I use computational social science to study political parties and participation in politics.

My data come from financial records, surveys, government documents, and text transcripts.

My work to date draws on mixed methods, including machine learning, network analysis, and semi-structured interviews.

Here are some of my projects:

The social structure of political parties
Political parties are not communities, but groups of communities. Using campaign finance records from 1979–2012, I identify communities within the Republican and Democratic Parties. I show that as the Republican Party gained ground in the South, the GOP old guard lost control of their party. These results help to explain polarization and policy gridlock in Congress.
Representation as a process
Representation in matters of public policy is a process. The process of representation connects people in society with deliberation over changes to law. While there is a large literature on representation, and a growing literature on its connection to economic inequality, relatively little published work explores how the process of lawmaking might be connected to disparities in income or wealth. Using machine learning to analyze the Congressional Record from 1997–2014, I show that lawmakers representing high-income districts are more engaged in policy debate.
Political culture: Power, people, and the press
As technologies of communication change, how do interactions among political operatives, media professionals, and regular people change with them? Drawing on semi-structured interviews, social media data, and surveys, I am exploring the institutionalization of norms and practices in political communication.

Institutions don't just reveal themselves.

(C-SPAN)

In 1991, Rep. Jim Nussle (R-Iowa) gave a speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives while wearing a paper bag on his head. "It is time to take the mask off this institution," he began, revealing his face. Nussle served in the House for 16 years and also worked in George W. Bush's presidential administration. Despite his long record of public service, that speech, part of the effort to stir up the House banking scandal, is Nussle's most famous moment.

Political parties are the central institutions of American politics. Issues like election misinformation, political polarization, and partisan gridlock are each associated with how these institutions have changed over time. Only recently have many scholars come to realize that while these issues appear in the course of conflict between parties, they are the product of processes at work within each party. My work contributes to a growing body of scholarship focused on the connection between outcomes in government, between-party conflict, and within-party competition. My research explains some of the ways that parties have changed in recent decades, what some of the consequences have been for federal goverment, and what might happen next.

More information about my academic work is available here.