Recent Faculty Publications
The Political Science faculty at the University of Minnesota are leading publishers in their field. They are authors of paradigm-shifting books and deliver signal and enduring contributions to their field. They are published by the most respected presses and contribute to the most widely read journals.
Partisans, Antipartisans, and Nonpartisans: Voting Behavior in Brazil
(Cambridge University Press, 2018)
Conventional Wisdom suggests that partisanship has little impact on voter behavior in Brazil; what matters most is pork-barreling, incumbent performance, and candidates' charisma. This book shows that soon after redemocratization in the 1980s, over half of Brazilian voters expressed either a strong affinity or antipathy for or against a particular political party. In particular, that the contours of positive and negative partisanship in Brazil have mainly been shaped by how people feel about one party - the Workers' Party (PT). Voter behavior in Brazil has largely been structured around sentiment for or against this one party, and not any of Brazil's many others. The authors show how the PT managed to successfully cultivate widespread partisanship in a difficult environment, and also explain the emergence of anti-PT attitudes. They then reveal how positive and negative partisanship shape voters' attitudes about politics and policy, and how they shape their choices in the ballot booth.
Wars of Law: Unintended Consequences in the Regulation of Armed Conflict
(Cornell University Press, 2018)
This book assesses the unintended consequences of the proliferation of the laws of war. In the mid-19th century there was one codified law of war. In 2018, there are over 70 such laws, and they place increasing constraints on belligerents. I argue that this increase has generated significant consequences for the commencement, conduct, and conclusion of both interstate and civil wars. States fighting interstate wars today prefer not to step over any bright lines where the laws of war would apply unequivocally. Thus, these states have stopped declaring war and concluding peace treaties. Rebel groups – particularly, secessionists that seek their own independent state – by contrast, have increasingly engaged with the laws of war. Secessionists are relatively unlikely to target civilians, and there is an increasing rate of peace treaty usage in civil wars that contrasts with the decline in interstate war. This research is based on two major original datasets as well as a series of case studies, and is particularly unusual in combining analysis of interstate and civil wars.
Open versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution
(Cambridge University Press, 2017)
Debates over redistribution, social welfare, and market regulation are central to American politics. Why do some of us prefer a large role for government in the economic life of the nation while others prefer a smaller role? In Open Versus Closed, the authors argue that these preferences are not always what they seem. They show how deep-seated personality traits underpinning the culture wars over race and immigration, sexuality, gender roles, and religion influence debates about economics, binding cultural and economic preferences together in unexpected ways. Integrating insights from both psychology and political science—and twenty years of observational and experimental data—the authors reveal the deeper motivations driving attitudes toward government. The book concludes that for the politically engaged these attitudes are not primarily driven by self-interest but by a desire to express the traits and cultural commitments that define their identities.
American Government: Stories of a Nation
(CQ Press, 2017)
Real People. Real Stories. Real Politics. Politics involves people, from many backgrounds, struggling to make their voices heard. Real people, telling their stories, reflect our ideals, choices, and collective experiences as a nation. In American Government: Stories of a Nation, author Scott Abernathy tunes in to these voices, showing how our diverse ideas shape the way we participate and behave, the laws we live by, and the challenges we face. Each chapter features real stories illustrating how the American political system is the product of strategies, calculations, and miscalculations of countless individuals.
Students learn the nuts and bolts of political science through these compelling stories. Learning concepts in context is a tested learning technique that works to help ideas stick. The key concepts are memorable because they are tied to real politics, where students see political action and political choices shaping how institutions advance or impede the fulfillment of fundamental ideas. Not only will all students see themselves reflected in the pages, but they will come to understand that they, too, are strategic players in American politics, with voices that matter.
Narrative and the Making of US National Security
(Cambridge University Press, 2015)
Dominant narratives - from the Cold War consensus to the War on Terror - have often served as the foundation for debates over national security. Weaving current challenges, past failures and triumphs, and potential futures into a coherent tale, with well-defined characters and plot lines, these narratives impart meaning to global events, define the boundaries of legitimate politics, and thereby shape national security policy. However, we know little about why or how such narratives rise and fall. Drawing on insights from diverse fields, Narrative and the Making of US National Security offers novel arguments about where these dominant narratives come from, how they become dominant, and when they collapse. It evaluates these arguments carefully against evidence drawn from US debates over national security from the 1930s to the 2000s, and shows how these narrative dynamics have shaped the policies pursued by the United States.
Narrative and the Making of US National Security won the Giovanni Sartori Award from the American Political Science Association's Qualitative and Multi-Method Research section. The book also won the Robert L. Jervis and Paul W. Schroeder Best Book Award in International History and Politics.
Articles and Book Chapters
Christopher Federico, Allison Williams, and Joseph Vitriol, "The Role of System Identity Threat in Conspiracy Theory Endorsement," European Journal of Social Psychology, April 18, 2018: 1-38.
Anoop Sarbahi and Ore Koren, "State Capacity, Insurgency, and Civil War: A Disaggregated Analysis," International Studies Quarterly, February, 24, 2018: 1-15.
Scholars frequently use country-level indicators such as gross domestic product, bureaucratic quality, and military spending to approximate state capacity. These factors capture the aggregate level of state capacity, but do not adequately approximate the actual distribution of capacity within states. This presents a major problem, as intrastate variations in state capacity provide crucial information for understanding the relationship between state capacity and civil war. We offer nighttime light emissions as a measure of state capacity. It allows us to differentiate the influence of local variation on the outbreak of civil wars within the country from the effect of aggregate state capacity at the country level. We articulate pathways linking the distribution of nighttime light with the expansion of state capacity and validate our indicator against other measures at different levels of disaggregation across multiple contexts. Contrary to conventional wisdom, we find that civil wars are more likely to erupt where the state exercises more control. We provide three mechanisms that, we believe, account for thie counterintuitive finding: rebel gravitation, elite fragmentation, and expansion reaction. In the first scenario, state presence attracts insurgent activities. In the second, insurgents emerge as a result of the fragmentation of political elites. In the third, antistate groups react violently to the state penetrating into a given territory. Finally, we validate these mechanisms using evidence from Sub-Saharan Africa.
Tanisha Fazal, "Rebellion, War Aims & the Laws of War," Daedalus, Winter 2017: 71-82.
Most wars today are civil wars, but we have little understanding of the conditions under which rebel groups might comply with the laws of war. i ask three questions in this essay: What do the laws of war require of rebels, or armed nonstate actors (ansas)? To what extent are rebels aware of the laws of war? Under what conditions do rebel groups comply with international humanitarian law? i argue that the war aims of rebel groups are key to understanding their relationship with the laws of war. In particular, secessionist rebel groups – those that seek a new, independent state – are especially likely to comply with the laws of war as a means to signal their capacity and willingness to be good citizens of the international community to which they seek admission.
Mark Bell, "Nuclear Opportunism: A Theory of How States Use Nuclear Weapons in International Politics," Journal of Strategic Studies, November 2017: 1-26.
How do states use nuclear weapons to achieve their goals in international politics? Nuclear weapons can influence state decisions about a range of strategic choices relating to military aggression, the scope of foreign policy objectives, and relations with allies. The article offers a theory of explain why emerging nuclear powers use nuclear weapons to facilitate different foreign policies: becoming more or less aggressive; providing additional support to allies or proxies, seeking independence from allies; or expanding the state's goals in international politics. Bell argues that a state's choices depend on the presence of severe territorial threats or an ongoing war, the presence of allies that provide for the state's security, and whether the state is increasing in relative power. The conclusion discusses implications of the argument for our understanding of nuclear weapons and the history of proliferation, and nonproliferation policy today.
August Nimtz, "'The Bolsheviks Come to Power': A New Interpretation," Science & Society, Vol. 81, No 4, October 2017: 478-500.
In the weeks leading up to the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917 Lenin engaged in an intense debate with his comrades. Should and could the provisional government be overthrown? If so, when should it be done? And could the new regime hold power? Lenin, often in the minority, insisted that the Bolsheviks not only should but could successfully lead Russia's workers and peasants to power-- and that that conquest could be sustained. He also insisted on determining when best to make the overturn. Defending his position, Lenin frequently made reference to "objective facts," such as "elections to the city councils... and soviets" where "the Bolsheviks have majorities." What exactly was he referring to and what did he mean? What were the assumptions and framework underlying his argument that eventually won over the majority of the Bolshevik Central Committee to his position? To fully understand Lenin's stance it is necessary, Nimtz contends, to turn to Marx and Engels.
Andrew Karch, Adam Olson, Tim Callaghan, "Return of the "Rightful Remedy": Partisan Federalism, Resource Availability, and Nullification Legislation in the American States," Publius: October 26, 2017 (published online).
The early twenty-first century has seen elevated tensions between the American states and their national government. The proliferation of state proposals to "nullify" national laws is one manifestation of this intergovernmnetal conflict. Nullification legislation has appeared in every state and addressed issues that span the ideological spectrum. This article build an original dataset of over 1,500 nullifications proposals that appeared in state legislatures from 2010 to 2016. It identifies three types of nullification-related legislation, including one that has not previously been recognized in the literature, and finds that very little current nullification-related activity consists of classical efforts to declare a national law null and void. It also assesses the factors associated with the introduction and enactment of nullification legislation. Its analysis reveals that, consistent with the notion of "partisan federalism," Republican legislative control is associated with more nullification-related activity. Such activity is also more likely in more populous states.
Christopher Federico, Howard Lavine, Matthew Luttig, "Supporters and Opponents of Donald Trump Respond Differently to Racial Cues: An Experimental Analysis," Research & Politics: September 2017 (published online).
A number of recent studies suggest that individuals who exhibit high levels of racial animosity strongly support Donald Trump, while racial liberals strongly oppose him. This paper provides a new experimental analysis of the extent to which supporters and opponents of Trump respond differently to race-related stimuli. Specifically, we examine whether attitudes toward Trump moderate the political impact of racial cues in the environment. We find that white Trump supporters randomly exposed to a black (versus a white) man in the context of soliciting their support for a housing-assistance policy were more opposed to the policy, angrier about the policy, and more likely to blame beneficiaries for their situation. The opposite pattern prevailed among whites with unfavorable opinions of Trump. Our results help provide new insight into how Trump supporters and opponents differ in their responses to the salience of race in American politics.
Teri Caraway and Michele Ford, "Institutions and Collective Action in Divided Labour Movements: Evidence from Indonesia," Journal of Industrial Relations: Vol 59 Issue 4, August 4th, 2017.
Under what conditions do trade unions in divided labour movements cooperate? Does cooperation in one domain increase the likelihood of cooperation in the other? Do institutions facilitate or discourage cooperation? We explore these questions through an examination of collective action across federation and confederation lines in post-Suharto Indonesia. Using a comparison of union cooperation in the policy and electoral domains, we demonstrate that tripartite wage-setting institutions have played a central role in facilitating collective action in the policy domain, encouraging unions to look beyond shop-level issues to policy issues identified by their respective national organizations as affecting workers. The relative absence of collective action across organizational divides in the electoral domain, meanwhile, can be explained by the institutional context, which creates higher barriers to unions working together.
Howard Lavine and Yamil Velez, "Racial Diversity and the Dynamics of Authoritarianism," The Journal of Politics: Volumne 79, Number 2, April 2017.
Past work on the political impact of racial diversity has focused on direct effects, demonstrating that diverse environments are associated with more negative--or in some circumstances, more positive--racial attitudes and race-targeted policy preferences. We show that diversity functions in a second way, as a variable that magnifies the political impact of individual differences in the psychological disposition of authoritarianism. Using a national sample, we find that in white areas with minimal diversity, authoritarianism had no impact on racial prejudice, political intolerance, and attitudes toward immigration. As diversity rises, however, authoritarianism plays an increasingly dominant role in political judgment. In diverse environments, authoritarians become more racially, ethnically, and politically intolerant and nonauthoritarians less so. We conceptually replicate these findings in a dorm setting with plausible exogenous levels of local diversity and discuss the implications of our findings in terms of the various ways in which ethno-racial diversity structures political attitudes.
Robert Nichols, "Theft Is Property! The Recursive Logic of Dispossession," Political Theory, April 2nd, 2017 (published online).
This article offers a preliminary critical-historical reconstruction of the concept of dispossession. Part I examines its role in eighteenth and nineteenth century struggles against European feudal land tenure. Drawing upon Marx's critique of French anarchism in particular, I identify a persistent limitation at the heart of the concept. Since dispossession presupposes prior possession, recourse to it appears conservative and tends to reinforce the very proprietary and commoditized models of social relations that radical critics generally seek to undermine. Part II turns to use of the term in Indigenous struggles against colonization, both in order to better grasp the stakes of the above problematic and suggest a way beyond it. Through a reconstruction of arguments by Indigenous scholars and activists, I seek to show the coherence and novelty of their formulation by suggesting that dispossession has come to name a unique historical process, one in which property is generated under conditions that require divestment and alienation from those who appear, only retroactively, as its original owners. In this way, theft and property are related in a recursive, rather than strictly unilinear, manner. Part III provides a specific historical example in the form of nineteenth-century US property law concerning squatters and homesteaders.
Timothy Johnson, Amanda C. Bryan, Charles Gregory, "Loyalty & Deference at Oral Arguments: An Empirical Examination of How Supreme Court Justices Treat Solicitors General," Loyola University of Chicago Law Review Volume 48, Issue 2: 439-474.
It is well documented that when the Office of the Solicitor General argues before the United States Supreme Court it is widely successful. Scholars have taken this success as evidence that the Court is deferential to the Solicitor General’s office. This Article argues, however, that success is not synonymous with deference. Instead, by examining how the Justices treat the Solicitor General and deputies, this Article develops a more nuanced measure of deference to explain how and why the Court treats the Solicitor General differently than it treats other attorneys who appear before the nation’s highest court. This Article uses this measure to test competing explanations of Solicitor General influence and overcome the observational equivalence between success and deference that beleaguers previous research. The results of this study support the argument that, during oral arguments, Justices on the Court are more deferential over time to the Solicitor General of the President who appointed him or her, than toward other Solicitors General.
Paul Goren, "Moral Power: How Public Opinion on Culture War Issues Shapes Partisan Predispositions and Religious Orientations," American Political Science Review 60:4 October 2016: 824-844.
Party-driven and religion-driven models of opinion change posit that individuals revise their positions on culture war issues to ensure consonance with political and religious predispositions. By contrast , models of issue-driven change propose that public opinion on cultural controversies lead people to revise their partisan and religious orientations. Using data from four panel studies covering the period 1992-2012, we pit the party- and religion-based theories of opinino change against the issue-based model of change. Consistent with the standard view, party and religion constrain culture war opinion. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, but consisten with our novel theory, opinions on culture war issues lead people to revise their partisan affinities and religious orientations. Our results imply that culture war attitudes function as foundational elements in the political and religious belief systems of ordinary citizens that match and sometimes exceed partisan and religious predispositions in terms of motivating power.
Wendy Rahn with Eric Oliver, "Rise of the Trumpenvolk Populism in the 2016 Election," The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 667.1, September 2016: 189-206.
Despite the wide application of the label "populist" in the 2016 election cycle, there has been little systematic evidence that this election is distinctive in its populist appeal. Looking at historical trends, contemporary rhetoric, and public opinion data, we find that populism is an appropriate descriptor of the 2016 election and that Donald Trump stands out in particular as the populist par excellence. Historical data reveal a large "representation gam" that typically accompanies populist candidates. Content analysis of campaign speeches shows that Trump, more so than any other candidate, employs a rhetoric that is distinctive in its simplicity, anti-elitism, and collectivism. Original survey data show that Trump's supporters are distinctive in their unique combination of anti-expertise, anti-elitism, and pronationalist sentiments. Together, these findings highlight the distinctiveness of populism as a mechanism of political mobilization and the unusual character of the 2016 race.