Publications

"How Labor Unions Increase Political Knowledge: Evidence from the United States"

 

Political Behavior

Abstract: Labor unions have long been important political actors, mobilizing voters, shaping their members' attitudes, and influencing representation and economic inequality. However, little is known regarding unions' influence on political knowledge. In this paper, I argue that unions increase their members' political knowledge, through two mechanisms: direct information provision and workplace discussion of politics. I use data from recent national election surveys, and a matching technique finding that union members, particularly those with less formal education{people who face higher costs in seeking out political information, are significantly more politically knowledgeable than their non-union counterparts, and better informed about where political parties and candidates stand on the issues. I conclude by discussing unions' capacity
to reduce knowledge gaps and foster a more politically informed electorate.

"Labor Unions and Support for Redistribution in an Era of Inequality" 

 

Social Science Quarterly

Abstract: The United States has become increasingly unequal over the past several decades. Despite this, public opinion toward redistribution has remained largely unchanged. This is puzzling, given Americans' professed concern regarding, and knowledge of, rising inequality. I argue that the decline of labor unions, an organization that promotes anti-inequality attitudes among its members, can help us to understand this. I use panel data from the U.S. States from 1978-2012 to examine how state-level unionization levels condition the relationship between income inequality and support for redistributive spending. I find that in contexts where labor unions are stronger, higher levels of income inequality prompt greater support for welfare spending. These findings illustrate an additional mechanism through which labor unions can check income inequality, and helps us to understand why the American public has not turned in favor of redistribution during an era of rising economic inequality.

"Trust in Government and the American Public's Responsiveness to Rising Income Inequality"

 

Political Research Quarterly

Abstract: The United States has become increasingly unequal. Income inequality has risen dramatically since the 1970s, yet public opinion toward redistribution has remained largely unchanged. This is puzzling, given Americans’ professed concern regarding, and knowledge of, rising inequality. I argue that trust in government can help to reconcile this. I combine data on state-level income inequality with survey data from the Cumulative American National Election Studies (CANES) from 1984 to 2016. I find that trust in government conditions the relationship between inequality and redistribution, with higher inequality prompting demand for government redistribution, but only among politically trustful individuals. This holds among conservatives and non-conservatives and among the affluent and non-affluent. These findings underscore the relevance of political trust in shaping attitudes toward inequality and economic redistribution and contribute to our understanding of why American public opinion has not turned in favor of redistribution during an era of rising income inequality.

"Class Attitudes, Political Knowledge and Support for Redistribution in an Era of Inequality"

 

Social Science Quarterly

 

Abstract:  Why, despite positive feelings toward the poor and working classes, relative to the rich and big business, has American public support for redistribution failed to appreciably increase during an era of high, and rising, income inequality? I argue that this puzzling disconnect is due, in part, to a lack of general political knowledge. Using survey data from the 2012 American National Election Study, I test how political knowledge conditions the relationship between people’s economic class group attitudes and their support for redistribution. People with low (high) levels of political knowledge weakly (strongly) connect their class attitudes with support for redistributive spending and progressive taxation. Data from four ANES panel studies show that this does not result from the less knowledgeable holding weak “nonattitudes” toward these class groups. Rather, consistent with Converse’s classic work, I attribute this to less knowledgeable individuals lacking awareness about how redistributive policies benefit different social groups. These findings help us to better understand an important puzzle in American politics: why a mass public that purports to favor the poor and working classes over the economic elite has not turned more strongly in favor of redistribution during an era of historic inequality.

"Political Trust and Support for Immigration in the American Mass Public"

British Journal of Political Science

Abstract: Immigration is one of the most salient and important issues in contemporary American politics. While a great deal is known about how cultural attitudes and economics influence public opinion toward immigration, little is known about how attitudes toward government influence support for immigration. Using cross-sectional data from the American National Election Studies (ANES), panel data from the ANES and General Social Survey, as well a Mechanical Turk (MTurk) survey experiment, I show that political trust exerts a positive and substantively meaningful influence on Americans’ support for immigration. Politically trustful individuals, both Democrats and Republicans, are more supportive of pro-immigration policies. These findings underscore the political relevance of trust in government and show that public attitudes toward immigration are not driven solely by feelings about immigrant groups, partisanship, core political values, nor personality traits, but are also affected by trust in government, the actor most responsible for managing immigration policy.

"Labor Unions and White Democratic Partisanship" 

 

Political Behavior

Abstract: The Democratic Party’s declining support among white voters is a defining feature
of contemporary American politics. Extant research has emphasized factors such
as elite polarization and demographic change but has overlooked another important
trend, the decades-long decline of labor union membership. This oversight is surprising,
given organized labor’s long ties to the Democratic Party. I argue that the
concurrent decline of union membership and white support for the Democratic Party
is not coincidental, but that labor union affiliation is an important determinant of
whites’ partisan allegiances. I test this using several decades of cross-sectional and
panel data. I show that union-affiliated whites are more likely to identify as Democrats,
a substantively significant relationship that does not appear to be driven by
self-selection. Overall, these findings underscore the political consequences of union
decline and help us to better understand the drivers of declining white support for
the Democratic Party.

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