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.

Although much progress to combat climate change has occurred subnationally, little research examines the policy preferences of local policymakers themselves and whether policymaker and public preferences are contradictory or compatible. To address these questions, we conduct identical conjoint experiments on over 500 local policymakers and the American public. Per our theoretical expectations, we demonstrate the probability of policy adoption can be increased by strategic design. Most notably, climate-related subsidies and regulations are preferred over taxes and penalties, suggesting efforts to put a price on carbon may not be the optimal approach. Partisan endorsements of climate plans also have a large effect—greater in some cases than substantive policy design—consistent with increasing polarization. While direct economic relief to the public is popular, it does not increase support for bolder climate policies. Finally, elite and public preferences are highly compatible, which is a positive signal about the representativeness of American democracy.

In the Eye of the Storm: Hurricanes and Climate Migration Attitudes (with Christopher W. Blair). Revise & Resubmit at American Political Science Review.

Climate disasters raise the salience of climate change’s negative consequences, including climate-induced migration. Policy action to address climate displacement is especially contentious in the U.S., where weak support for tackling climate change intersects with high opposition to immigration. Do climate disasters foster receptivity toward climate migrants and broader willingness to combat climate change? To study this question, we leverage the occurrence of Hurricane Ian during fielding of a pre-registered survey in autumn 2022. Hurricane exposure increased concern about and support for policies to address climate migration. Hurricane exposure also increased support for climate action and belief in anthropogenic climate change. Effects of hurricane exposure cross-cut partisanship, education, age, and other important correlates of climate attitudes, but decay within six months. Together, these results suggest that climate disasters may briefly increase favorability toward climate migrants and climate policy action, but are unlikely to durably mobilize support even in severely-impacted areas.

The textual dynamics of international policymaking: A new corpus of UN resolutions, 1946-2018 (with Robert Shaffer)

We introduce a new dataset of all United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolutions passed from 1946-2018, as well as machine-learning based measures of their references to other resolutions, textual alignment, and topics. We suggest applications of this data for a variety of questions in international relations from the development of international law to the influence of state power in international organizations. We illustrate the utility of this dataset by investigating why policymakers employ references in the drafting of legal documents, and how the inclusion of these references affect political outcomes. We draw on theories of international lawmaking to argue that these references, by signaling ideological consistency with a states’ foreign policy goals, serves as a strategy to obtain support for resolutions. We find that the inclusion of references does increase political support for resolutions, using our measure of textual alignment to hold resolution text constant while isolating variation in the inclusion of references. We find that even accounting for foreign aid flows as a canonical alternative explanation of vote choice, reference 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.

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.

Are IOs Democratic? The Politics of Preference Aggregation in Global Governance (with Richard Clark and Ayse Kaya)

International organizations (IOs) aggregate their principals’ preferences to achieve cooperative outcomes. How do IOs accomplish this, and whose preferences receive the most weight? We extend existing research arguing that institutional design features influence which states are best able to advance their preferences in IOs. We specifically examine the deliberations that take place in the IMF’s Executive Board. Global South countries are structurally disadvantaged at the Fund—large, wealthy states represent themselves, while smaller states belong to multi-member constituencies. Leadership over these constituencies rotates amongst members. We contend that the policymaking process at the Fund should be most influenced by members that communicate consistent, intense preferences at Board meetings. A given state’s ability to do so is a product of whether they represent themselves or are part of a constituency, and, if the latter, whether they lead the constituency. Focusing on issues related to climate change, we leverage text-as-data tools to examine the extent to which countries’ preferences over climate issues, measured using the content of their General Debate speeches in the UNGA, are realized at IMF Board meetings. Strikingly, we find evidence that contradicts our theory—countries’ climate preferences impact the Fund’s agenda regardless of whether they have privileged positions on the Board. These findings suggest that IOs can operate democratically even when institutional design favors certain states.

Breaking the Silence: COVID-19, Digital Diplomacy, and Consensus-Building in International Organizations

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 multilateral 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 United Nations General Assembly and the European Union Council, 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 in aggregate were not negatively impacted by digital negotiations utilized during COVID-19, the overall trend belies strategic selection by diplomats, who froze negotiations on controversial and emerging issues, and instead focused 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.

Gender and Climate Policy (with Christopher W. Blair and Joshua A. Schwartz)

Adopting climate mitigation policies is highly politicized in the US context. Do women policymakers face an even greater challenge in advancing such initiatives? We theorize that women face a higher penalty for pursuing climate mitigation when they advocate for climate policies that threaten masculine-coded norms and behaviors. For example, if a woman leader proposes climate mitigation measures that disincentivize eating meat or driving larger, “manly” vehicles, then we expect public approval will be lower than if a man proposed an identical policy. To test our theoretical expectations, we will deploy a pre-registered survey experiment on a representative sample of the US public. Our project has substantial implications for academic theories about gender and climate policymaking. The results will also inform real-world climate advocates about how to most effectively compose coalitions for mitigation action.

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.