Research Fellows

      Caroline Brandt (’10) is working with Professors Stephen Brooks and Deborah Brooks on the effects of international law and institutions on American public support for intervention in foreign conflicts.  Caroline used Politics and Law funds to purchase time on a survey experiment conducted by YouGov/Polimetrix.  Caroline randomly divided her sample into several groups of subjects who read brief articles describing US intervention in another country.  The different groups of subjects read either that one of several international organizations had endorsed the intervention, that it was defensible under international law, or that no international organization endorsed the intervention.  By comparing the percentage of respondents who support US intervention under different scenarios, Caroline hopes to determine which international institutions have the greatest effect on domestic support for intervention. 

      Yunsieg Kim (’12) sought to begin his senior thesis research early by exploring the feasibility of a study of mandatory sentencing laws.  South Korea last year adopted mandatory prison sentences for public officials convicted of corruption.  The mandatory sentencing laws give judges some discretion to consider the severity of the crime, extenuating circumstances, and the health of the convicted.  Yunsieg spent the summer of 2009 interviewing judges, prosecutors, and other public officials in South Korea about the implementation and effects of mandatory sentences.  He also gathered data on the size and number of contracts for public works projects across local government districts before and after the mandatory sentencing law passed.  One manifestation of stricter controls on corruption may be that more companies receive smaller government contracts since before the law passed it was widely believed that a few companies amassed large government contracts as a result of corruption.  Yunsieg plans to write a senior thesis on mandatory sentencing laws and is now exploring the feasibility of comparing US and South Korean implementation of mandatory sentences.   


      Gent Salihu (’11) is working in the summer of 2009 with Professors John Carey and Dean Lacy on a study of whether US federal judges who have their decisions overturned by higher courts are less likely to be confirmed if nominated for the US Supreme Court.  Gent compiled a database of all of the nominees for the US Supreme Court since the 1960s.  For the nominees who sat on the federal bench, Gent uncovered all of the decisions they had authored or had participated in as a member of a three-judge panel.  He then found whether the US Supreme Court had reviewed and upheld or overturned the lower court decision.  He also gathered for each Court nominee the vote on their confirmation, the party of the president that nominated them, and the party with a majority in the Senate during hearings.  The data show that judges who have a higher percentage of their decisions overturned by the Supreme Court are less likely to be confirmed or to have a lower number of votes in their favor in the Senate.  However, writing a decision that is overturned does not appear to matter most for Senate confirmation.  A greater effect on Senate confirmation comes from a judge voting in the minority on a high proportion of three judge panel decisions that are reviewed and upheld by the Supreme Court.   


      Michael Lewis (’11) spent the summer of 2009 studying the structure of public attitudes towards same sex marriage, same sex adoption, abortion, immigration, education, and health care to determine how the issues are linked in the minds of citizens.  For instance, he shows that many Americans’ opinions on same sex marriage depend on whether same sex couples are allowed to adopt children.  Similarly, many people prefer increases in public spending on education and health care if abortion is outlawed.  This research suggests that changes in the law on one issue will affect public opinion on other issues that may not appear immediately related.   


      Meredith Greenberg (’11) is studying why people change their attitudes towards issues such as abortion, same sex marriage, immigration, education, health care, and taxes during a presidential campaign.  She is evaluating whether the media, political campaigns, or citizens’ perceptions of changes in the law have a greater effect on changes in opinions over time.  Both Michael and Meredith are working with Dean Lacy and using data from the 2008 CCAP survey.   



      Charles Buker (’11) worked in the summer of 2009 on a project examining trade-offs people are willing to make between civil liberties and security in the face of threats of terrorism and during various phases of the Iraq Occupation.  Charles is using survey data from 2000, 2004, and 2008 to evaluate Americans’ willingness to give up privacy and civil liberties in favor of greater police power to search for and pursue terrorists.  Charles also compiled several indicators of the success of the US occupation of Iraq to determine if positive or negative events during the occupation led to changes in domestic support for anti-terrorism measures.   


      Brandon Floch (’11) is comparing turnout rates in presidential elections across states and across groups of voters to assess the effects of reducing barriers to registering and voting.   Brandon seeks to uncover not only whether states that made voting easier saw an increase in turnout from 2000 to 2008, but also which groups of voters increased turnout the most in response to changes in voting rules.   


      Michael Coburn ('10) and Kayla Snyderdman ('10) worked with Professor Sonu Bedi in the summer and fall of 2008 on a project exploring the relationship between constitutional law and race/racism. They argue that courts have done a disservice to equality by deploying the strict scrutiny standard. The two students coded all federal court decisions with two primary questions in mind: what is the kind of legislation being scrutinized (e.g., affirmative action, gerrymandering, contract set asides), and what is the court’s analysis of it (e.g., upheld on what grounds, invalidated on what grounds)? The students used the Westlaw database, which contains all federal and state cases (among other documents), in order to carry out the research. 


      Katharina Eidmann ('10) worked with Professor Lisa Baldez on a cross-national study of gender quota laws.  As more countries adopt gender quota laws, the percentage of women in elected office has increased by an average of ten percentage points. The biggest winners from gender quota laws have been women in right-wing parties; a majority of the increases in the percentages of women elected to office have been right-wing women. How has the election of higher proportions of right-wing women affected consideration of women's rights policies? To answer this question, Katharina is conducting research on reproductive rights legislation in Mexico. Her work focuses on the degree to which changes in the percentage of women on the right/center/left in the Mexican legislature has affected the types of issues that have come up and the content of dialogue regarding reproductive rights there. 


      Cathy Lian ('10) worked with Professor Baldez on the future of gender quota laws.  In nearly all countries that have adopted gender quota laws, the legislation stipulates a specific and bounded period in which the quotas will be in effect. In most cases, however, these deadlines have been extended or ignored. What does the future hold for gender quotas and why? Cathy gathered information on the original texts of gender quota laws in Latin America and data on discussions about their lifespan in order to answer this question. 


      Michael Knapp ('08) worked with Professor Richard Winters during summer of 2008 to codify the most important two annual or biennial laws passed in the 50 U.S. states:  the spending and the revenue bills.  Michael and Professor Winters investigated how differences in budget laws across the 50 states affect state taxes and spending.  The states have very interesting and subtle differences in the appropriations process.    


      Harry Enten (’11) worked in the summer of 2008 to gather data on the partisan composition of each US state’s legislature and delegation to the US Congress.  Harry also worked in the fall of 2008 on checking sampling methods and accuracy in the 2008 CCAP survey.   


      James Khun (’11) is studying US federal spending programs and a state’s representation on the budget and appropriations committees in the US House and Senate from 1984 through 2008.  The goal of this research is to examine the ways in which legislators channel federal spending to their states to win votes, which federal programs vary the most in spending across states and across time, and how this spending affects the vote and turnout in each state during presidential elections.   


      The range of topics our student fellows study continues to expand.  This year one student worked on international law (Caroline Brandt), three on law and legal institutions outside of the United States (Yunsieg Kim, Katharina Eidman, and Cathy Lian), and nine on projects examining law and lawmaking in the US.  Of the nine working on projects involving US law and legal institutions, one focused on the decision-making of judges (Gent Salihu), two on legal theory and precedent (Michael Coburn and Kayla Snyderman), three on the link between public opinion and legal issues (Michael Lewis and Meredith Greenberg), three on legislative institutions and lawmaking processes (Michael Knapp, Harry Enten, and James Khun), and one on the effects of election laws on voter turnout (Brandon Floch).   



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