Research objectives

My research seeks to better understand and measure populism with the broader goal of mitigating its threat for liberal democratic politics. The primary motivation for this is that without a coherent theory about populism, including its detrimental and salutary effects, and sound empirical strategies for measuring it, improving democratic politics is impossible. I approach my teaching as closely connected to this vision of improving democratic politics. As such, my pedagogical research uses the tools of social science to improve access and enhance the quality of multi-modal collegiate instruction—especially research methods and statistics.

Dissertation research

My dissertation research explores when and why parties use populism to appeal to voters in campaign speeches and frame issues in party manifestos. To consider these questions, I collect a corpus of campaign speeches and party manifestos from Austria, France,

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Germany, Sweden, the UK, and the US.  Using both human and computer assisted text analysis techniques, I develop a measurement of populism based in key words and phrases. I validate the approach by comparing my measurements of populism with two recent expert surveys (Global Populism Survey and the POPPA Survey). Using OLS regression, I find that political parties overall are not employing more populist rhetoric in their appeals to voters over the last two decades. This finding runs contrary to the so-called zeitgeist hypothesis that populist appeals are becoming commonplace among all parties.

 

In an effort to explain why parties employ populism, I consider two common sources of party change: gaining or losing seats and the increased success of a competitor party. The evidence suggests that mainstream parties do not employ more populism in response to either losing seats or an increased populist vote share. Instead, I find that mainstream parties have resisted adopting populism to counter seat loss and/or increased populist success. Populist parties, however, respond to seat gains and increased electoral share by toning down the populism in their campaign speeches but increasing the populism in the issue positions of party manifestos. I argue this divergence is evidence of an incongruency effect in campaign speeches, where populist parties view populism’s anti-establishment appeals as incompatible with their increased vote share or seats gained in the legislature. The opposite trend, that of increased populism in party manifestos, points to evidence of an issue ownership effect, where populist parties signal control of the debate on certain issues with increased use of populist concepts and frames.

Pedagogical Research

My research agenda in pedagogy is based in a desire to be an effective and enterprising collegiate instructor and use the tools of social science to help other instructors achieve the same. My primary objective is researching how best to leverage technology to enhance the classroom: traditional, virtual, and hybrid. This research is part of a large pedagogical literature on the impact of technology on educational outcomes, including greater access and better retention. It also connects with a more specific literature on researching social presence, course attrition, gender disparities, and the body of research around teaching techniques in a variety of instructional formats.

Work in progress

"Talking Like a Populist: Revisiting the Zeitgeist Hypothesis"

"Populist Politics or Populist Policy? Exploring Campaign and Programmatic Populism in Six Countries"

“Populism, Nativism, and Economic Uncertainty Revisited: Hungary, Canada, Spain, and Italy.” (with Delton Daigle) Forthcoming book from Palgrave MacMillan.  

Recent conference presentations

"Populist Politics or Populist Policy? Exploring Campaign and Programmatic Populism in Six Countries" Midwest Political Science Association's Annual Conference, April 7-9, 2022, Chicago, IL

"Is Anybody There? Exploring the Role of Social Presence in an Online Political Science Research Methods Class" (with Delton T. Daigle), APSA’s Teaching & Learning Conference, February 7-9, Albuquerque, NM 

“Contagious Populism? Investigating the Intra- and Inter-Party Diffusion of Populist Rhetoric in the US, UK, Germany, and France” Council for European Studies' International Conference of Europeanists, Madrid, Spain, June 20-22, 2019 and Team Populism's Annual Conference, Segovia, Spain, June 22-24, 2019. 

"Measuring Populism and Its 'Contagion Effect' in the US and UK" Midwest Political Science Association's Annual Conference, April 4-7, 2019, Chicago, IL. 

Publications

2020.“Social Presence as Best Practice: The Online Classroom Needs to Feel Real,” (with Delton Daigle) in PS: Political Science and Politics. DOI: 10.1017/S1049096520001614

2020. “Is Anybody There? Exploring the Role of Social Presence in an Online Political Science Research Methods Class.” (with Delton Daigle) APSA Preprints. DOI: 10.33774/apsa-2020-qm9pm

2020. “Teaching Political Science Research Methods Across Delivery Modalities” (with Delton T. Daigle) Journal of Political Science Education, DOI: 10.1080/15512169.2020.1760105

2012. “Religion and the Prospects for ‘Thin’ Politics.” Comparative Sociology, vol. 11, no. 5: 710-732.

2012. Guest editor, online issue: “Re-visiting Veblen’s Leisure Class” in Politics and Culture, vol. 5, no. 2.

 

2012. “Thorstein Veblen and the ‘Spirit’ of Capitalism.” Politics and Culture, vol. 5, no. 2.

 

2010. “The Emerging Church and Global Civil Society: Postmodern Christianity as a Source for Global Values.” Journal of Church and State vol. 52, no. 2.

 

2010. “Russia’s Tormented Prophet.” Review of: Dostoevsky: A Writer in His Time, by Joseph Frank, in: Politics and Culture, vol. 4, no. 2.

 

2007. “Window on the World: Profiling Key Democracy and Good Governance NGOs/Agencies.” Development, vol. 50, no. 1; and Selected book reviews in: Development, vol. 50, no. 1.