Ongoing Research

Come-from-Behind Victories Under Ranked-Choice Voting: Their Impact on Voter Satisfaction and Rule Durability

With Cynthia McClintock

Under Review (R&R)

Both runoff and ranked-choice voting (RCV) prevent the election of candidates with only
minority support by enabling more broadly acceptable rivals to win through come-from-behind victories (CFBVs). Yet, while CFBVs are intrinsic to both rules, they have
received little scholarly attention. Recent experiences with CFBVs under RCV,
especially in Maine, raise questions about voters’ satisfaction with RCV and whether or
not this electoral result endangers the rule’s durability. In a survey experiment fielded on
U.S. voters, we find greater voter satisfaction under plurality and runoff than under RCV;
in particular, satisfaction decreased when RCV yielded a CFBV. Turning to cases within
the U.S., we find that repeal of RCV was often catalyzed by dissatisfaction with CFBVs.
Although dissatisfaction was significantly mitigated by familiarity with RCV, we
encourage greater attention by reform advocates to the rationale for CFBVs and to
runoff as an alternative to plurality.

Rhetorical Coercion and Mainstreaming Anti-Immigration Discourse: Why the Far Right Feigns Support for Progressive Causes

Why do far-right parties link their opposition to immigration to progressive causes, such as gender equality and LGBTQ rights? Recent scholarship suggests such progressive appeals are employed to increase these parties’ popular support and to stigmatize Muslim immigrants. Yet, this discursive strategy also challenges the boundaries of permissible political debate and serves as a mechanism for mainstreaming anti-immigration discourse. By emphasizing progressive issues, far-right parties exercise a form of rhetorical coercion, which forces mainstream parties to engage in a substantive debate about immigration—or else risk distancing themselves from widely-accepted values and principles. This study illustrates this dynamic by analyzing tweets from political parties in France, Germany, Italy, and Spain. Quantitative text analysis and regression analysis demonstrate how mainstream parties are more likely to engage with anti-immigration arguments grounded on progressive claims than those tied to other issues, such as economic and security concerns. This study contributes to the literature on far-right politics and anti-immigration politics by examining a mechanism through which the far right mainstreams its opposition to immigration.

Discursive Dominance by Tweet: How the GOP Became the Party of Trump

A defining feature of Donald Trump’s presidency was the willingness of his
Republican colleagues to play along with his illiberal and erratic behavior. This
tendency to “follow the leader” extended from endorsing particular policy positions to
parroting the false claims of election fraud that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on
January 6, 2021. The transition of the GOP into the party of Trump has threatened
the pluralism and liberalism often thought to define American democracy. Yet, this
change did not occur overnight; instead, Trump’s dominance increased over time as his
particular discursive style became mainstream within the party. To examine how
Trump transformed the Republican Party in his own image, this study utilizes a dataset
of tweets issued by Republican members of Congress during Trump’s term (2017–20).
I employ quantitative text analysis techniques to investigate how the party’s
discourse coalesced around Trump, as well as the extent to which anti-Trump factions
remain vocal within the party. This study increases our understanding of elites’
political communication strategies on social media by tracing how a single leader’s
discursive style spreads through a network of copartisans. Furthermore, this research
contributes to the ongoing scholarly discussion on the legacy of the Trump presidency
for American democracy and the Republican Party.

The Impact of Runoff on Political Inclusion: Insights from Europe and Latin America

With Cynthia McClintock

Do runoff elections disadvantage women, ethnic minorities, and people of color? Although runoffs have been found to promote ideological moderation and enhance democratic legitimacy, some scholars contend that they also limit the opportunities for women and members of distinct ethnic or racial groups to win elected office. Given the widespread use of runoffs in presidential elections around the world, such a negative impact on political inclusion would considerably detract from this rule’s otherwise beneficial effect. This study assesses the impact of the runoff rule on the electoral inclusion of women, ethnic minorities, and people of color in presidential elections across Latin America and Europe. Analyzing results from more than 200 presidential elections in 36 countries from 1990 to 2020, we find that runoff is not associated with worse inclusion for either women or ethnic minorities and people of color. We further investigate the impact of electoral rules on political inclusion through a qualitative analysis of cases from both regions. This study advances our understanding of this issue by assessing the impact of runoff on women, ethnic minorities, and people of color across temporally and regionally varied cases.