Ongoing Projects


Currently Funded Projects

Telling Half the Story?:
Using Roll Call Votes to Understand Legislative Behavior
With Matt Gabel and Cliff Carrubba (Emory), we are examining the sample properties of roll call votes. We know very little about the institution of roll call votes: we know little about the conditions under which votes are roll called, who is responsible for deciding whether a vote is roll called, and what reasons they have for requesting a roll call. In a broad range of systems roll call votes are only a subset of all legislative votes cast.  The sample properties of roll-call votes are critical to determining the quality of the inferences voters (and academics) can draw from observed legislative behavior.  We are collecting relevant data from “congressional records” of countries around the world. 
This project is being funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant # SES-1066340).
Institutional Interactions:
Bicameralism in Presidential Systems
With John Patty and Maggie Penn, University of Chicago, and Connie Schibber, WUSTL,  I am working on a project to study bicameralism in presidential systems. Endowed with sufficient powers and made up of
members with unique preferences, second chambers play an integral role in the workings of the policymaking process. Nonetheless, much of our theorizing and much of our empirical work are content to focus on lower chambers. Ignoring the existence of a second chamber can lead to misguided theorizing, erroneous hypotheses, and misleading interpretations of findings. Literatures on agenda control, coalition building, policy stability, and intercameral reconciliation procedures point to the need to systematically consider the role of a second chamber. We hope to advance the theory on how bicameralism works as a system, rather than as two independent chambers and  to collect cameral procedures, transcripts of floor minutes, and roll call vote results in the nine upper chambers of Latin America.
This project is being funded by the National Science Foundation (Grant # SES-1227186).

Grant Proposals Currently Under Consideration, Projects in Their Early Stages, and Future Projects

The Chain of Responsiveness in Separation of Powers Systems 
With Santiago Olivella, University of North Carolina and Guillermo Roas, WUSTL, I am advancing a project on The chain of responsiveness in the presidential systems of Latin America.  Voters may have a preference for economic policy located at a particular point on the state (Left) v. market (Right) dimension, but how those preferences gets expressed in votes will be influenced by the way electoral rules structure their choices. After their choices are made, electoral rules again impact how those votes are aggregated in a process that selects a set of elected officials. Of course, where the pivotal officials are located on the Left-Right continuum will be a function of constitutional design and cameral procedures. We will examine all the stages of the process of translating preferences into policies – and the institutional linkages among them – in oder to understand how representation varies across institutional designs.
Using the Composition of Constituencies to Explain 
Party System Nationalization, Government Formation, and Policy Outcomes

With Joshua D. Potter, University of Kansas, and Santiago Olivella, University of North Carolina, we are working with detailed district-level electoral results and survey data to: (1) recover the dimensionality of  electoral competition, (2) recover the salient socio-demographic cleavages that characterize this dimensionality, and (3) apply these variables as explanations for the extent of party system nationalization, patterns of government formation, and the content of specific policy outcomes. Working with a computational process that clusters districts into similar partitions based on their electoral and demographic characteristics, we will then construct a novel correspondence method whereby these electoral and demographic partitions are overlaid and compared to one another. The aim is to develop and test new theories of parties, governments, and policies that were previously unexamined due to a lack of data on the dimensionality and nature of political competition. Extant data sources will allow for an initial data set comprised of 79 elections across 35 countries and more than 100,000 individual survey respondents. 

Electoral Reform

We often, justifiably, treat electoral rules as exogenous to the rest of the political game. However, electoral systems result from conscious decisions by founders and reformers. In this project, I will use existing datasets to compile what I hope will be a universal catalogue of electoral reforms in the post-WWII era. The dataset will be used to study what explains when electoral reforms occur, what types of reforms typically go together, which systems are most prone to reform, which systems are the most likely choice of reformers, etc.

Flexible List Systems 
In most flexible list electoral systems, voters have the option of expressing preferences for candidates within a party, but they need not do so (they can cast a vote for the party. Whether those preference votes serve to determine which candidates of a particular party are indeed elected varies across systems based on predefined thresholds. The steepness of those thresholds varies dramatically across systems, making some nearly closed list systems and others much closer to open list systems. In this project I will develop a classification scheme for flexible list systems, capturing their relative flexibility. I will also examine how electoral incentives and patterns of support influence party structures, MPs’ careers, and intracameral procedures.
Cameral Procedures
Cameral procedures govern how a legislature conducts its business. They define the rules of the game. In this project I will collect the historical evolution of cameral procedures in Latin America’s presidential systems. I will test hypotheses related to whether electoral system reforms and/or major party system realignments explain legislators’ need to revise the rules that govern their interactions.

Campus Box 1063
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130

Fax: (314) 935-5856