Hi and welcome!
I am a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions at Vanderbilt University. I was previously a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Center for Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University. I received my Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan in May 2020, specializing in American politics and political methodology.
Substantively, I am interested in American political behavior and political psychology. I focus on how gender-related and racial attitudes and identities influence U.S. public opinion, candidate evaluations, campaigns and elections, and voter as well as legislator behavior.
Methodologically, my interests include survey and experimental methods. I am also interested in studying how and to what extent pre-registration of designs contributes to transparency, reproducibility, and trustworthiness of political science research.
I earned a B.A. in International and Diplomatic Science with highest honors in 2005 from the University of Bologna in Italy. I was then a visiting research student at Yale University in 2008, and in 2009 I was awarded an M.A. in International Studies from the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2013, I earned an M.A. in Political Science from The Ohio State University.
The Feminist Paradox: How Labels Keep Women Candidates from Equal Representation
Committee: Nicholas A. Valentino (Chair), Nancy Burns, Elizabeth R. Cole (Psychology), and Donald R. Kinder.
Although theories of descriptive representation often posit that citizens are drawn to individuals from groups with which they identify, and despite the fact that women remain largely politically underrepresented in the United States, female voters do not favor ingroup – female – candidates. Why is shared gender between voters and candidates such a weak attractive force compared to other group attachments? I argue that the female electorate is divided into two gender subgroup identities: feminists and non-feminists. Feminists are a homogeneous group and share a feminist gender ideology that focuses on fostering gender equality. In contrast, non-feminists are a very diverse group that includes three distinct types characterized by differing gender ideologies: 1) non-labelers, who endorse core egalitarian values and principles of feminism (i.e., feminist gender ideology) yet eschew the feminist label, because they are wary of the social stigma attached to it, 2) gender individualists, who acknowledge gender inequality but support individualism and self-determination rather than collectivism and public policies to promote gender equality and combat discrimination, and 3) gender inegalitarians, who deny the existence of gender inequality and discrimination and/or oppose both individual and collective efforts to address them. I test my hypotheses on the role played by gender subgroups by relying on both quantitative and qualitative evidence from two surveys – the 2016 American National Election Study and a survey fielded on YouGov in 2018 – and two experiments – one conducted on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk in 2017 and the other conducted on CloudResearch/TurkPrime in 2019.
My results demonstrate that support for gender equality, which both feminists and non-labelers share, is much more widespread than acceptance of the feminist label. The choice to self-label as a feminist vs. a non-feminist has important political implications. Among both men and women, feminist identity is largely and significantly associated with considering the election of more women to political office as important. In contrast, non-feminist identity strongly undermines support for women in political office, all else equal. I show that feminist voters in both the Democratic and the Republican Party largely favor ingroup – feminist – candidates over outgroup – non-feminist – candidates of both genders, but they also favor non-labeler over individualist candidates. Despite their group heterogeneity, non-feminists of both parties display highly coherent preferences: they favor individualist candidates over non-labeler and, particularly, feminist candidates, regardless of candidate gender.
In sum, labels related to gender subgroups divide the U.S. public much more than the actual idea of gender equality, particularly the female electorate. The divides among feminists, non-labelers, individualists, and inegalitarians are distinct from and cut across those based on gender group membership, gender identification, and political ideology. They influence how individual voters perceive and evaluate candidates, interpret the political spectrum, and decide to cast their ballot.
Affective Group Mobilization in the Era of Trump (with Nicholas A. Valentino). Under contract with Cambridge University Press.
"Mobilizing Sexism: The Interaction of Emotion and Gender Attitudes in the 2016 Presidential Election" (with Nicholas A. Valentino and Carly Wayne). 2018. Public Opinion Quarterly 82(S1), 213-235.
The outcome of the 2016 US presidential election cycle generated a great deal of attention about the political psychology of the average American voter. A familiar narrative was that authoritarianism, perhaps triggered by fears of cultural and economic change, was the primary driver of support for Donald Trump. This article argues that sexism has been underestimated as a political force, especially given the angry emotional climate. The article first explores the electoral role of sexism early in the campaign, finding that sexism powerfully predicted vote choice even after controlling for authoritarianism, partisanship, and other predispositions. Second, the article analyzes American National Election Studies time-series data to examine the impact of sexism in recent presidential elections, demonstrating that 2016 was the only year in which it played a large and significant role. Finally, a survey experiment tests the theorized causal mechanism underlying sexism’s influence: the catalyzing power of anger versus fear. Fear sharply reduced sexism’s impact on support for Trump relative to those who experienced anger. Further, anger powerfully mobilized sexists, a group that would normally be likely to stay home. These results illuminate the role that emotional undercurrents play in catalyzing group-based predispositions into politics.
"The Electoral Costs and Benefits of Feminism in Contemporary American Politics" (with Nicholas A. Valentino and Carly Wayne). Forthcoming at Political Behavior.
Sexism and feminism are often seen as opposing belief systems on a single dimension in American politics. Gender scholars, however, have noticed that these forces are not equal and opposite. The 2016 election represents a critical case for examining how gender-related attitudes and identities push and pull voters. Hillary Clinton was the first female presidential nominee of a major party and a self-proclaimed feminist facing an opponent considered by many to be hostile to women. As such, many observers predicted a substantial increase in the gender gap. However, the gap did not widen much compared to previous races, and nearly half of women chose Trump. Why? We argue that sexism – as commonly measured – mixes attitudes about women in general with those about feminists in particular. When feminism becomes salient, as in 2016, attitudes about this subgroup become more relevant to the vote. Relying on three studies – a 2016 survey on SSI, the 2018 CCES, and the 2016 ANES, we assess the role of anti-feminist attitudes and feminist identity across gender, race, and party. We find that sexism directed against feminists powerfully dampened support for Clinton across genders. However, feminist identity was much less common in the electorate, and had little effect on men’s votes. Thus, although countervailing, these two forces are not equivalent. In 2016, the benefit of appealing to feminists was overwhelmed by the cost of activating voters who intensely dislike the group. These results reveal a consequential imbalance in the power of sexism and feminism in U.S. politics.
"The Impact of Racial Descriptive Norms on Vaccination against COVID-19" (with Wei-Ting Yen). Under review.
"Preregistered Research Designs: Trends in Quality and Publication" (with Logan T. Woods). Manuscript in progress.
"What encourages Black Americans to get vaccinated? Hearing that other Black Americans want the vaccine" (with Wei-Ting Yen). 2021. The Washington Post.
"How sexism drives support for Donald Trump" (with Nicholas A. Valentino and Carly Wayne). 2016. The Washington Post.
At the graduate level:
Game Theory I (at ICPSR), Graduate Student Instructor for Scott H. Ainsworth (Summer 2018)
Statistical Methods II, Graduate Student Instructor for Rocío Titiunik (Winter 2016)
At the undergraduate level:
Mentor for the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (2017-2019)
Capstone Seminar for Senior in Statistics, Graduate Student Instructor for Ben B. Hansen (Winter 2017)
Modeling Political Processes, Graduate Student Instructor for Scott E. Page (Fall 2016)