1. 2020. "Exit Strategy: Career Concerns and Revolving Doors in Congress" (with Hye Young You). American Political Science Review. 114(1): 270-284. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055419000510
Abstract: Although the majority of research on revolving-door lobbyists centers on the influence they exercise during their post-government careers, relatively little attention is given to whether future career concerns affect the behaviors of revolving-door lobbyists while they still work in government. We argue that the revolving-door incentivizes congressional staffers to showcase their legislative skills to the lobbying market in ways that affect policymaking in Congress. Using comprehensive data on congressional staffers, we find that employing staffers who later become lobbyists is associated with higher legislative productivity for members of Congress, especially in staffers’ final terms in Congress. It also is associated with increases in a member’s bill sponsorship in the areas of health and commerce, the topics most frequently addressed by clients in the lobbying industry, as well as granting more access to lobbying firms. These results provide the systematic empirical evidence of pre-exit effects of the revolving-door among congressional staff.
2. Forthcoming. "Polling Place Changes and Political Participation: The Effect of Election Administration in North Carolina Presidential Elections, 2008-2016" (with Joshua D. Clinton, Nicholas Eubank, and Adriane Fresh). Political Science Research & Methods. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2020.43
Abstract: How do changes in Election Day polling place locations affect voter turnout? We study the behavior of more than 2 million eligible voters across three closely-contested presidential elections (2008-2016) in the swing state of North Carolina. Leveraging within-voter variation in polling place location change over time, we demonstrate that polling place changes reduce Election Day voting on average statewide. However, this effect is almost completely offset by substitution into early voting, suggesting that voters, on average, respond to a change in their polling place by choosing to vote early. While there is heterogeneity in these effects by the distance of the polling place change and the race of the affected voter, the fully offsetting substitution into early voting still obtains. We theorize this is because voters whose polling place change location receive notification mailers, offsetting search costs and priming them to think about the election before election day, driving early voting.
3. Forthcoming. "The Politics of Locating Polling Places: Race and Partisanship in North Carolina Election Administration, 2008-2016" (with Joshua D. Clinton, Nicholas Eubank, and Adriane Fresh). Election Law Journal. DOI:
Abstract: Do local election administrators change precincts and polling place locations to target voters based on their partisanship or race? We systematically evaluate whether decisions consistent with targeting occur using the near universe of eligible voters, polling place locations, and precinct boundaries across three presidential elections in the closely contested state of North Carolina. Overall, we find no evidence that local administrators allocate precincts and polling places in a manner consistent with partisan manipulation for electoral gain. Some counties appear to differentially target opposition party voters with these changes, but closer examination reveals that the county-level variation we document is likely due to random variation, not deliberate manipulation. There is also little evidence that the removal of minority voter protections in Shelby County v. Holder impacted polling place placement. If partisan-motivated decisions occur, they are seemingly more idiosyncratic than pervasive.
4. 2020. "The Effect of Big City News on Rural America During the COVID-19 Pandemic." (with Eunji Kim and Joshua D. Clinton). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. . 117(36):22009-22014. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2009384117
Abstract: Can `urban-centric' local television news coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic affect the behavior of rural residents with lived experiences so different from their ``local" news coverage? Leveraging quasi-random geographic variation in media markets for 771 matched rural counties, we show that rural residents are more likely to practice social distancing if they live in a media market that is more impacted by COVID-19. Individual-level survey responses from residents of these counties confirm county-level behavioral differences and help attribute the differences we identify to differences in local television news coverage---self-reported differences only exist among respondents who prefer watching local news and there are no differences in media usage or consumption across media markets. Although important for showing the ability of local television news to affect behavior despite urban-rural differences, the media-related effects we identify are at most half the size of the differences related to partisan differences.
5. Conditionally Accepted. "The Politics of Pain: Medicaid Expansion, the ACA, and the Opioid Epidemic." Journal of Public Policy.
Abstract: Federalism allows state-level politicians opportunities to undermine federal policies. As a result, voters are often provided with varying impressions about the effectiveness of major federal programs. To test how this affects policy feedback, I collect data on the severity of the opioid epidemic from 2006-2016. I exploit geographic discontinuities between states that expanded Medicaid and those that did not to gain causal leverage over whether expansion affected the severity of the epidemic and whether these policy effects affected patterns of policy feedback. I find strong evidence that the decision to expand Medicaid reduced the severity of opioid epidemic. I also show that expanding Medicaid and reductions in the severity of the opioid epidemic increased support for the Democratic presidential ticket. These results imply that the Republican Party performed better in places where voters did not have access to Medicaid expansion and where the opioid epidemic worsened, even though both of these factors were mostly the result of Republican inaction. My results demonstrate on an unintended consequence of federalism on patterns of policy feedback.
1. “Look Up at That Mansion on the Hill: Does Mass Media Activate the Politics of Resentment?" (with Marc J. Trussler).
Abstract: Rural resentment towards cities looms large as an explanation for rural America’s embrace of the Republican Party generally and Donald Trump specifically. However, little attention has been paid to where these rural grievances come from and how they are translated into political behavior. Positing that mass media plays an important role in this dynamic, we investigate the degree to which exposure to large cities and city lifestyles via local media drives rural areas towards Trump and the Republican Party. Using county-level data on socio-demographic factors, the boundaries of media markets, and electoral outcomes, we find strong evidence that more equally white and poor communities were much more likely to support Donald Trump if they happened to receive their local media from a large city. Using individual-level data, we probe potential mechanisms, finding that rural whites who receive their media from larger cities are more likely to report feeling rural mistreatment. These findings suggest that the mass media environment plays an important role in shaping the nature of America’s urban/rural divide.
2. “Dying for the Donald? The Politics of America’s Rural Hospital Crisis."
Abstract: Who do citizens hold responsible for government failures and crises? I explore this question in the context of the electoral responses to the rural hospital closure crisis. Since 2005, nearly 200 rural hospitals have closed, leaving much of rural America without access to emergency health care. Using data on all rural hospital closures in the US from 2010 to 2018, I find that hospital closings increased rural independents' likelihood of voting for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election and reduced their support for the ACA and approval President Obama. However, neither Republicans or Democrats were electorally influenced by the hospital closures in their communities. At the state level, I find no evidence that these rural hospital closings affected gubernatorial voting (or approval) for independent, Republican, or Democratic rural voters. These results have important implications for public health and political accountability in the US.
Work in Progress
1. Unhealthy Democracy: How Partisan Politics is Killing Rural America (dissertation book project).
PhD Candidate in Political Science - Vanderbilt University