Publications

"Distrusting the Process: Electoral Trust, Operational Ideology, and Non-Voting Political Participation in the 2020 American Electorate" with Kyle L. Saunders. Forthcoming at Public Opinion Quarterly.


This article explores the relationships between electoral trust, operational ideology, and non-voting political participation (NVP) during the 2020 US presidential election cycle. We hypothesize that: 1) more liberal operational ideology is associated with more NVP, 2) less electoral trust is associated with more NVP, and 3) operational ideology moderates the negative relationship between electoral trust and NVP. Using data from the 2020 American National Election Study (N = 8,280), our contribution is three-fold: We first add to previous research that indicated liberals engage in more NVP than conservatives. We then provide some of the first evidence to suggest that electoral trust—in this case, trust prior to the 2020 election—is negatively associated with NVP. Results further indicate that the negative relationship between electoral trust and NVP is strongest among those with conservative operational ideology, such that the more trust those with conservative operational ideology have in the election, the less they engage in NVP. Given that electoral trust is crucial for a well-functioning democracy, the implication is that elites with a strategic incentive to express contempt for the election process can have direct and downstream consequences on political participation.

"Objective Numeracy Exacerbates Framing Effects from Decision-Making Under Political Risk" with Dominik A. Stecuła, Matthew P. Hitt, and Kyle L. Saunders. (2024) in Scientific Reports. 

While Prospect Theory helps to explain decision-making under risk, studies often base frames on hypothetical events and fail to acknowledge that many individuals lack the ability and motivation to engage in complex thinking. We use an original survey of US adults (N = 2,813) to test Prospect Theory in the context of the May 2023 debt ceiling negotiations in the US Congress and assess whether objective numeracy moderates framing effects. We hypothesize and find evidence to suggest that most respondents are risk-averse to potential gains and risk-accepting to potential losses; however, high numerates are more risk-averse and risk-accepting to gains and losses, respectively, than low numerates. We also find that need for cognition interacts with numeracy to moderate framing effects for prospective losses, such that higher need for cognition attenuates risk-acceptance among low numerates and exacerbates risk-acceptance among high numerates. Our results are robust to a range of other covariates and in models accounting for the interaction between political knowledge and need for cognition, indicating joint moderating effects from two knowledge domains similarly conditioned by the desire to engage in effortful thinking. Our findings demonstrate that those who can understand and use objective information may remain subjectively persuaded by certain policy frames.

"By Any Memes Necessary: Belief- and Chaos-Driven Motives for Sharing Conspiracy Theories on Social Media" with Christina E. Farhart, Joanne M. Miller, and Kyle L. Saunders (2023) in Research & Politics

Although a growing body of scholarship examines who believes conspiracy theories (CTs) and why, less is known about why people share CTs. We test the impact of three independent motives on people’s willingness to share CTs on social media: bolstering their or their group’s beliefs (motivated sharing), generating collective action against their political outgroup because of losing (sounding the alarm), and mobilizing others against the political system (need for chaos). Using an original survey of US adults (N = 3336), we test these three motives together and find strong evidence for motivated sharing and need for chaos, but no evidence for sounding the alarm. Our findings suggest that motivated sharing—when measured directly as belief in the CTs—is the strongest predictor of willingness to share CTs on social media. Need for chaos has less of an effect on sharing than belief but a consistently stronger effect on sharing than partisanship and ideology. Altogether, we demonstrate that sharing CTs on social media can serve both motivated and mobilizing functions, particularly for those who believe the CTs or seek to challenge the political system, rather than impugn their political rivals.

"Going Green or Making Green? The Effects of Partisanship and Inflation on Environmental 

Executive Orders, 1945−2020" (2023) in Presidential Studies Quarterly


While a growing body of scholarship examines US presidential unilateralism, there remains less focus on policy-specific areas of unilateral action. Given environmental politics is a particularly constrained and contentious issue area, understanding the conditions that affect the frequency of presidents' environment-related unilateral activity requires a more nuanced examination. As such, this study draws upon existing theories of unilateralism to explore the relationship between environmental executive orders, Congress, the economy, and environmental disasters in the United States between 1945 and 2020. A broad examination of environmental executive orders provides evidence to suggest that while Democratic presidents are more likely to issue environmental executive orders compared to Republican presidents, presidents are generally more likely to issue environmental executive orders in response to higher inflation. A second analysis using a subset of these data further indicates Democratic presidents are more likely to issue environmental executive orders following technological disasters and that the frequency of these orders increases when their partisanship changes from that of the previous president. Collectively, these findings serve to broaden our current understanding of US presidential unilateralism by providing important linkages between executive power, the environment, and the economy.

"Can Exceptionalism Withstand Crises? An Evaluation of the Arctic Council's Response to Climate Change and Russia's War on Ukraine" with Gabriella Gricius (2022) in Global Studies Quarterly


For almost three decades, the Arctic Council has been considered exceptional in its approach to domestic, environmental, and geopolitical issues. Russia’s 2022 war on Ukraine and the subsequent pause of the Arctic Council, however, give cause to question whether the Arctic Council remains exceptional in the face of actual crises. We explore this question in two ways: As an endogenous crisis, we provide a systematic literature review of publications on Arctic Council climate change governance. As an exogenous crisis, we explore the Arctic Council’s pause given the Russia-Ukraine war. Taken together, our findings suggest that while the Arctic Council has the potential for exceptionalism, it lacks the capacity to substantively respond to crises. In turn, our study provides further evidence to suggest that even idealized institutions may not truly offer unique methods for withstanding environmental and geopolitical challenges; furthermore, it highlights the precariousness of intergovernmental institutions considered broadly.

"Who are the 3 Per Cent? The Connections Among Climate Change Contrarians" 

with Laura D. Young (2022) in British Journal of Political Science


Despite 97 per cent of scientists agreeing on anthropogenic global warming, the remaining 3 per cent play a critical role in keeping the debate about climate consensus alive. Analysis of climate change contrarians from multi-signatory documents reveals 3 per cent of signees to be climate experts, while the remaining 97 per cent do not meet expert criteria and are also involved with organizations and industries who make up the climate change countermovement. The data also reveal most contrarians to be aged sixty-five or older. As a result, we explore other factors (for example, collective memories and ideological views) that may have also contributed to expert and non-expert views.