Research Workshops


Open House
September 19, 4:30-6
Corwin 127

"Competition and Donor Accountability in the Political Marketplace: An Experimental Intervention to Fight 'Scam PACs'”

Zhao Li, Postdoctoral Research Associate and Assistant Professor starting 2020 at Princeton University


“Scam PACs” are political action committees (PACs) in the United States that use their budgets to enrich their creators, instead of advancing the political causes they purport to champion. In the 2018 election cycle alone they collectively raised at least $50 million.

Regulators and practitioners have warned that scam PACs will not only harm unsuspecting donors, but also poison the well of fundraising for legitimate PACs. However, there has been little research on whether donors can distinguish scam PACs from legitimate PACs, nor on interventions that could prevent donors from falling victim.

To these ends, I propose a research design to contact scam PAC donors with the following objectives:

  • Measure gaps in perceived vs. actual spending patterns of scam PACs;
  • Provide an experimental intervention to teach donors how to utilize public records to assess PACs' spending patterns;
  • Document subsequent changes in contribution behavior and self-reported attitudes towards solicitation attempts.
October 17, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
“How Concerns Over Status and National Prestige Drive Americans’ Foreign Policy Preferences”
by David Ribar, PhD Candidate Department of Politics
Do Americans’ concerns over their personal status influence their foreign policy preferences, and are these concerns in turn influenced by their perceptions of America’s international prestige? Many studies have examined how concerns over national reputation factor into elite decision-making, but what role do they play in preference-formation at the level of the mass public? In a pair of survey experiments, I first assess whether heightened concern over one’s personal prestige, insofar as it depends on one’s reputation for resolve, leads to increased demand for resolve-enhancing actions in America’s foreign policy. I then see whether shocks to perceived national prestige impact individuals’ own self-assessed prestige and self-esteem. I also examine the role that national identity plays as a moderator in each of these relationships. I find that increased concern over personal resolve does appear to translate into a greater preference for resolve-enhancing foreign policy actions, and that positive and negative shocks to the prestige of one’s nation lead to associated changes in one’s self-esteem. These experiments offer a first look at the precise mechanisms by which concerns over America’s prestige are manifested in public opinion on international affairs, an area which is of increasing importance given the growing literature on the role of status in international conflict and consistent concerns among the American public over how their nation is perceived by the global community.
"Effectiveness of Identity Appeals to Latino and Asian American Voters by Out-Group Candidates"
by Chinbo Chong, Center for the Study of Democratic Politics Fellow
Political scientists have long documented the ways in which racial group identities matter for political behavior. Yet few have compared the relative effectiveness of two different forms of identity, pan-ethnic and national origin, on political behavior. This project investigates the interplay of pan-ethnic (i.e., Asian American; Latino/Hispanic) and national origin identity (i.e., Chinese American; Mexican American, etc.) appeals among immigrant dominated populations in American politics. I make a novel argument that responsiveness to pan-ethnic identity appeals will be largely determined by levels of acculturation. Specifically, I examine the effect of identity appeals on Asian American and Latino political participation when the candidate is 1) white and black, and 2) when the candidate belongs to a different national origin group from the respondent. The findings of this will address how predominantly white American legislature will need to appeal to voters who do not share in their ancestral background.
November 21, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
"Challenges in Representing Cross Pressured Voters in the UK"
by Will Horne, PhD Candidate Department of Politics
Over the last two decades, voting patterns in British politics have been turned on their head. Occupational class and income no longer are good predictors which party a voter will support. Under new leadership, the Labour Party has attempted to reinvigorate its traditional link to the politics of class and links to the trade union movement, in particular emphasizing social programs designed to aide those lower in the income distribution, yet support among the working and lower classes has actually dropped in this period. In this design, I explore the degree to which this can be explained by cross pressured voters, particularly lower class voters who are often socially conservative and economically leftist, placing more weight on cultural issues. I also explore whether the class background of a candidate has an impact on voters’ perceptions.
"Consequences of Political Violence: The Role of Transitional Justice"
by Elsa Voytas, PhD Candidate Department of Politics
Under what conditions does participation in transitional justice shape political behavior? I argue that transitional justice policies can shape patterns of political participation by affecting an individual’s sense of injustice, trust in the state and its institutions, and perception of victimhood. This project tests this notion and further specifies the aspects of transitional justice that influence these dependent variables. The design utilizes natural and survey experiments to identify the effects of transitional justice and its varying outcomes and relies on a survey conducted in Chile with a sample of surviving victims and deceased victim family members.
December 12, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
"Communicating Climate Change: How Framings of Scale Affect Climate Policy Attitudes"
by Daniel Rosenber Daneri, PhD Student Department of Politics
Philosophers have long argued that climate change poses a unique cognitive challenge to moral and political actors (Jamieson, 1992; Gardiner, 2004). Given the fact that the causes of climate change are diffuse (one must consider the aggregate effect of billions of actors contributing, in some form, to carbon dioxide emissions) and that its impacts on individuals may be distant in both space and time, individuals face a daunting cognitive task with respect to assessing consequences and attributing responsibility. Data and reporting on climate over the last several years, however, has “brought home” the issue of climate change as a phenomenon that has material impacts on Americans, and journalists are far less hesitant to attribute individual weather events to a broader pattern of climatic change (Mullin, 2017). I propose an experiment to test how messages that frame the consequences of climate change in either local, national, or global terms variously impact individuals’ attitudes towards climate change policy. In addition to helping overcome a cognitive hurdle that makes rational calculations more plausible, I hypothesize that local framings of climate change will trigger an alternative mechanism predicated on social identity theory. Given the material threats climate change poses to particular cities, I hypothesize that appeals regarding local consequences will be moderated by the character and strength of individuals’ place-based identities.
"How do voters respond when office-seekers disclose personal experience with mental illness?"
By Laura Hausman, Undergraduate Student Department of Politics
1 in 5 Americans has been diagnosed with a mental illness. The perception of stigma bears some responsibility for suppressing a national dialogue on mental illness and for inhibiting descriptive representation of this population among our elected officials. But how sound are our assumptions about how voters think about, react to, and feel about, mental illness in their elected officials? My project aims to test assumptions that have long gone unquestioned by identifying the factors that influence, and the mechanisms that undergird, how voters respond when office-seekers disclose personal experience with mental illness.
February 20, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
"How political elites frame the politics of migration"
By Gerda Hooijer (Niehaus Center) with Desmond King (University of Oxford)
In its scale and challenge to integration, immigration is transforming politics in advanced democracies. Extant research has studied the stances of voters and political parties on immigration and migrant integration. Yet, we know much less about political elites’ views on these issues, and why they frame them the way they do. Opening the black box of elites’ views is important because their language and policy decisions are fundamental to immigration policy-making and migrants’ everyday experiences. The study will therefore explore elites’ immigration and integration attitudes, and the conditions under which they are more likely to change their views. The findings will have important implications for the politics of migration.
"Creative Citizenship: The Impact of Racialized Incorporation on Political Participation"
By Stephanie Chan
Factors, like income and education, which often strongly predict political participation, cannot account for the gap in rates of participation between immigrants of color and White immigrants at the third generation and higher (Ramakrishnan 2005; Ramakrishnan and Shah 2016). I argue that as immigrants incorporate into the United States over the generations, they are racialized and develop different views of citizenship. These views of citizenship prioritize formal political participation differently, resulting in the participation gap between immigrants of color and White immigrants. As part of a test for this theory, I propose a get-out-the-vote field experiment which exposes immigrants to messages reframing what it means to be a participatory member of the United States and encouraging them to vote.
March 26, 12-1:20
Wallace 300
Consponsored with Center for Study of Democratic Politics
Speaker: Professor Cindy D. Kam (Vanderbilt University)
April 23, 4:30-6
Fisher 200
Speakers: Hannah Waight (Department of Sociology), Professor Amaney Jamal (Department of Politics)
April 30, 4:30-6
Room TBD
Speaker: Professor Diana Mutz (University of Pennsylvania)
Presenter Guidelines

PRESS research workshops are intended as a forum to workshop research designs-in- progress
with the goal of receiving constructive feedback before data have been collected. Please keep
in mind the following guidelines when designing your presentation:

Before the Workshop

  • At least ten days before your presentation, please email the PRESS student coordinators a title and abstract describing your project. Please include the names and institutional affiliations of any co-authors who you’d like to include on the event advertisements.

  • Due to time limitations, you may find it helpful to circulate materials to attendees ahead of time, such as an elaboration of your theoretical approach or your draft survey instrument.
  • If you have a Mac computer, please bring your own adapter or let the PRESS student coordinators know several days in advance, if you need to borrow one.
  • Tell your colleagues, friends, advisors, professors, or anyone else whose feedback you’d like to receive that you are presenting. Though we will advertise your event, personal requests are often more effective!

At the Workshop

  • Workshops consist of presentations by two researchers. In order to ensure that both researchers receive constructive feedback, each researcher will be held to a strict 45-minute time limit (including presentation and discussion time).
  • After the first presenter’s time has elapsed, we will transition to the second presentation.
  • The first presenter will be notified after half her allotted time has passed and will be alerted when five minutes remain, at which point she should conclude her presentation.
  • The content of the presentation is largely at the behest of the presenter. Often, it is helpful to provide theoretical background/motivation for the project in addition to details of the experimental design. Feel free to direct the conversation to areas that you believe require the most feedback. Remember – 45 minutes goes by quickly!

After the Workshop

  • Incorporate the feedback you received, consider applying for a PRESS grant, and good luck with your experiment!