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American Politics

Jenna Becker Kane (http://sites.temple.edu/jennabeckerkane)

Dissertation:  Lobbying Justice(s)? Measuring the Influence of Amicus Curiae in State Courts of Last Resort

Despite well documented evidence that both the level and diversity of amicus participation in state high courts have been growing, little progress has been made in determining whether or not amicus briefs influence state court outcomes or the mechanism through which this influence is exerted.  My dissertation seeks to answer these questions by using an original dataset assembled from content analysis of more than 2300 state supreme court decisions handed down between 1995 and 2010 and spanning three distinct areas of law: products liability, environmental law, and free speech/expression.  First, I investigate the influence of amicus filings on court decisions and test whether this influence varies across courts with different methods of judicial retention.  Results show that amicus briefs submitted by interest groups have the most influence over judicial outcomes in areas of law where interest groups routinely make large-scale donations to judicial campaigns.  This raises serious concerns about the influence of big money in judicial elections.

The second part of my dissertation tests two competing theories of amicus influence to determine how state high court judges utilize amicus information in judicial decision making.  The informational theory assumes the influence of amicus brief information to be evenly distributed across judges.  However, theories of confirmation bias and motivated reasoning suggest that the information in amicus briefs may be received and evaluated differently depending upon the ideological predispositions of individual judges.  Using multi-level modeling, I analyze the votes of more than 12,000 individual state high court judges to determine whether judge ideology conditions the influence of amicus briefs such that judges are more receptive to pro-attitudinal information contained in briefs from interest groups that share their predispositions. The final portion of my dissertation investigates the case-level and court-level factors that attract interest group participation as amicus curiae in state high courts in order to better our understanding of interest group strategies when engaging state judiciaries.

Committee:  Megan Mullin (Chair), David Adamany, Kevin Arceneaux, Chris Bonneau (University of Pittsburgh)


Katharine S. Javian
 (http://sites.temple.edu/ksjavian/)

Dissertation: Party Voting in the American States:  How National Factors and Institutional Variation Affect State Elections.

My dissertation examines two related questions: first, how do national-level conditions influence state legislative and gubernatorial elections?  Second, how does state-level institutional variation mediate how state elections are influenced by those national factors?   I approach the first question by testing existing theories, specifically, I examine the effect of presidential coattails, surge and decline theory, referendum voting theory and vertical policy balancing theory.  Using multilevel modeling, I analyze gubernatorial elections from 1948-2010 and state legislative elections from 1968-2010. I find evidence for surge and decline, referendum voting, and vertical balancing in both gubernatorial and state legislative elections.

Next, I turn to the question of whether state institutional variation mediates how national forces influence state elections.  I find that formal institutional power and the size of state government do not systematically affect state election outcomes.  However, I show that coattail effects and referendum voting are lessened in states with the direct initiative and that vertical balancing is increased.  This dissertation adds to our understanding of elections in the American states as well as the American electoral process in general.

Committee: Christopher Wlezien (Chair),  Kevin Arceneaux, Megan Mullin, Department of Political Science, Matthew Levendusky (University of Pennsylvania)


Jay T. Jennings
(http://sites.temple.edu/jayjennings)

Broadly speaking, I am interested in the capacity of citizens to effectively participate in a well-functioning democracy. As a discipline we agree on an ideal: citizens should be informed, interested, and tolerant individuals who participate in politics. My research focuses on understanding what differentiates those citizens who nearly meet such an ideal and those who decidedly fail. My work largely draws from previous research in political psychology, political behavior, and public opinion to form new ideas regarding contributions to the democratic capacity of citizens. Religious motivations are an important, but understudied, element of democratic citizenship. Entitled Religious Motivation and the Democratic Citizen, my dissertation investigates the relationship between religious motivations and traits associated with the ideal citizen: political participation, political interest, political knowledge, and tolerance. Pioneered by Gordon Allport, religious motivations are a psychological measurement of the role religion has in one’s life. It is my contention that religious motivations are key to the understanding of religion’s mixed relationship with democratic citizenship. My dissertation employs nationally representative surveys including a unique survey-experiment to provide evidence of religious motivations’ important explanatory power. The findings suggest it is not what religious service you attend, or even how often you attend, but the motivation for being religious that best explains the level of political engagement and prejudice. My dissertation chapter entitled The Prejudice Paradox: How Religious Motivations Explain the Complex Relationship between Religion and Prejudice can be downloaded here.

I am also the project manager for the Pennsylvania Policy Database Project which is directed by Joseph McLaughlin through the Institute of Public Affairs at Temple University. Following the model set forth by Baumgartner and Jones (1993) and the U.S. Policy Agendas Project, our project has collected and coded nearly 200,000 government and media records in Pennsylvania from 1979 to the present. Our 2010 article from State Politics & Policy Quarterly can be downloaded here.

Committee: Kevin Arceneaux (Chair), Robin Kolodny, and Megan Mullin.


Joshua J. Weikert

Dissertation: Balancing Act: How an Unbalanced Media Affects the Electorate

Is there balance in media coverage of presidential election campaigns? While the literature supports the notion that it is, in the aggregate and across time, lacking systematic imbalance and bias (D’Alessio and Allen 2000), previous studies generally do not consider intra-campaign shifts in the composition of coverage, leaving unanswered the question of whether coverage is consistently balanced or merely appears so when all the ups and downs of the election are tallied up. This project takes advantage of a project-generated content analysis of all NBC Nightly News broadcasts and New York Times articles during the general election period (from the national party conventions through Election Day) for four election years (1996-2008) to determine whether intra-campaign imbalance exists along three axes: volume of coverage (total coverage of each candidate), share of coverage (percentage of coverage received by each candidate on a given day, not conflated with volume), and tone of coverage (average daily valence score of coverage, positive or negative). Share and tone of coverage are both highly variable, while increases in volume of coverage are tied to specific campaign events. Analysis shows that intra-campaign shifts in coverage causes predictable shifts in support, and candidates can actively attract media attention and create or blunt imbalance.

Committee: Michael Hagen (Chair), Richard Joslyn, Daniel Chomsky, Philip R. Yanella (outside reader)


Comparative Politics

Krystyna Litton (http://astro.temple.edu/~klitton/)

Dissertation: Party Novelty and Economic Voting: How Party Renewal Affects Voters’ Party Preferences in Various Economic Contexts in the EU

In the literature, electoral accountability has been explored in many ways. Among those are the studies of economic voting examining to what degree government parties are held accountable for the state of the economy. By now, the studies have incorporated variables that reflect how clear is the chain of responsibility for the economic policies. Among those are national level variables, such as the clarity of responsibility index, and party level variables, such as the number of seats a party occupies in a government. This dissertation suggests that the responsibility for the government policies can be obscured by yet another party level variable – party novelty. I define party novelty as the quality that reflects the degree of change within a party in terms of its structure (mergers, splits, etc) and attributes (name, leader, and program) within one electoral cycle. I argue that party change obscures party identity and, thus, affects voters’ ability to hold it accountable for the state of the economy. This study explores the concept of party novelty and its effects on voters’ party preferences in various economic conditions. I construct the Party Novelty Database (1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009) and show that party novelty can be measured. Moreover, I demonstrate that party novelty varies in understandable ways, and, most importantly, that party novelty matters. Using the European Election Study and the Euromanifesto Project (1994, 1999, 2004, and 2009) I show that party novelty moderates economic voting, and this effect differs across types of party changes and the timing of change.

Committee: Christopher Wlezien (Chair), Richard Deeg, Michael Hagen, Marcus Kreuzer (Villanova University)


International Relations

Lauren A. Farmer (laa@temple.edu)

Dissertation: Bastions Against the Fourth Wave: Toward a Theory of Authoritarian International Organizations 

Abstract: I theorize that some states may build and maintain authoritarian organizations (AOs) that exist to protect and reinforce authoritarian practices and values. First, I offer a logic for understanding AOs. Second, I hypothesize a range of benefits that an AO might offer its member states, identifying both negative benefits (a lack of democratic conditions) and more positive material benefits (contributing to repression and cooption) and normative (legitimizing) benefits that an AO might provide. Finally, I apply qualitative research methods to compare 3 potential AOs: the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).This project furthers our understanding the dictator’s learning curve, by adding an international component to explanations of how non-democratic governments survive and counter democratizing pressures at home and abroad.

Committee: Mark A. Pollack (chair), K. Orfeo Fioretos, Richard Deeg


Molly Ruhlman
 (http://sites.temple.edu/mollyruhlman/)

Dissertation: Nongovernmental Participation in Intergovernmental Organizations

Although all Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs) interact with non-state actors (NSAs) in some capacity, the extent to which NSAs are granted participatory roles in the governance of IGOs varies substantially. Why do some intergovernmental organizations – intergovernmental clubs of sovereign states – extend access, participatory opportunity or even participatory rights, to non-state actors? The goal of this project is to address the question of variation. I investigate the interests of the actors with power to determine the rules regarding engagement with NSAs – member states and IGO secretariats – and identify specific incentives for each actor to establish rules or practice of engagement with NSAs in each type of engagement. I expect that the member states and or secretariats that determine these engagement practices will benefit from the inclusion or participation of NSAs in specific and predictable ways. By identifying the interests and incentives of the relevant actors, we can predict the creation of particular sorts of engagement and explain variation in those engagement mechanisms across different intergovernmental organizations. To test the proposed relationship between IGO interests and participatory rules I examine the United Nations system and three UN organizations: The UN Development Programme (UNDP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP).

Committee: Mark Pollack (Chair), Orfeo Fioretos, Sarah Bush, and Peter Spiro


Political Theory

Alex Melonas (http://sites.temple.edu/melonas/)

Dissertation: Situated Animals: Biology, the Self, and Political Theory

My broad research interest is in exploring the ramifications of political theory being freed from two opposed extremes of biologism and social constructivism because, ultimately, the human animal is both a biological creature and capable of becoming. To this end, I address two questions in my dissertation with the aim of re-situating the human animal as a common property in political theory. First, I explore and challenge the commitments that inform the strict social constructionist thesis. This move leads to a second consideration: what questions are open if we see the problem not as biology, but as biological determinism? My thesis, simply put, is that work at the intersection of the biological sciences and political theory need not amount to political conservatism or pessimism. To defend this thesis, I make four arguments. First, I use Ernst Cassirer to show that “human” and “animal” can be integrated in a philosophical anthropology in a constructive way, one that avoids the reductionism implied in the term “animal” (or biological creature) and the naiveté of conceiving of human beings as though they are distinct from or wholly independent of nature. Second, I use Marx to show how we can integrate the biological sciences into a meaningful theory of human freedom. Third, I show how the biological sciences can be integrated into a contemporary political theory of identity in a way that resists essentialism. Finally, I use feminist scholarship to argue that the biological sciences cannot be used to justify hierarchy, or rather, that “hard science” doesn’t in any meaningful sense say anything at all about equality.

Committee: Heath Fogg-Davis (Chair), Jane Anna Gordon, Kevin Arceneaux, Joseph M. Schwartz

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