Timothy LaPira (JMU) and I are exploring the size and scope of Washington’s revolving door, and its impact on interest representation. Our ongoing work has been mentioned in the New York Times, Politico Influence, and National Journal. We recently authored a guest post on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, published an article in Interest Groups & Advocacy, and are working on a book manuscript.
In my dissertation research, I develop the micro-level concept of ‘agenda contagion’ and link existing punctuated equilibrium theory with the study of complex systems. I claim that cue-taking, imitation, and bandwagons among highly interdependent actors (or groups of actors) shape policy agendas in measureable and predictable ways. To assess this argument, I build a general, computational model of agenda-setting behavior—AgendaSim—and identify through simulation the various conditions under which agenda contagion is likely to occur. I test the empirical implications of the model using an original dataset of daily, agenda-setting activity across three levels of analysis: individuals (i.e. members of Congress), groups of individuals (i.e. organized interests), and institutions (i.e. bureaucratic agencies). Last, I evaluate theoretical implications relative to existing knowledge about institutional friction and the dynamics of policy change.
As a GRA for Bryan Jones, I manage the Policy Agendas Project. We collect and organize data about the national policy agenda as well as classify observations according to issue area. We currently host 12 datasets (over 260,000 observations since 1946) and release regular updates for the research and educational communities.
Darren Halpin (ANU) and I have been working on a series of papers studying interest group behavior in the US, UK, and Australia. We originally focused on interest groups participating in Scottish executive consultations, and examined the breadth of their policy activities, how they respond to competition and mortality anxiety, and the mobilization of infrequent actors. We are now working on research that examines how interest groups in the US and Australia use media releases to signal policy preferences to those in government.
In an article in Policy Studies Journal, Bryan Jones, Michelle Wolfe, and I develop the concept of a ‘policy bubble’: how government can overinvest in a particular policy instrument beyond the value of the policy solution. Also, Bryan Jones and I have written a chapter that updates ideas about bounded rationality in public policy decision-making.