Securitization and Institutional Power in the United Nations

When and why do states securitize issues in international organizations? Is the international political discourse on climate change becoming securitized? What does this imply about power dynamics in the UN and potential policy responses to climate change? To answer these questions, I leverage data on speeches in the General Assembly (Baturo et al, 2017). I provide the first quantitative test of the securitization of climate politics, using supervised and unsupervised methods to examine variation over time and across states. I advance a theory of securitization in international institutions, in which P5 states securitize to expand the scope of the Security Council and their institutional power, and apply this theory in the case of climate discourse. I statistically test the theory of securitization against alternative explanations including domestic and international
politics and geographic vulnerability to the effects of climate change. I find that that the climate discourse is securitizing over time, and the P5 are more likely to securitize. These trends are distinctive of climate politics, as the overall UN discourse is not securitizing, and the P5 do not securitize broadly across topics. 

Migration, Climate Change, and  Sustainability Attitudes (with Christopher Blair)

Little existing work studies climate-induced migration. In particular, public perceptions of climate migrants are understudied. Our project seeks to redress this gap. Drawing on diverse literatures in political science and social psychology, we study the interrelation of public opinion on migration, climate change, and climate-induced migration. Our core argument is that climate migrants occupy an intermediate position in the public view, garnering greater support than traditional economic migrants but less support than refugees. Evidence from a conjoint experiment embedded in nationally representative surveys of 2160 respondents in the U.S. and Germany provide support for this claim. However, a follow-up factorial experiment shows that priming climate migration does not lead to greater support for climate change mitigation. Rather, predispositions like empathy drive concern about climate migration and climate change mitigation. These findings suggest how mass attitudes on migration are affected by migrants’ different reasons for migrating.

Legislative Networks and Agenda-Setting in the UNGA and UNSC (with Robert Shaffer)

How do the agendas of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) influence each other? Which of these foundational UN institution leads, and which lags? How often do these chambers devote attention to the same issues? Do these patterns vary by issue area or over time? Are do legislative networks vary in density by issue area? To address these questions, we employ a multi-method approach using a new dataset comprising all UNGA and UNSC resolutions from 1945-2018 (19,137 and 2,331 resolutions, respectively), which we scraped, converted to plain text using OCR, cleaned, and parsed. We then extract citations that refer to other resolutions to construct legislative networks, measure textual similarity across different documents, and develop a supervised classifier to label each resolution with a topic area to assess leads and lags in agenda-setting in the two chambers, triangulating the output of these different text-as-data approaches.

Voting Against Cooperation: Congressional Opposition to the League of Nations (with Julia Gray)

What determines Congressional support for international cooperation, and how do partisan positions evolve? The Senate record on WWI-era proposals for international organizations provides a particularly interesting case. Public support for the League of Nations was extremely high, and the proposal initially bore the fingerprint of both parties as well as considerable US influence in its design. Despite initial bipartisan support, over a series of votes, the Senate voted these proposals down, and position-switching from both parties was common. We use original data capturing state-level interests — including civil society activities from the League to Enforce Peace, a central advocacy group — to test hypotheses on whether senators’ changing positions reflected constituent pressure, compared with hypotheses about party unity or increasing Congressional power. Better understanding the historical relationship between ideology, constituency preferences, and support for international cooperation could shed light on contemporary challenges to the international order.  

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.