Working Papers

“So You Want the Young Americans (to Turn Out to Vote?) Difficulty of Voter Registration in the U.S. and Its Impact on Young Voters.” (with Matthew Motta and Rebekah Herrick)

We create a new Difficulty of Registration Index (DORI) extracted via an item response theory (IRT) model of four key dimensions of voter registration regimes across the states from 2006-2018. Using CCES data, we find that increased DORI is associated with increased probability that young people report problems registering, and lower self-reported turnout. Interestingly, the results are driven by one state—North Carolina—which imposed a host of new voting restrictions. These new barriers made the young North Carolinians less likely to vote. This study clarifies how new registration restrictions can change the electorate and impact political equality.

Keywords: voter registration, youth turnout, election laws, state politics, item response theory


“Diversity and the Diffusion of Innovations in the American States.” (with Jack Nickelson)

We argue that diverse legislatures, drawing on the various experiences, skills, and perspectives of their members, will be more innovative as long as legislators are given the resources and opportunities to leverage their diversity. We measure innovation as 1) the tendency to adopt new policies and 2) the use of unique legislative language. We measure diversity on gender, class, and race dimensions from 1993-2014. We find that gender diversity is a key predictor of both adoption of new policies and the production of unique legislative language. But, this relationship is moderated by polarization and legislative professionalism. The study provides insights into how the presence of women in state legislatures can shape the policies that spread nationwide.

Keywords: diversity, legislative politics, state politics, policy diffusion, text analysis


“The Bernie Effect: How Political Elites Moralize Economic Policies and Reduce Willingness to Compromise” (with Kristin Garrett)

Political elites attempt to frame issues in ways that advance their policy and electoral goals. One strategy that some elites have increasingly leveraged is to define a range of issues, even economic ones, in moral terms. How do these moral frames affect citizens’ attitudes on economic issues? We argue that campaign messages framing economic issues in moral terms lead people to moralize the issues and the candidates espousing the frames. This process of moralization can increase support for the candidates, but decrease willingness to compromise on the issues. We test this theory using survey experiments that expose respondents to different moral or economic frames on the issue of the minimum wage and free trade agreements. The results raise normative questions about efforts to moralize issues for electoral gain.

Keywords: framing, economic policy, moral conviction, moral foundations, political psychology


“Does Copying Legislative Language Lead to Policy Success or Failure?”

Previous research finds that legislators with few staff resources are more likely to borrow bill text from other sources. Copying may be perceived as lazy legislating that can result in serious drafting errors, or even evidence of undue interest group influence. Yet, we do not know if the tendency to plagiarize policies actually affects the success of the policy. Copying may result in the passage of flawed and narrow policy solutions likely to fail. Or, copying could have little effect on policy success because it is the result of legislators learning from successes in other states. These hypotheses are tested by measuring policy plagiarism and policy success for organ donation, e-cigarette, and anti-bullying legislation in state legislatures. The results provide insights to how legislative staff and bill text borrowing can shape the effectiveness of laws and lawmakers.

Key Words: text analysis, policy success, state politics, legislative professionalism


“Is Income Inequality Contagious? Evidence from the American States”

Is inequality contagious? Since the 1980s, inequality has skyrocketed across industrial democracies and across the fifty U.S. states. It seems as though every society is becoming more economically unequal. I argue that states exist in an economic competition network that facilitates the spread of inequality. Structurally equivalent states have similar market players and similar economic policies that create the conditions for the spread of inequality. To evaluate this claim, I analyze data on a number of policy, politics, and economic indicators from 1997-2017 for each of the fifty states in a spatial lag regression analysis.

Key Words: income inequality, policy diffusion, economic competition, state politics


Additional working papers (abstracts to come):

Motta, Matthew and Joshua M. Jansa. “Concern about COVID-19 & Support for Universal Vote by Mail.”

Hoyman, Michele M. and Joshua M. Jansa. “Explaining the Spread and Success of Statewide Teachers Union Strikes, 2018-2019.”

Ringsmuth, Eve and Joshua M. Jansa. “The Impact of Class Size on Students’ Political Efficacy and Knowledge in Introduction to American Government Courses.”