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)

In recent years, China has begun pursuing executive leadership roles within the United Nations (UN) agencies. How does China’s leadership of these bodies affect the benefits these agencies distribute to member states? Cooperation theorists predict that the nationality of executive heads has no impact, as states rationally design international organizations (IOs) to achieve independence from the geopolitical whims of member states. However, drawing on theories of management and institutional leadership, we argue that even under institutional constraints, executive heads have an active role in shaping institutional priorities and outcomes when they desire change. China, as a rising power, desires to shift the ideology of international order and redistribute resources away from the West. These distinct interests suggest that China taking the helm of UN agencies should be associated with the organization redirecting programmatic benefits away from countries that typically benefit from the Western-led system towards those that share China’s ideology. To test competing claims about the role of leadership within IOs, we use a case study, comparing within and between eight different UN agencies to examine whether the distribution of benefits changes when Chinese nationals assume leadership positions. We combine this quantitative analysis with qualitative evidence from elite interviews with organizational staff to rule out alternative explanations. These results contribute to our understanding of how and whether a rising power’s exercise of executive leadership results in changes that alter the operation of IOs from within.

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? Some research and practitioners suggest that the rise of digital diplomacy has had beneficial effects on the efficiency and inclusivity of negotiations. Others argue that digital diplomacy cannot replicate the face-to-face bonding that is necessary in negotiations. I argue that when it comes to consensus-building—an important norm in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)—digital diplomacy has weakened states’ abilities to build coalitions, and thus to adopt new policies. To test these competing explanations, I examine outcomes of the novel UNGA ‘Silence Procedure.’

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.