Environmental Politcs

Refereed Journal Articles

"Measuring and Modeling Russian Newspaper Coverage of Climate Change."  (with T.G. Coan and M. Poberezhskaya) Global Environmental Change, 36, 89-100. (Forthcoming)

As a significant emitter of greenhouse gases and a country rich in fossil fuels, Russia plays a crucial role in achieving a comprehensive solution to climate-related challenges. Yet, Russia's official position on climate change has varied considerably since the beginning of global negotiations, with the country playing everything from policy leader to laggard. While there are a number factors that shape domestic policy positions on climate change, this study offers a comprehensive investigation of newspaper coverage on climate change in Russia. How have Russian newspapers discussed the issue since the Yeltsin era? We approach this question by compiling the largest data set of Russian newspaper coverage to date, which includes 11,131 climate-related articles from 65 papers over a roughly 35 year period. After introducing a "computer assisted" approach to measure the core themes running through climate change coverage, we statistically evaluate the national- and newspaper-level factors associated with how coverage is framed, focusing attention on 23 high circulation papers over the period from 2000 to 2014. We find that national-level predictors---particularly economic conditions---are highly influential of whether climate change is covered and how the issue is framed, while paper-level factors such as the presence of energy interest and ownership structure also have notable effects. Overall, this study offers a rich data set and an array of methods to better understand the drivers of climate communication in Russia.

"Text-mining the signals of climate change doubt."  (with T.G. Coan) Global Environmental Change, 36, 89-100. (January 2016) Article

Climate scientists overwhelmingly agree that the Earth is getting warmer and that the rise in average global temperature is predominantly due to human activity. Yet a significant proportion of the American public, as well as a considerable number of legislators in the U.S. Congress, continue to reject the “consensus view.” While the source of the disagreement is varied, one prominent explanation centres on the activities of a coordinated and well-funded countermovement of climate sceptics. This study contributes to the literature on organized climate scepticism by providing the first systematic overview of conservative think tank sceptical discourse in nearly 15 years. Specifically, we (1) compile the largest corpus of contrarian literature to date, collecting over 16,000 documents from 19 organizations over the period 1998–2013; (2) introduce a methodology to measure key themes in the corpus which scales to the substantial increase in content generated by conservative think tanks over the past decade; and (3) leverage this new methodology to shed light on the relative prevalence of science- and policy-related discussion among conservative think tanks. We find little support for the claim that “the era of science denial is over”—instead, discussion of climate science has generally increased over the sample period.


Selected Current Work

"Computer Assisted Recognition of Climate Denial and Skepticism."  (with T.G. Coan and John Cook) Research in Progress

This project aims to measure the frequency and evolution of major climate denialist claims found in the online domain. Relying on machine learning techniques, we construct a comprehensive history of climate denliast claims over the period 2000-2016. Specifically, employing a corpus of over 250,000 blog posts from over 50 leading denialist blogs and 19 conservative think tanks, we map paragraphs of text to specific denialist claims. Human coded judgments are used to train a semi-supervised learning algorithm which is then used to identify denialist claims in two decades of climate skeptic content.

"Measuring the Influence of Conservative Think Tanks on Climate Change Discussions in the US Congress."  (with T.G. Coan and Amy McKay) Research in Progress

A growing literature on organized climate change skepticism argues that conservative think tanks (CTTs) serve as the “engine” of the “climate denial machine”. Using their prestige as a “parallel academia”, these organizations seek to frame the climate change issue as a non-issue and, further, funnel information to elected officials and policymakers with the objective of preventing climate change policy intervention. The literature, however, has not systematically studied the process by which CTTs influence the discourse in the U.S. Congress. Combining textual information from prominent environmental organizations and key scientific bodies with all available content produced by the most prominent skeptic organizations, we rely on computational text-mining methods to 1) isolate skeptical discourse and 2) examine the extent to which this discourse correlates with discussions of climate change in the U.S. Congress. Specifically, we are able to measure the influence of CTTs on a corpus of over 100,000 floor speeches, congressional transcripts, and social media instances of members of the U.S. Congress for the period 1998-2015. Our study is able to scale-up and systematize the measurement of influence exerted upon the U.S. Congress by an important element of organized climate change denial, as well as offering a computational approach to monitor the prevalence of skepticism in the U.S. Congress.


Political Communication & Political Behavior

Refereed Journal Articles

"An Experimental Analysis of the Effect of Standards on Compliance and Performance" (with Yuval Feldman and H.E. Smith) Under Review

Legal directives, whether laws, regulations, or contractual provisions, can be written along a spectrum of specificity, about which behavioral and legal scholarship present conflicting views. We hypothesized that the combination of specificity and monitoring promotes compliance but harms performance and trust, whereas the combination of specificity and good faith enhances both the informative goal-setting aspects of specificity and people’s sense of commitment. To test these hypotheses, we used a 2x2x2 experimental design in which participants were instructed to edit a document, either with general or detailed instructions, either with a reference to good faith or without it, and either with monitoring or without it. Participants could engage in various levels and kinds of editing, allowing us to measure distinctly both compliance and performance. When participants require information and guidance, as in the case of editing, we found that specificity increases performance relative to the vague standard condition


Book Chapters

"Identity and Public Support for North American Integration" (with Jennifer Merolla and Caryn Peiffer). In Achim Hurrelmann & Steffen Schneider (Eds.) The Legitimacy of Regional Integration in Europe and the Americas (pp. 98-116). Palgrave Macmillan UK

The majority of studies investigating the determinants of public support for regional integration have primarily focused on citizen attitudes in European Union member-states and candidate countries. A subset of this body of research has found that the intensity of an individual’s sense of national and supranational identity has an effect on levels of support for the European Union. Yet, these studies were also conducted at a time when European integration was tangible and when a larger European identity was already generally salient. We seek to expand the debate on the role of identity in support for integrative policies by examining attitudes on integration in North America—a region with a much less salient sense of regional identity and a far less extensive integration project. In addition to providing a comparative perspective to the identity-support question, this paper investigates whether the priming of a supranational identify increases support for integration. Results from an estimation of World Values Survey data for all three North American countries lend support to the argument that national and supranational identity plays a role in citizen attitudes toward regional integration. In addition, while we find considerable support for the hypothesis that manipulating the salience of these identities impacts individual support for integration, we also uncover clear cross-national differences in North American attitudes and offer our thoughts on why these differences might exist.


Selected Current Work

"Love Thy Neighbor: Social Identity and Public Support for Humanitarian Aid" (with Linda Alvarez, Jennifer Merolla and Caryn Peiffer). Under Review.

Foreign policy that focuses on humanitarian assistance, such as disaster assistance, foreign aid and intervention in civil conflicts, can be contentious. Proposals of such policies usually give rise to significant political debates in the donor country. Should national resources be devoted to helping those in need abroad or should the use of finite resources be focused at home? What causes people to support sacrificing national resources for the benefit of those abroad? This paper investigates a previously unexplored connection between individual-level characteristics and the level of public support for humanitarian aid allocation. We argue that support levels are in part determined by one’s identification with a world community. Social identity theorists argue that when individuals identify with a super-ordinate group, in this case, the larger world community, they are more likely to display stronger support for policies that will benefit the larger group, even if it involves sacrifices to be made by the subordinate group, or in this case the nation (Tajfel and Turner, 1979). This study empirically investigates this hypothesis using World Values Survey observations of respondents from Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries.

"'Truthful lips endure forever:' Political speech in Relgious Sermons" (with T.G. Coan and Mirya Holman) Working Paper

Political speech routinely occurs in religious environments, particularly in the United States. Research has found that religious leaders and congregants alike report high levels of political discussions in their churches; the politics discussed have the potential to influence how individuals view the political world, vote, and engage in political activism. However, extant research has not yet systematically explored actual language used in political speech within churches. This project remedies this gap. We use over 130,000 sermons from an online repository to evaluate the frequency and form of political messages within religious sermons. In doing so, we link the sermon data to demographic, religious, and political information from the location of the pastor to reveal patterns in who, where, and why religious leaders discuss political issues.

"Fishing for Votes in the Aegean: Communciation strategies of the Golden Dawn during the European migrant crisis" (with T.G. Coan and Elias Dinas) Working Paper

The recent electoral successes and meteoric rise of the extremist far-right Golden Dawn (GD) party have raised questions over the democratic values of a sizeable proportion of the Greek electorate. While the gains enjoyed by the GD can be attributed, in part, to its strategy of social service provision to vulnerable segments of the population, the appeal of the party’s ideology, elements of which resonate across Greek society, also must be considered. To better understand the nature of this ideology, our study conducts a systematic investigation of the public rhetoric of Golden Dawn. Relying on automated text analytic methods and employing a corpus of 17,283 official party news articles, we identify the central themes of the GD narrative and how they have evolved over the period 2012-2015. Our analysis provides insight into how the party has used the immigration issue in its communication since entering Parliament in 2012.

"Populism and Text Complexity: An analysis of the XVII Italian Legislature" (with Silvia Decadri) Working Paper

This paper investigates the impact of populism on language complexity in Italy, from 2013 to 2016. The social and political role of language has been extensively illustrated. Nevertheless, the connection between political ideology and text complexity has received a scarce and mainly descriptive attention. This paper employs automated text analytic techniques to the study of populism and language complexity. Preliminary results suggest that members of populist parliamentary groups use less complex language in their parliamentary speeches.


International Development & Political Economy

Refereed Journal Articles

"Towards Comprehensive Malaria Planning: The Effect of Government Capacity, Health Policy, and Land Use Variables on Malaria Incidence in India." (with Hal Nelson and Siddharth Swaminathan) Social Science & Medicine 75(7), 1213–1221. (October 2012) Article

We present what we believe is the first empirical research that accounts for subnational government capacity in estimating malaria incidence. After controlling for relevant extrinsic factors, we find evidence of a negative effect of state government capacity on reported malaria cases in Indian states over the period 1993–2002. Government capacity is more successful in predicting malaria incidence than potentially more direct indicators such as state public health expenditures and economic development levels. We find that high government capacity can moderate the deleterious health effects of malaria in rice producing regions. Our research also suggests that government capacity may have augmented the effectiveness of the World Bank Malaria Control Project in India over the period studied. We conclude by proposing the integration of government capacity measures into existing planning efforts, including vulnerability mapping tools and disease surveillance efforts.

"Health, Need and Politics: the Determinants of Bilateral HIV/AIDS Assistance." (with Caryn Peiffer) Journal of Development Studies 47(12), 1798–1825. (December 2011) Article

Over the last 10 years foreign aid for HIV/AIDS control has grown from ‘millions to billions’. This study investigates donor motivations in the targeting of bilateral HIV/AIDS assistance. Are donors selecting recipients primarily based on level of need or are political and merit-based considerations at play as well? The results of our two-stage statistical analysis of bilateral HIV/AIDS assistance flows over the period 2002–2007 suggests that recipient need is an important determinant of aid flows. We also find limited evidence of dyadic political relationships having an effect on assistance targeting, while the quality of recipient policy environments seems to have a minimal impact on donor allocation decisions.

"Foreign Assistance and the Struggle against HIV/AIDS in the Developing World." (with Caryn Peiffer) Journal of Development Studies 46(3), 556–573. (March 2010) Article

The few studies that have examined the systematic determinants of HIV/AIDS policy cross-nationally have left the possible impact of foreign aid out of the equation. At a time when developed nations are critically reassessing their foreign aid commitments a deeper understanding of the impact of HIV/AIDS foreign aid on policy outcomes in the developing world is vital. This study expands the present literature by analyzing the role of foreign funding in a nation's response to the epidemic. The authors find that while HIV/AIDS directed foreign aid has significantly positive effects on a country's treatment coverage rates, the level of traditionalism is a more important influence with regard to the proclivity of a country to adopt preventative policies centred on HIV/AIDS education.


Book Chapters

"Determining aid allocation decision-making: towards a comparative sectored approach." (with Caryn Peiffer) In B. Mak Arvin & Byron Lew (Eds.) Handbook on the Economics of Foreign Aid,(pp. 45-63. Edward Elgar. Book

"Provincial Politics and the Attraction of FDI in India and China" (with Travis Coan and Tadeusz Kugler) in The Performance of Nations. Rowman & Littlefield. (Forthcoming September 2012) Book Chapter. Book

Previous literature focuses on the economic and political foundations of foreign direct investment (FDI). These studies show that a range of economic and political indicators impact a nation’s ability to attract FDI. While the majority of the extant empirical literature examines national level data, few studies analyze international capital formation at the provincial level—that is, where allocations are made and policies are implemented. This study corrects for this deficiency. We focus on the impact of provincial level government capacity on FDI flows in India and China. Using data at the provincial level over the period 2000 to 2006, we find an inverted U shape relationship between capacity and FDI, suggesting the presence of a critical point at which additional extractive capabilities have negative implications for foreign capital accumulation. The results suggest a number of important policy implications, allowing researchers to identify specific regions in which capacity is likely to facilitate investment, while also providing a political-economic model to better forecast changes in investment at the sub-national level in India and China.

"Political Capacity as a Moderator of International Migration" (with Travis Coan and Tadeusz Kugler) in The Performance of Nations. Rowman & Littlefield. (Forthcoming September 2012) ) Book Chapter. Book

As the developed world begins to experience increasingly aged populations over the coming decades, the need for new labor sources is becoming apparent. Immigration offers a solution to this demographic problem. Industrialized nations with low fertility rates have a strong incentive to open their borders to foreign labor. Given this need, what factors explain why some developed nations enjoy higher rates of immigration than others? Following the growing systematic empirical literature on migration (e.g. Hatton and Williamson, 2002; Mayda, 2009), we argue that there are push and pull effects which explain this variation. We posit that liberal economic policies and social service provision attract incoming migrants. At the same time, we recognize that citizens of recipient nations are generally opposed to immigration. This popular opposition to migration incentivizes elected officials to enact policies which seek to curb the flow of incoming populations. We argue that the level of government effectiveness of a recipient nation plays an important role in reducing the volume of incoming migrants. The results of our statistical estimation of migrant inflows into OECD member-states over the period 1995-2007 suggest that social service provision and relative income per capita exhibit a significant positive effect on immigration flows while the level of government effectiveness has a significant negative effect.


Selected Current Work

"Social Capital, Democracy, and International Trade" (with Hal Nelson and Silvia Decadri) Working Paper

While ample research has dealt with the effects of democracy on trade,the literature has yielded conicting outcomes ranging from positive (Milner & Kubota, 2005) to mixed effects (Eichengreen and Leblang, 2008). While this variance in findings is expected, it also implies that existing methodological approaches could suffer from omitted variable bias, namely the exclusion of social capital from the analysis. Classical trade theory suggests that trade barriers benefit uncompetitive domestic producers at the expense of consumers and society at large. We argue that policymakers in high-trust societies will be less likely to enact trade policies which harm diffuse interests (consumers). Social capital helps consumers achieve greater potential for collective action which, in turn, can translate into pressuring government to pursue welfare maximizing policies such as liberalized international trade. Using Boy and Girl Scout membership data as a proxy of social capital, we systematically explore the hypothesis that higher levels of generalized trust and reciprocity are associated with more trade openness. Combining data for a cross-section of 132 countries over the period 1960-2004, we find strong evidence suggesting a moderating effect of social capital on the relationship between democracy and trade liberalization, especially for high-income countries.