My Research

I find social movements to be absolutely fascinating – people rising up to contest inequality and the provision of resources, making their voices heard through various methods outside of the electoral cycle. At this time, I am focusing on the reaction to social movement victories at the Supreme Court.

This page contains a selection of my current work in progress.

Losing is Losing: How Movement Opponents Respond to Litigation and Legislative Losses.

Do American citizens actually prefer Congressional legislation to Supreme Court decisions when extending civil rights? Scholars often argue that Supreme Court decisions are countermajoritarian; thus, court decisions lack legitimacy to citizens. This lack of legitimacy then leads to destructive backlash for the social movement, ultimately setting it back in the pursuit of its claims. I argue that political backlash will be experienced in response to both Court and Congressional victories. In essence, losing is losing, and will be responded to as such. To test my argument, I conduct a large-n survey experiment treating participants with randomized news articles that highlight victories in the Supreme Court or Congress. Treatments include same-sex adoption and conceal carry permits. I demonstrate that people react to victories and losses based on their opinion and value systems, rather than institutional preference. Institutional preferences, if any, manifest when the individual is neutral on the extension or protection of civil rights. In addition to institutional preference and mobilization, I examine the effect of Supreme Court decisions and legislation. The findings are surprising, supporting the assertion that people do not react to institutions specifically. I also discuss the analysis of 2,100 open-ended responses to expose the nuances behind institutional preference, mobilization, and social movement legal mobilization. One curious finding: unanimous Supreme Court decisions increase support for both LGBT adoption and conceal carry permits. Presented at the Midwest Political Science Association in 2016. Upcoming presentation at the Law and Society Conference, June 2017.

Reimagining Political Backlash: from Public Opinion to Venue Shopping and Elite Community Mobilization

Social movements are often criticized for seeking civil rights through litigation vis-à-vis legislation. Scholars argue that a normative preference for legislation exists; people prefer majoritarian institutions to settle civil rights claims rather than courts and administrative agencies. Thus, when unpopular minorities secure a civil right through litigation, increased political backlash occurs. This backlash is typically understood in terms of public opinion, with the mobilization of us/them dichotomies rampant. I acknowledge the value in measuring backlash through a public opinion lens. However, I argue that we can understand the political backlash against Supreme Court victories more thoroughly by adopting a venue shopping approach to social movements and their opponents. In this paper, I map out the theoretical basis for the venue shopping processes underlying the contestation of discriminatory policies. Following this discussion, I use an original dataset to demonstrate these processes at work in the strengthening LGBT civil rights movement. I find preliminary evidence that opponents purposefully moved the policy dispute back to venues readily under their control once the Supreme Court decided Obergefell v. Hodges, enabling restrictive legislation to be passed. These findings have important implications for our understanding of political backlash against social movements. Upcoming presentations at the Western Political Science Association and the Midwest Political Science Association, April 2017.

The mTurker Peasantry: Use and Abuse

The past decade has seen a dramatic increase in obtaining survey data through crowdsourcing platforms. Not only are these samples easier to field, but they are also much less expensive. Amazon Mechanical Turk (mTurk) is a popular crowdsourcing platform, allowing researchers to field surveys within minutes and obtain data with per respondent rates of $1 or lower. When confronted with the ethical dilemma of paying participants, many researchers justify low compensation with a commonly held view of worker motivation: mTurk workers complete HITs in their free time to enable greater discretionary spending. Therefore, compensation to workers does not have to be meaningful. I argue that increased economic stressors and less mobility have led individuals to choose mTurk as an easy way to “make ends meet.” Thus, by offering compensation akin to a dollar per hour or less, Political Science researchers (and social science in general) perpetuate difficult economic conditions. Using an original dataset of survey responses from a diverse group of mTurk workers, I demonstrate that the commonly held view of worker motivation is false: mTurk workers are increasingly using the platform to compensate for reduced available paid hours of work, purchase necessities, and provide for their families. These findings have important ethical implications for Political Science and the larger social sciences. Upcoming presentations at the Western Political Science Association and the Midwest Political Science Association, April 2017.