Replication data and codebook
- Buy from Princeton Univeristy Press or Amazon
The New Deal
- “Policy and Performance in the New Deal Realignment: Evidence from Old Data and New Methods” (with Michael C. Dougal and Eric Schickler). 2020. Journal of Politics 82 (2): 494–508. https://doi.org/10.1086/707305
AbstractRecent research has challenged the policy bases of the New Deal realignment, arguing that it was instead driven by retrospective evaluations of the economy. Using a comprehensive analysis of opinion polls conducted in 1936–52, we argue that policy preferences were far from irrelevant. At the individual level, presidential Republicans who became Democrats were much more supportive of New Deal policies than those who remained loyal (vice versa for Democrats). At the state level, both public support for the New Deal—as measured by a group-level item response model—and income growth predict pro-Democratic shifts in presidential elections. In short, the realignment was rooted in both policy preferences and economic retrospection. Moreover, mass support for the New Deal, unlike partisan identification, was a leading indicator of long-term electoral trends, predicting presidential elections decades in the future even better than it does contemporaneous elections.
- Online appendix
- Replication archive
- “Public Opinion, Organized Labor, and the Limits of New Deal Liberalism, 1936–1945” (with Eric Schickler). 2011. Studies in American Political Development 25 (2): 1–28. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0898588X11000101
AbstractThe seemingly wide opening for liberal domestic policy innovation by the U.S. federal government in the early-to-mid-1930s gave way to a much more limited agenda in the late 1930s and 1940s. The latter years saw the consolidation and gradual extension of several key programs (e.g., Social Security and Keynesian macroeconomic management), but also the frustration of liberal hopes for an expansive “cradle-to-grave” welfare state marked by strong national unions, national health insurance, and full employment policies. Drawing upon rarely used early public opinion polls, we explore the dynamics of public opinion regarding New Deal liberalism during this pivotal era. We argue that a broadly based reaction against labor unions created a difficult backdrop for liberal programmatic advances. We find that this anti-labor reaction was especially virulent in the South but divided even Northern Democrats, thus creating an effective wedge issue for Republicans and their Southern conservative allies. More generally, we find that the mass public favored most of the specific programs created by the New Deal, but was hardly clamoring for major expansions of the national government's role in the late 1930s and 1940s. These findings illuminate the role played by the South in constraining New Deal liberalism while also highlighting the tenuousness of the liberal majority in the North.
- Online Appendix
Comparative Public Opinion
- “Policy Ideology in European Mass Publics, 1981–2016” (with Tom O'Grady and Christopher Warshaw). 2019. American Political Science Review 113 (3): 674–693. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055419000157.
AbstractUsing new scaling methods and a comprehensive public opinion dataset, we develop the first survey-based time-series–cross-sectional measures of policy ideology in European mass publics. Our dataset covers 27 countries and 36 years and contains nearly 2.7 million survey responses to 109 unique issue questions. Estimating an ordinal group-level IRT model in each of four issue domains, we obtain biennial estimates of the absolute economic conservatism, relative economic conservatism, social conservatism, and immigration conservatism of men and women in three age categories in each country. Aggregating the group-level estimates yields estimates of the average conservatism in national publics in each biennium between 1981–82 and 2015–16. The four measures exhibit contrasting cross-sectional cleavages and distinct temporal dynamics, illustrating the multidimensionality of mass ideology in Europe. Subjecting our measures to a series of validation tests, we show that the constructs they measure are distinct and substantively important and that they perform as well as or better than one-dimensional proxies for mass conservatism (left–right self-placement and median voter scores). We foresee many uses for these scores by scholars of public opinion, electoral behavior, representation, and policy feedback.
Reputation and International Conflict
- “Honor and War: Southern U.S. Presidents and the Effects of Concern for Reputation” (with Allan Dafoe). 2016. World Politics 68 (2): 341–381. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0043887115000416
AbstractReputation has long been considered central to international relations, but unobservability, strategic selection, and endogeneity have handicapped quantitative research. A rare source of haphazard variation in the cultural origins of leaders—the fact that one-third of US presidents were raised in the American South, a well-studied example of a culture of honor—provides an opportunity to identify the effects of heightened concern for reputation for resolve. A formal theory that yields several testable predictions while accounting for unobserved selection into disputes is offered. The theory is illustrated through a comparison of presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson and systematically tested using matching, permutation inference, and the nonparametric combination of tests. Interstate conflicts under Southern presidents are shown to be twice as likely to involve uses of force, last on average twice as long, and are three times more likely to end in victory for the United States than disputes under non-Southern presidents. Other characteristics of Southern presidencies do not seem able to account for this pattern of results. The results provide evidence that concern for reputation is an important cause of interstate conflict behavior.
- “Dynamic Ecological Inference for Time-Varying Population Distributions Based on Sparse, Irregular, and Noisy Marginal Data” (with Mallory Wang). 2019. Political Analysis 27 (3): 388–396. https://doi.org/10.1017/pan.2019.4
AbstractSocial scientists are frequently interested in how populations evolve over time. Creating poststratification weights for surveys, for example, requires information on the weighting variables’ joint distribution in the target population. Typically, however, population data are sparsely available across time periods. Even when population data are observed, the content and structure of the data—which variables are observed and whether their marginal or joint distributions are known—differ across time, in ways that preclude straightforward interpolation. As a consequence, survey weights are often based only on the small subset of auxiliary variables whose joint population distribution is observed regularly over time, and thus fail to take full advantage of auxiliary information. To address this problem, we develop a dynamic Bayesian ecological inference model for estimating multivariate categorical distributions from sparse, irregular, and noisy data on their marginal (or partially joint) distributions. Our approach combines (1) a Dirichlet sampling model for the observed margins conditional on the unobserved cell proportions; (2) a set of equations encoding the logical relationships among different population quantities; and (3) a Dirichlet transition model for the period-specific proportions that pools information across time periods. We illustrate this method by estimating annual U.S. phone-ownership rates by race and region based on population data irregularly available between 1930 and 1960. This approach may be useful in a wide variety of contexts where scholars wish to make dynamic ecological inferences about interior cells from marginal data. A new R package estsubpop implements the method.
- Replication archive
- R package (estsubpop)
- “Substance and Change in Congressional Ideology: NOMINATE and Its Alternatives” (with Eric Schickler). 2016. Studies in American Political Development 30 (October): 1–19. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0898588X16000092
AbstractPoole and Rosenthal's NOMINATE scores have been a boon to the study of Congress, but they are not without limitations. We focus on two limitations that are especially important in historical applications. First, the dimensions uncovered by NOMINATE do not necessarily have a consistent ideological meaning over time. Our case study of the 1920s highlights the challenge of interpreting NOMINATE scores in periods when party lines do not map well onto the main contours of ideological debate in political life. Second, the commonly used DW-NOMINATE variant of these scores makes assumptions that are not well suited to dealing with rapid or non-monotonic ideological change. A case study of Southern Democrats in the New Deal era suggests that a more flexible dynamic item-response model provides a better fit for this important period. These applications illustrate the feasibility and value of tailoring one's model and data to one's research goals rather than relying on off-the-shelf NOMINATE scores.
- “Dynamic Estimation of Latent Opinion Using a Hierarchical Group-Level IRT Model” (with Christopher Warshaw). 2015 Political Analysis 23 (2): 197–211. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/pan/mpu021
AbstractOver the past eight decades, millions of people have been surveyed on their political opinions. Until recently, however, polls rarely included enough questions in a given domain to apply scaling techniques such as IRT models at the individual level, preventing scholars from taking full advantage of historical survey data. To address this problem, we develop a Bayesian group-level IRT approach that models latent traits at the level of demographic and/or geographic groups rather than individuals. We use a hierarchical model to borrow strength cross-sectionally and dynamic linear models to do so across time. The group-level estimates can be weighted to generate estimates for geographic units. This framework opens up vast new areas of research on historical public opinion, especially at the subnational level. We illustrate this potential by estimating the average policy liberalism of citizens in each U.S. state in each year between 1972 and 2012.
- Supplementary materials
- Replication archive
- R package (dgo)
- Target Estimation and Adjustment Weighting for Survey Nonresponse and Sampling Bias (with Adam J. Berinsky, Sara Chatfield, Erin Hartman, Eric Schickler, and Jasjeet J. Sekhon). 2020. Elements in Quantitative and Computational Methods for the Social Sciences. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108879217. 112 pages.
- "Information Equivalence in Survey Experiments" (with Allan Dafoe and Baobao Zhang). 2018. Political Analysis 26 (4): 399–416. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/pan.2018.9
- “Nonparametric Combination (NPC): A Framework for Testing Elaborate Theories” (with Allan Dafoe and Jason Seawright). 2017. Journal of Politics 79 (2): 688–701. http://dx.doi.org/10.1086/689287.
- “A Rank-based Permutation Test for Equivalence and Non-inferiority” (with Rosa Arboretti and Eleonora Carrozzo). 2015. Italian Journal of Applied Statistics 25 (1): 81–92. http://sa-ijas.stat.unipd.it/sites/sa-ijas.stat.unipd.it/files/05_1.pdf.
- “Elections and the Regression Discontinuity Design: Lessons from Close U.S. House Races, 1942–2008” (with Jasjeet S. Sekhon). 2011. Political Analysis 19 (4): 385–408. http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/pan/mpr032
- Review of A Troubled Birth: The 1930s and American Public Opinion, by Susan Herbst. 2022. Perspectives on Politics 20 (3): 1102–1104. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1537592722001724.
- Review of How the Tea Party Captured the GOP: Insurgent Factions in American Politics, by Rachel M. Blum. 2022. Party Politics 28 (3): 587–588. https://doi.org/10.1177/13540688221081896.
- “The Democratic-CIO Alliance: The Benefits of Friendship” (with Eric Schickler). 2021 Labor: Studies in Working-Class History 18 (3): 120–125. https://doi.org/10.1215/15476715-9061521.
- “Causal Inference and American Political Development: Contrasts and Complementarities” (with Sara Chatfield). 2020. Public Choice 185:359–376. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-019-00694-4.
- “Public Opinion in Subnational Politics” (with Christopher Warshaw). 2019. Journal of Politics 81, no. 1 (Symposium on Subnational Policymaking): 352–363. https://doi.org/10.1086/700723.
- “Keith Poole, Ideology Scores, and the Study of Congressional Development” (with Eric Schickler). 2017. The Legislative Scholar: The Newsletter of the Legislative Studies Section of the American Political Science Association 2 (2): 37–42.
- “Randomization Inference beyond the Sharp Null: Bounded Null Hypotheses and Quantiles of Individual Treatment Effects” (with Allan Dafoe, Xinran Li, and Luke Miratrix)
- “Item Response Theory for Conjoint Survey Experiments” (with Hiroto Katsumata and Teppei Yamamoto)
- “Creating a Constituency for Liberalism: The Political Effects of the Tennessee Valley Authority” (with Sara Chatfield)
- “Dynamic Multidimensional Scaling with Aggregate Data: An Ordinal Group-Level IRT Approach” (with Elissa Berwick)
- “Party Control and Societal Outcomes in the American States” (with Seth J. Hill and Christopher Warshaw)
- “Target Selection as Variable Selection: Using the Lasso to Select Auxiliary Vectors for the Construction of Survey Weights” (with Erin Hartman)
- “Defining, Mapping, and Measuring Bureaucratic Autonomy” (with Sara Chatfield and Adam Cohon)