Other Research in Progress

Think Globally, Act Locally: The Determinants of Local Policymakers’ Support for Climate Policy (with Joshua A. Schwartz). Revise & Resubmit at Journal of Politics.

Given the lack of sufficient progress at the national level to combat climate change, local environmental initiatives have taken on increased importance. However, relatively little research examines the policy preferences of local policymakers themselves, whether the design features of climate policies impact their preferences, and whether policymaker and public preferences are contradictory or congruent. To address these gaps in the literature, we conduct a conjoint experiment on over 500 local policymakers and pair this elite experiment with an identical replication conducted on the American public. Per our theoretical expectations, we find that a range of climate policy design elements have a significant impact on policymaker support, and elite preferences are largely congruent with public preferences. Although national polarization over climate change suggests hope for progress is far-fetched, our findings demonstrate progress is indeed possible at the local level if environmental policies are optimally designed to maximize support.

You Had Me at Citation: How Citations Increase Support for United Nations (with Robert Shaffer)

We introduce a new dataset of all United Nations (UN) resolutions passed from 1946-2018, as well as machine-learning based measures of their citations, textual alignment, and topics. We use this dataset to understand why policymakers employ citations in the drafting of legal documents, and how the inclusion of these citations affect political outcomes. We draw on theories of international lawmaking to argue that citation, by signaling ideological consistency with a states’ foreign policy goals, serves as a strategy to obtain support for resolutions. We find that citation does increase political support for resolutions, and find that even accounting for foreign aid flows, citation dynamics are an important predictor of state support for resolutions.

Everything New is Old Again: Textual Recycling in UN Resolutions (with Robert Shaffer)

Why do negotiators recycle previous texts in the drafting of legal documents in international organizations? We engage with theories of international lawmaking to understand how the unique context of IOs leads to different expectations of textual recycling compared to previously studied contexts, primarily treaty negotiations. We argue that textual recycling is an efficiency-enhancing strategy which negotiators are particularly likely to use when confronted by demanding policy agendas and when addressing low-salience issues. To assess this theory, we deploy a machine learning approach to measure textual recycling across all UN resolutions passed from 1946-2018. In line with our expectations, we find that rates of textual recycling are higher in the UNGA—which has an extensive agenda—than the UNSC—which has a narrower agenda. We further find that recycling is more likely to be used within chambers compared to across chambers, and on lower salience issues than on security matters. These findings suggest that negotiators weigh the benefits of efficiency against the importance of specificity when choosing to recycle texts.

Forming Preferences on International Cooperation: Uncertainty and Executive-Congressional Control in the US Senate Debate on the League of Nations (with Julia Gray)

How do state preferences emerge in the incipient moments of international cooperation, and what lessons do such moments offer for the fate of international organizations (IOs) today? Opening the `black box’ of preferences over international cooperation requires theories of how individual legislators as well as parties adopt positions on IOs, particularly in terms of their electoral and institutional incentives. The founding moments of IOs are a particularly fertile ground to examine how preferences form over IOs, as partisan preferences have yet to crystallize. But because legislative debate is usually circumvented in treaty design, we have few opportunities to explore the formation of those preferences. The 1918 US Senate debate on the League of Nations provides an opportunity to examine this moment of preference formation, and it is particularly puzzling because, at the time that the Treaty of Versailles reached the Senate, an estimated 80% of voters — along with interest groups, civic groups, and elites across party lines — supported the treaty, yet the Senate nonetheless voted it down. We argue that legislators responded to the uncertainties around international cooperation by attempting to wrest control over the IO. The long-acknowledged tensions between the executive and the legislature can be leveraged as a partisan strategy, overwhelming even pressure from elites, constituents, and civil society. We use a text-as-data approach to estimate the dominance of topics that reflect Congressional incentives compared with topics that reflect constituent pressures or personal ideology, particularly for senators for whom the League was low salience (as proxied by the timing of their speeches). To account for shifts in executive leadership, we leverage two different instances of Wilson unexpectedly being struck by Spanish flu (April) and a stroke (September) as shocks to the influence of the executive. Our findings suggest that even when the deck is stacked in favor international cooperation — with elite, interest-group, and constituent support — Congressional politics still hold considerable power to derail these agreements.

Dragons and Doves: The Effects of China’s Leadership of UN Agencies (with Rachel Ann Hulvey)

Although many speculate about China’s motivations, China seems well positioned to be able to change institutional goals as Secretary General of many United Nations (UN) agencies. Does China successfully wield leadership of these bodies to further its own national interests? China’s rise relates to a broader debate about the extent to which leaders of IOs act as faithful Secretaries, as rational design theories predict, or whether leaders have the capacity to steer the organization in a new direction as a General. We test these theories through the case of China’s leadership to determine whether a rising power uses the position to reward like-minded states. We leverage a comparative case study approach of 11 different IOs to examine these effects, combining original data collection of 12,481 IO country-projects from 1988-2022, an ethnographic case study of the ITU, and an elite conjoint survey experiment with IO staff. Despite China’s more assertive grand strategy, we find that the distribution of IO benefits under China’s leadership reflects the Secretary rather than General model, which has implications both for the way that we interpret China’s motivations toward the international order, the independence of IOs, and the broader vitality of IOs in the midst of power transitions.

In the Eye of the Storm: Hurricanes and Climate Migration Attitudes (with Christopher W. Blair)

How do extreme weather events impact receptivity toward climate migrants and broader attitudes on climate change? We leverage a natural experiment to conduct the first test of the effects of natural disasters on public attitudes towards climate change and climate migration, conducting surveys before and after Hurricane Ian—one of the most severe hurricanes on record—in the American southeast. We match survey responses with geospatial data on exposure to the effects of the storm, finding that exposure to the hurricane substantially increases public support for policy action on climate change and climate migration, as well as increased perceptions of issue importance and concern.

Innovation or Imitation? International Law and the Drafting of National Refugee Policies (with Christopher W. Blair)

When and how do international conventions influence the making of national-level laws and policies? International legal standards offer a clear framework for national policymakers drafting and reforming domestic legislation. Politicians and legislators involved in writing domestic policies can copy clauses and text from international legal conventions to simplify the drafting process. International institutions can serve as policy entrepreneurs to facilitate international legal emulation. Imitating international laws in domestic legislation offers a low-cost way to create internationally-compliant, national-level policies. This strategy may be particularly appealing for bureaucratically-weak states in the Global South. Yet, in spite of incentives for imitation, domestic policies exhibit wide variation in the extent of their similarity to international laws. We study this phenomenon in the context of refugee and asylum laws, an important policy domain for theories of lawmaking, international cooperation, and legal innovation. Taking a corpus of national-level laws and policies covering 92 Global South countries between 1952 and 2017, we study the extent to which domestic policies imitate or innovate from international refugee laws. Using machine-learning and supervised text analysis, we document substantial variability across countries and over time in the extent to which domestic laws borrow text from international legal conventions. We study the determinants of legal imitation versus innovation. We compliment our quantitative findings with case studies of the legal drafting process behind refugee laws in Ethiopia, Zambia, and Afghanistan.

Breaking the Silence: COVID-19, Digital Diplomacy, and Consensus-Building in the UN General Assembly

Has the adoption of digital diplomacy—necessitated by COVID-19—had a negative effect on multilateral negotiations? Existing literature is indeterminate in its expectations about the effects of digital diplomacy. I posit a theoretical framework based on institutional design features to predict when digital diplomacy should be disruptive to diplomatic negotiations. I argue that in institutions with strong consensus norms and diverse membership, digital diplomacy renders consensus-building more difficult, and particularly so when it comes to emerging and controversial issues. I test these expectations in the case of the UN General Assembly, comparing consensus under the digital protocol adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic to consensus under face-to-face negotiations. I also conduct 27 elite interviews with UN diplomats during March and April 2020. I find that, although consensus rates were not negatively impacted by digital negotiations under this `Silence Procedure,’ the overall trend belies strategic selection by diplomats, who froze negotiations on controversial and emerging issues, instead focusing on administrative and already agreed upon issue areas. These findings suggest that digital diplomacy can be a useful tool for diplomatic `maintenance,’ but not for addressing many pressing issues that diplomats in international organizations must confront.

National Security and Climate Change Attitudes (with Michael Weisberg)

Previous studies have tested different means of communicating information on climate change to shift attitudes, including framing the issue in moral or economic terms, as well as credibility effects of scientific sources. These strategies have generally been ineffective at moving attitudes on climate change, and in some instances have even resulted in decreasing support. Noting the key demographic groups to target with climate communication, this project proposes a novel test of framing and source effects. We hypothesize (1) that discussing climate change as a national security issue is likely to increase public support for climate change policies through framing effects; (2) that information on climate change delivered by national security establishment leaders is likely to increase public support for climate change policies through source effects; and (3) that these effects are likely to be most pronounced among conservative and Republican demographics.