My research agenda focuses on American politics with a primary interest in state politics, public policy and federalism. In my research I work to identify how institutions—such as norms, procedures and rules—interact with information to shape decision making in politics and public policy. I am also interested in the origins and maintenance of institutions, testing their importance using new theories, research design and data.
My dissertation consists of three essays which examine how different types of information—partisan, policy and media cues—influence vote choice in ballot measure elections. Previous research on direct democracy finds that the institution maintains broad support from citizens. Given this support, it is important to know what information matters to voters when determining how to vote in a ballot measure election. However, present scholarship remains nascent—relying on theory developed from studies on candidate-centric elections. This is a critical question because citizens are heavily reliant on these types of informational cues as ballot measure elections lack the traditional valence and partisan information found in candidate elections. My dissertation works to resolve this problem by better understanding how ballot measure elections contour citizens’ vote choice. The center piece is a panel experiment as well as new data on media coverage on ballot measure elections.
Additional Research on Institutions and Information
In addition to my dissertation, I have two projects and one publication connected to my agenda assessing the role of information and institutions.
In a project with Carol Weissert, we work to explain how the informational context of race colors disparities in education policy. In our first paper we build on the Racial Classification Model (RCM) to explain racial disparities in education sanctioning. We extend the RCM framework in its first test of outside of welfare policy. We find support for extending the RCM framework—schools with a higher percentage of Black students are associated with greater levels of out of school suspensions. Additionally, we find higher levels of Hispanic enrollment are associated with increases in a less severe form of sanctioning, in-school suspensions. We also find that students of different Hispanic origin are sanctioned uniquely within schools as heavily Cuban schools do not face the same sanctioning patterns as other Hispanic groups. Our second paper uses GIS programming to examine if charter schools are likely to locate themselves in wealthier, whiter communities.
“Beyond Black and White: Decoding Race and Ethnicity Biases In School Suspensions” (with Carol S. Weissert and Kenneth Mackie)
Note: I am the lead author on this paper.
The second project is a collaboration with Christopher Reenock and David Konisky as part of the Political Geography of Environmental Risk project. I started on this project as a research assistant, and my contributions led to my addition as a co-author on part of the project. Our goal is to assess how institutional design within bureaucracy influence the behavior of agents who interact with these agencies. In our first paper we develop a novel dataset of design features that exist within air pollution regional offices—chain of command, political appointments and centralization of workflow. Examining major air polluter sources under the U.S. Clean Air Act, we find that agency design does influence regulatory output. Our results suggest that while political appointees influence regulatory output in expected ways, centralized workflow, regardless of party, impedes output. Our second paper examines more directly how the local political
arena influences regulatory behavior. Examining eight years of data we explore how an exogenous political shock—redistricting—impacts firm compliance.
Fahey, Kevin, Carol S. Weissert, and Matthew J. Uttermark. 2018. “Extra, Extra, (Don’t) Roll-Off About It! Newspaper Endorsements for Ballot Measures.” State Politics & Policy Quarterly. Vol. 18 (1) 93-113.
This article was discussed in the London School of Economics American Politics and Policy Blog:
“Studying ballot endorsements shows that even in the digital age, newspapers still matter to voters” with Kevin Fahey and Carol Weissert. American Politics and Policy Blog. London School of Economics.
Additionally, I have a blog post discussing citizen awareness of direct democracy in Florida:
“Constitution Revision Commission: Little Known but with Great Potential” withCarol Weissert. Bureau of Economic and Business Research. University of Florida.
Research on the Origins and Maintenance of Institutions
I have also made progress on the second component of my research agenda—identifying the origins and maintenance of institutions. I currently have three publications related to this question. Two of these papers examine the role of federalism in politics and public policy. The last paper explore the formation of social capital.
Weissert, Carol S. and Matthew J. Uttermark. 2017. “Glass Half Full: Decentralization and Health Policy.” State and Local Government Review. Vol 49 (3) 199-214.
Uttermark, Matthew J. 2020. “Revisiting the Relationship Between Federal Design and Economic Growth”. Publius: The Journal of Federalism. 50 (1) 135-155.
Forthcoming at Social Forces