American Politics

Public policy is characterized by a general interest in substantive policy formulation and implementation and by significant cross-subfield interaction. Its substantive focus overlaps with scholarly research in American politics, comparative politics, and international relations, and its practitioners embrace a diverse array of approaches to the study of the policymaking process. All of this research is linked together by a central set of concepts and an effort to develop generalizations that are applicable to a wide range of political contexts.

Public Policy Speaker Series

The overarching goal of the Public Policy Speaker Series is to highlight the intellectual breadth and vitality of this field of political science by hosting periodic talks in which leading scholars from outside the department present their cutting-edge research.

Featured Faculty

The journal American Politics Research will be publishing an article by professor Paul Goren titled Ideological Constraint in the Age of Polarization. Decades of research establish that political elites hold more ideologically consistent and structured policy preferences than ordinary citizens. Since the late 1970s, American politics, at the elite level, has become increasingly polarized and changes in the news media have made it easier for citizens to find news catering to their ideological tastes. Goren capitalizes on these developments to examine whether ideologically engaged citizens––those who hold strong ideological identities, who are politically informed, and who participate actively in public affairs––match elites in ideological consistency and structure during the age of polarization. We test this hypothesis by applying correlation and measurement modeling techniques to data from multiple National Election Study and Convention Delegate Study surveys. We find that (a) ideologically engaged masses hold more tightly organized opinions than the less engaged every year, but lagged elites by a wide margin in 1980; (b) convention delegates manifest impressive levels of consistency every year; (c) by 1992 engaged citizens had caught up to political elites; and (d) ideological consistency increased substantially over time in the mass public, but only among the most ideologically engaged.

An expert on the US Supreme Court, professor Tim Johnson will be publishing an article in an upcoming issue of the Marquette Law Review titled Advice from the Bench (Memo): Clerk Influence on Supreme Court Oral Arguments. Scholars of the U.S. Supreme Court have long debated the role, and possible influence, of clerks on the decisions their Justices make. In this paper, we take a novel approach to analyze this phenomenon. We utilize pre-oral argument bench memos sent to Justice Harry A. Blackmun from his clerks. Specifically, we use these memos to determine whether Justice Blackmun asked questions of counsel that were recommended by his clerks in the memos. Our data indicate Justice Blackmun often followed his clerks’ advice. Accordingly, we provide another important link to demonstrate Supreme Court clerks can and do affect how their Justices evaluate cases.