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 that is under contract with the University Press of Kansas.
My dissertation is a study of contagion effects in policymaking. I argue that a process of ‘issue contagion’ explains rapid changes in the attention of policy elites as they struggle to attend to an array of pressing issues and problems. This contagion process develops as policy elites mimic the behavior of their peers due to inherent cognitive limits and strong incentives to closely monitor the political environment. Drawing on the methods of computational social science, I build a simulation model of agenda-setting behavior (AgendaSim) and examine issue contagion through an experiment-like research design. I test the empirical implications of the model by applying it to real-world datasets: from the public statements and press releases of members of Congress to the disclosed lobbying activity of organized interests. With implications for how scholars interpret large changes in public policy, the core contribution of my project is that patterns in attention to policy issues are a function of a contagion process generated by imitation and cue-taking among elites.
As a GRA for Bryan Jones, I previously managed the Policy Agendas Project for three years and now contribute to the project as a Graduate Fellow. We collect and organize data about the national policy agenda as well as classify observations according to issue area. The project hosts 12 datasets (over 260,000 observations since 1946) and releases 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.