The general question that drives my research is how conflict and cooperation between the governments and those they govern is affected by each actor's domestic and international linkages to other powerful actors. My research explores the ways in which formal and informal relationships to external actors may alter the strategic calculus of leaders who seek to maintain power and domestic actors who seek to alter the status quo. My methodological work, in turn, focuses on the tools that allow for statistical modeling of actor interdependence, given the unique challenges of social and political data.

Go to the Publications tab to download my published work.

Watch IMC Webinar  for my presentation of "A Local Structure Graph Model: Formation of Network Edges as a Function of Other Edges" (with Mark S. Kaiser). Forthcoming in Political Analysis.

Working Papers 

 "The Effects of Dog-Whistle Politics on Political Violence" (with Mark D. Nieman and Clay M. Webb) Download

Abstract: The election of President Trump marked significant changes in the content, outlets, and the level of civility of political rhetoric. The traditional left/right policy disagreements took on a more populist tone, activating extremist elements within society. We explore the consequences of political appeals to nationalist identity within the context of modern-day America. We argue that employed by elected officials, nationalist political rhetoric legitimizes extremist views and their expression. This effect is exacerbated by the social media, which provides an unmoderated channel for communication between elected officials and their extremist supporters. We test the link between nationalist rhetoric and hate crimes using data collected from Twitter, as well as an original dataset on daily hate incidents in the US, between February 2017--April 2018, and find strong evidence for our theory. Our results have important implications for the study of political communication and political violence.


"An International Game of Risk: Troop Placement and Major Power Competition" (with Carla Matrinez Machain, Mark Nieman, and Sam Bell) Download

Abstract: What strategies are behind major powers’ decisions to deploy forces abroad? We argue that major powers seek to protect ideologically similar states and to signal their military capability. The ability to pursue these goals, however, is constrained by similar ambitions on the part of other major powers. To overcome this constraint, major powers strategically respond to the actions of one another. Our theoretical framework leads us to anticipate temporal clustering among a major powers troop deployments, particularly if a rival recently placed troops within the same region. We also expect that geographically distant deployments will elicit in-kind responses by rival major powers. We test our expectations using cross-sectional-time-series data on troop deployments and a Local Structure Graph model, a network estimator that allows for modeling each troop placement as a function of other deployments, weighted by ideological similarity and geographical distance. Our results provide evidence for each of our hypotheses.


"Bean Counters: The Effect of Soy Tariffs on Change in Republican Vote Share Between the 2016 and 2018 Elections" (with Robert Urbatsch) Download

Abstract: How do trade wars affect presidential support? President Trump's aggressive tariffs on China despite his largely rural electoral support base provide a unique opportunity to analyze the relationship between international trade policy and domestic support. If trade-related considerations were ever decisive to American voters, the stark decrease in soy prices, a direct effect of Trump-initiated tariffs immediately preceding the 2018 midterm election, serves as a critical test for studying their effect. This letter shows a robust inverse relationship between county-level soybean production and the change in Republican vote share between the 2016 and 2018 congressional elections. 


"Bridging Levels of Analysis: Selection as a Multi-level Process"(with Mark Nieman and Doug Gibler). Download

Abstract:  Many dyadic processes are nested within broader system-level structures, yet such dependency is often ignored in empirical research. As a result, empirical estimates of observable events data are prone to inferential problems associated with non-random sample selection. We demonstrate that this type of multi-level data generating process (DGP) is equivalent to a selection DGP and can be modeled using known selection models. Using Monte Carlo simulations from a multi-level DGP, we show that a selection model outperforms other commonly employed estimators, including random effects models; the multi-level structure of the data also helps meet the exclusion restriction. To further illustrate the importance of the proposed modeling approach, we replicate two prominent empirical studies of government-opposition behavior---a model of civilian protest outcomes and estimates of civilian killing by insurgent groups---and demonstrate that structural selection affects many of the inferences we draw from the observable data.
"Spend 'Em If You Got 'Em: The Timing of Terrorist Attacks as a Function of Funding Consistency". Download
Abstract: Given the short time horizons faced by terrorist groups, inflows in funding should correlate with spikes in the number of attacks. This pattern, moreover, should be the most prominent for groups whose sources of funding are less consistent and predictable, as uncertainty further shortens the group's time horizons and imposes additional organizational pressures. I test these predictions on a subset of terrorist organizations whose funding is likely linked to drug-trafficking by proxying variation in drug production with the data on weather during the month of harvest.  The statistical tests support the predictions. For groups whose funding is tied to narco-trafficking, the timing and number of attacks closely follow the drug-harvesting cycle.  Favorable weather conditions during the month of drug harvest correspond to spikes in the number of terrorist attacks in the current and subsequent months, whereas unfavorable weather conditions during drug harvest are associated with the reverse pattern.
"Applying Network Theory to International Processes: Application to Indirect Trade" Download
Abstract: The study of international relations (IR) has derived great benefits from recent advances in network analysis. Fast-paced progress in statistical modeling of networks within the study of IR, however, has not been matched by equal advances in theoretical understanding in outcomes related to such international networks as the trade, sanctions, or alliance networks. This is especially true for networks characterized by higher-order network relationships (e.g., triads, 2-stars, 4-cycles). This paper takes a first step towards a richer theoretical understanding of such complexities, by focusing on one of the more commonly used measures of dependencies---transitivity, or actors' tendency to form triangles. The paper explores the possible causal processes behind the formation of triangles in the international trade network and assesses the measurement validity of the commonly used transitivity measure as a proxy for the posited causal mechanisms. I do so by comparing the estimates associated with the transitivity measure of indirect trade flows between states to a corresponding instrumental variable measure.
 "Autocratic Regimes and Escalation in International Crises: A Strategic Model."  Download
Abstract: What is the relationship between authoritarian domestic institutions and escalation of threat in military disputes? Contrary to the conventional view of personalist regimes as polar opposites of democracies, I explain and demonstrate that personalist challengers may act similar to democracies, albeit for different reasons. Personalist and oligarchic targets, in the meantime, act both distinct from democracies and each other. These theoretical and empirical insights become apparent as a result of unpacking the concept of audience costs into two related but distinct categories: inconsistency costs and belligerence costs. The theoretical predictions are derived from a modified version of the bargaining model of war that explicitly accounts for these two types of costs. These predictions are tested with a strategic logit estimator using newly available incident-level dispute data that allow for a more precise measure of escalation. The results help enhance our understanding of crises escalation strategies of different types of authoritarian regimes.
"The Effects of US Economic Sanctions on Chinese Investment Patterns." (with Doug Gibler) Download
Abstract:  Despite the theoretical arguments that link political and economic sanctions to increased uncertainty andrisk in targeted states, most empirical studies find strategic substitution: disinvestment by one or morestates gets replaced by investment from third parties. This is puzzling since monies should flow to saferreturns on investment. We explain this gap between theory and empirics by demonstrating that nowseveral major economies have had firms or firm-like investors that did not always pursue profits. Notingthe rise of Chinese ODI since 2001—now the second largest global investor—we argue that US sanctionsactually create investment opportunities for Chinese investment in key economies. Newly collected dataon Chinese ODI flows from 2003 to 2014 demonstrate strong support for this argument, and we describehow this feature of subsidized investment may also explain sanctions busting in other time periods, byother subsidizing states.

 "Autocratic Regimes and Diversionary Uses of Force." (with Brian Lai and Sara McLaughlin Mitchell). Download

Abstract:  This paper analyzes the variance in autocratic regimes’ propensity to use force for diversionary purposes while controlling for states’ opportunities to use force.  Theoretically, we expect military regimes to use diversionary force more frequently than party regimes and for strongman regimes that combine characteristics of military control and personalist leaders to be most belligerent in the face of domestic turmoil. Empirical analyses of politically relevant directed dyads from 1960-2001 provide strong support to the theory, showing that military regimes and strongman regimes are much more likely than other autocratic regimes to initiate the use of force when inflation is high.  However, these effects are conditioned by opportunities for states to use force, as diversionary motives manifest themselves most clearly in the context of interstate rivalry.

"Pinning One’s Hopes on a Flag? The Effect of Patriotic Symbols in Positive and Negative Candidate Assessments." (with Kyle Mattes).  Download

Abstract. This paper aims at establishing a clearer connection between the use of national symbols, voters’ reflexive judgments of political candidates, and election results. We presented research participants with briefly shown images of unfamiliar political candidates who ran against each other in real elections, varying which of the two candidates was wearing a flag lapel pin. We asked participants to make trait judgments based solely on viewing the photographs. We found that competence, threat, simulated vote, and patriotism judgments in the laboratory correlated to real world election outcomes. We also found that adding a flag lapel pin to a losing candidate’s picture made the candidate actually look more threating. Furthermore, candidates with the lapel pin appeared more competent and more electable whenever the lapel pin made them seem more patriotic. Our findings show that it may be difficult for otherwise undesirable candidates to change voters’ first impressions of them by juxtaposing their images with patriotic symbols.