Working Papers

The Effect of Associative Racial Cues in Elections.”

with Adam Berinsky, Michele Margolis, and Justin de Benedictis-Kessner


How do positive racial signals associating candidates with minority supporters change voters’ perceptions about a candidate and their support for a candidate? Given the presence of competing information in campaigns, voters may rely on heuristics, such as race, to make the process of voting easier. These information signals may be so strong that they cause voters to ignore other, perhaps more politically relevant, information. In this paper we test how associative racial cues sway voters’ perceptions of and support for candidates using two experiments that harness real-world print and audio campaign advertisements. We find that the signals in these ads can sometimes overwhelm cues about policy positions when the two are present together. Our results highlight how voters gather and use information in elections with low amounts of information and demonstrate that campaign strategies that use racial associations can be powerful.

“Patterns of Legislative Language Innovation and Diffusion in the States.”

with Elliott Ash


Crafting state laws is a time-intensive task, and while some legislators may spend time writing their own legislation, it is often a better use of their time to borrow ideas – and language – from other sources. Methodological developments in natural language processing now make it possible to determine what those sources are and when legislators rely on them. Recent research has examined the role of ALEC in providing model legislation (e.g., Hertel-Fernandez and Kashin 2015) and while there is a long history of work on how policies diffuse across states, we do not know as much about how states borrow from one another’s state statutes in a direct way. We use the full text of state session laws to examine the degree to which states borrow language from other states in the creation of their own laws. By using novel natural language processing tools, we can assess the degree of similarity between pairs of states to answer several questions about the pattern of shared language usage. First, what groups of states tend to borrow from one another? Which states are innovators, in terms of language? We also examine how language sharing dynamics change over time.

“Tick Tock Goes the Political Clock: How Term Limits Harm Women’s Representation in State Legislatures.”


How do term limits affect women’s descriptive representation? Women face many barriers to office, and the entrenchment of candidates bolstered by the incumbency advantage is one such barrier. The introduction of term limits at both the state and municipal level were designed to open up seats that had long been held by the same individuals, and create vacancies that could be filled by minorities who often found it difficult to get a foothold into office. However, using times-series cross-sectional data on the number of female mayors and state legislators, it appears that term limits have hindered the increase of women’s descriptive representative, both at the state and municipal level, suggesting that women’s representation at its current levels is highly dependent on the accumulation of women in office, who are then protected by the incumbency advantage.

“#Hello from the @Other Side: Strategic Tweeting from Marginal Party Governors.”


How have marginal party governors managed to stay electorally competitive in states where most voters identify with the opposite party? In spite of growing nationalization and polarization among the mass public, Republican governors continue to get elected in some blue states, while some red states continue to elect Democrats to the governor’s office. To remain electorally competitive, governors can either moderate their partisanship or shift the focus to other less partisan matters while emphasizing a policy area where they have the most influence. Using a new dataset of gubernatorial tweets sent between 2009 and 2017, I show that marginal governors focus on budgetary politics, an area where governors tend to perform better and exercise more power. However, governors only exhibit less partisan language when they are marginal governors \emph{and} come from a state with recent partisan switching in the governor’s mansion.


In Progress

“When States Strike Back: The Mass Public Response to National Frames in State Politics”

“Fifty Shades of Red and Blue: Ideological Diversity Across State Political Parties.”

Data and Software