Other Research in Progress

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

The textual dynamics of international policymaking: A new corpus of UN resolutions, 1946-2018. Revise & Resubmit, Journal of Peace Research.

I 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. I 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. I 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 affects political outcomes. I draw on theories of international lawmaking to argue that for states deciding whether to vote in favor of a resolution, these references, by signaling ideological consistency with a state’s foreign policy goals and existing consensus amongst negotiators, serve as a strategy to obtain support for resolutions. I find that the inclusion of references does increase political support for resolutions, using my measure of textual alignment to hold resolution text constant while isolating variation in the inclusion of references. I 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.

Who Sets the Agenda? Diplomatic Capital and Small State Influence in the United Nations

Why are some small states effective in shaping the UN agenda, even in the face of powerful states’ opposition? I argue that states can influence the early stages of policymaking with diplomatic capital, a form of social power developed through skilled representation. By focusing on the late stages of policymaking, previous studies have overestimated the influence of powerful states. To test these claims, I assemble a dataset of proposed agenda items and the tenure of all states’ ambassadors from 1946-2019, and conduct interviews with diplomats from 49 states. I find that smaller states have higher diplomatic capital, states with greater diplomatic capital are more successful at agenda-setting even after accounting for material power, and random shocks to ambassadorial tenure—ambassador deaths—have negative effects on diplomatic capital. These insights challenge our understanding of the importance of power and diplomacy in IOs and the extent to which small states influence international politics.

Everything New is Old Again: Textual Recycling in UN Resolutions

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.

Risk and Responsibility: Climate Vulnerability and IMF Conditionality (with Richard Clark)

International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans often require states to implement stringent policy conditions for funds to be disbursed. However, many recipients are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, which can limit their ability to implement such conditions. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that many developing countries are especially climate vulnerable. We examine whether and how the IMF accounts for the burden posed by states’ climate vulnerabilities. We show that the Fund balances moral hazard and climate justice considerations by offering vulnerable countries loans with fewer and less stringent policy conditions. Mechanism tests suggest this effect is driven by bureaucrats learning about the vulnerability-inducing threat of climate rather than the initiative of management or member states. These findings highlight the subtle responsiveness of international financial institutions to countries’ climate vulnerabilities and illustrate how climate change influences international economic policymaking processes.

China’s Leadership of IOs: Reputational Gains, Distributional Politics, and Institutional Legitimacy (with Rachel Ann Hulvey)

Do rising powers like China obtain benefits from leading IOs? International relations research has largely overlooked the potential benefits that states can derive from executive influence over IOs. We theorize that a rising power like China may leverage leadership of IOs informally—to enhance its reputation—and formally—to reward like-minded states. We also theorize that distrust over the rising power’s leadership decreases IO legitimacy. To examine informal influence, we conduct a survey experiment in Brazil and France. While China’s leadership of the UN enhances its reputation, it also lowers IO legitimacy. Surprisingly, US leadership of IOs also reduces their legitimacy, suggesting public concern about great power control broadly. To investigate formal influence, we analyze original data on 12,481 projects from 11 IOs and conduct an elite conjoint experiment, finding limited evidence of executive influence over IO projects either directly or via bureaucratic decision-making. These results illustrate that rising powers gain reputational rather than distributional benefits from leading IOs, but at the cost of lowering IO legitimacy.

Proxy Representation: Power and Voice at the IMF (with Richard Clark and Ayse Kaya)

Decision-making in international organizations (IOs) requires the aggregation of member state preferences to achieve cooperative outcomes. To what extent does power determine whose preferences receive the most weight? Can institutional leadership positions give voice to otherwise weak states? We extend existing research investigating how institutional design moderates 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 by the Fund’s proxy representation system — large, wealthy states represent themselves, while other states belong to multi-member constituencies in which leadership may rotate among members. We argue that the policymaking process at the Fund should be most influenced by states that represent themselves or are constituency leaders. Focusing on issues related to climate change, we deploy multiple measures to examine the extent to which countries’ preferences over climate issues are realized at IMF Board meetings. We find evidence to support our theoretical expectations; states more effectively advance their positions when they have more powerful institutional roles — this holds even for otherwise weak 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.