Social Norms and Political Participation

[1] The Obligation Mosaic: Race and Social Norms in US Political Participation. Forthcoming Sep. 2021, University of Chicago Press. Read Chapter 1. In 1968, scholars Riker and Ordeshook introduced a game-changing variable to the study of political participation — the civic duty term – representing the social and psychological pressures that encourage individuals to engage.  Since then, scholars have shown time and again that social pressure is a central motivator of political participation, gesturing to the assumed civic duty norm that pervades society. Yet, a survey of America’s social landscape suggests there is likely no monolithic civic duty norm, but rather a mosaic of the social and psychological obligations that drive people to the polls, into the streets, and to city council meetings. Developing a grounded theory of norm variation using qualitative interviews and principles of social psychology, I argue that norms about the value and meaning of political participation vary systematically by race in the United States with broad consequences for representation in the American political system. Using original experiments and observational data that includes large samples of Asian, Black, Latino, and White Americans, I find that two norms – the honoring ancestors and helping hands norm – centrally define concepts of obligation in the US.  While these norms are universally endorsed, their connection to political participation varies by race, responsive to distinct groups histories and continued racial segregation.  This variation matters for who shows up as politicized concepts of these norms powerfully predict both voting and non-voting participation, explain across-group national turnout trends, and can be primed by elites and peers alike to mobilize. 

[2] What Makes a Good Neighbor? Race, Place and Norms of Political Participation2018. American Political Science Review, 112(3): 494-508. Social rewards for political participation vary across racial groups and community-types, with racial minorities living in co-racial spaces often providing more rewards to be active than Whites.

[3] Using the Past to Mobilize the Future.  In progress. Can norm interventions focused on honoring ancestors increase voter participation among young adults in the US? In conjunction with Inspire2Vote.

[4] Variations in Religious Social Norms Shape Political Participation. In progress. Explores how those who are religious interpret norms about helping others and honoring god with effects on political participation. With Michele Margolis. 

The American Carceral State

[5]  Do Felony Disenfranchisement Laws (De)Mobilize? A Case of Surrogate Participation. 2019. Journal of Politics, 81(4): 1523-1527. Social connections to convicted felons can increase political participation, but only in states with the most punitive of felony disenfranchisement laws.  With Mackenzie Israel-Trummel.

[6] A Drop in the Ocean: Direct Contact with the Carceral State and Attitudes Among Black and White Americans. Under review. A Bayesian learning model incorporating race socialization and experiences during emergent adulthood explains why direct contact with the carceral state is associated with more attitude change among White Americans compared to Black. With Andrew Engelhardt. 

[7] Contact and Context: How Municipal Traffic Stops Shape Citizen Character. Under review. Racial disparities in municipal context are associated with decreasing trust in the police above and beyond direct and proximal contact, but have no effect on political participation. With Derek Epp and Mackenzie Israel-Trummel.

Racial Construction and Context

[8] Race as Social Context. Working paper. Which elements of racial embeddedness affect political orientations? With Lauren Davenport and Rachel Lienesch. 

[9] Do Social Movements Matter? How the BLM Movement Is Changing What White Parents Teach Their Kids About Race. In progress. With Andrew Engelhardt and Mackenzie Israel-Trummel.

[10] Constructing Race Through Disease Discussion: Covid-19 and the Public’s Understanding of Racialized Patterns of IllnessIn progress. With Cindy D. Kam.

Other Projects

[11] Revisiting Recruitment: Insights from Get-Out-the-Vote Field Experiments2016. With Melissa Michelson. In New Advances in the Study of Civic Volunteerism: Resources, Engagement, and Recruitment, ed. Casey Klofstad. Temple University Press.