Why Do Some People Get to Behave That Way?

The Different Effects of PAC Funding Refusal Based on Candidate Race and Gender. 

with Olivia Taylor Neff

Political scholarship has demonstrated that Americans want to reduce the influence of big money in politics, such as through PAC (Political Action Committee) funding. However, research on PAC funding presents ambiguous results for both the identity of the judge (the voters evaluating candidates) and the identity of the candidate (candidates with explicit racial and gender descriptors). The effect of this oversight is twofold. First, we assume that all Americans prefer PAC-free candidates. Second, we do not know how racialized and gendered evaluations intersect with the desire to have a more even political playing field where voters are represented instead of big donors. This research examines that intersection by applying a vignette experiment to a sample of 1,700 U.S. adults. First, I find that Republican respondents exhibit no preference for PAC-free candidates over PAC-funded ones. Second, I find that refusing PAC funding provides a significant boost in support for White candidates, but not Black candidates. Furthermore, my causal mediation analysis demonstrates that White candidates who refuse PAC funds are seen as “working for the people” as opposed to big donors, while the same effect is not found for Black candidates. These findings have implications for our understanding of racialized and gendered moral evaluations of political candidates.  

Manuscript available upon request

A Discrete Choice Experiment To Test the Effects of Incivility on Voter Choice. 

Scholars increasingly question the idea that incivility is unattractive to American voters. Instead, the new consensus is that incivility is judged differently according to the context. The questions remain: what kind of incivility will voters tolerate and from whom? To answer these questions, I apply a discrete choice experiment to a representative sample of 2,500 U.S. adults. I find that partisanship, the setting where uncivil statements take place, and previous political experience are powerful determinants of voter choice. Specifically, I find that Americans would rather vote for a candidate who lies or insults their opponent than someone from a different political party. Based on my findings, I argue that uncivil behavior is a style of political performance rather than a disqualifying trait. This finding is important because it contradicts conventional wisdom and confirms emerging ideas about why Americans choose uncivil candidates. 

Manuscript available upon request

Experimental Evidence for the Effects of Race and Incivility on Voter Choice. 

I leverage scholarship on race and politics and that of political incivility – to theorize the ways candidate identity and behavior impact Americans. I argue that uncivil behavior is judged differently for political candidates of different races. Furthermore, that judgment is different for Democratic and Republican voters. To test this, I applied a conjoint experiment to 2,700 individuals across two samples of U.S. adults from the Cooperative Election Study and Prolific Academic, Ltd. I measure the effects of civil versus uncivil statements (lies and insults) for Asian, Black, Latino, and White political candidates. I find that the preference for a civil over an uncivil candidate is stronger than the preference for any particular racial category. It is among uncivil candidates that race explains preferences with Republicans rewarding stereotype-breaking behavior by Asian and Latino candidates who insult their opponents. Democrats, on the other hand, prefer Asian candidates overall and penalize White candidates for lies and insults more than non-White candidates. I discuss implications for the racialized perceptions of political candidates in the U.S., focusing on where existing theories explain these results and where they fail to do so.

Manuscript available upon request

Organizations and Their Members

Civility in Congress: Demonstrating Organizational Change Through Automated Text Analysis.

Do Congress members become more civil over the course of their tenure? I address this question using an automated text analysis of 35 years of the daily Congressional Record. My results reveal two conflicting trends. First, while older cohorts did increase their use of polite language, more recent cohorts do not increase their polite language over the course of their tenure. Second, older cohorts and men use polite language at higher rates than newer cohorts and women. However, women and newer cohorts use more prosocial language than men and older cohorts. These shifts reveal changes in both the relative value of traditional measures of civility and the limited power of organizational influence on member behavior in Congress.  

Manuscript available upon request

Dudley, Jennifer, Moshoula Capous Desyllas, Theresa Cisneros, Nayeli Perez, and David Boyns.  "Understanding the strengths and challenges of grandparent caregivers raising children and youth: Creating community through informal culture." The Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/26408066.2022.2159778

Grandparents are increasingly finding themselves taking care of their grandchildren for various reasons, including their adult child’s incarceration, mental health issues, drug and alcohol addiction, or child abuse or neglect. The purpose of this mixed-methods needs-assessment research study was to highlight the caregiving experiences of custodial grandparents and to identify their unique set of needs, strengths, and challenges. Recruiting from a support network known as Grandparents as Parents (GAP), we invited grandparent caregivers to participate in surveys, focus groups and a photovoice project in order to identify the types of services they received, their unmet needs and their lived experiences in their role as a grandparent caregiver. Findings highlight the increasing number of custodial grandparents who create an informal community among caregivers to address their unmet needs. We advocate for a multi-disciplinary approach, including the implementation of formal kinship navigation services prior to the placement of children with their grandparents.


Research Methods

Stoltz, Dustin, Marshall Taylor, and Jennifer S.K. Dudley. “Dictionaries and Distances: A Tool Kit for Relation Induction in Text Analysis.” Sociological Methods and Research. 

Distances derived from word embeddings can measure a range of gradational relations—similarity, hierarchy, entailment, and stereotype—and can be used at the document-and author-level in ways that overcome some of the limitations of weighted dictionary methods. We provide a comprehensive introduction to using word embeddings for relation induction, and demonstrate how such techniques can complement dictionary methods as unsupervised, deductive methods.