2016 Government Honors Theses

Meagan N. Abel:  “Guns, God and the Constitution: An assessment of Patriot group ideology in the 21st Century” (Advisor: H. W. Perry)

Seongkwan (Ryan) Ahn: “Determinants of Free Trade Negotiations:  The power of agricultural interest groups.”  (Advisor: Patricia Maclachlan)

Beau J. Bauman:  ““Unorthodox” Tactics in the 110th and 111th Congress: Contemporary leadership in the House of Representatives.”   (Advisor: Sean Theriault)

Chase Browndorf: “Drawing the Line: Evaluating redistricting institutions and the future of representation” (Advisor: Daron Shaw)

Samuel Claflin:  “A Timeless Declaration: The implied right to revolt in the American Constitution” (Advisor: Thomas Pangle)

Alexander Gaudio: “Non-Violent Communication in Politics.”  (Advisor: Bethany Albertson)

Lusaura (Michelle) Gutierrez: “Give Us Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses:  A comparative analysis of pre- and post-1965 immigrants’ role in the American economy”  (Advisor: Gary Freeman)

Joshua Hamlin: “A Welcoming Pot or Not? Efficacy of restrictive and expansive state immigration policies” (Advisor: Bryan Jones)

Julia Jirovsky:  “Political Representation: What Stands in the Way of Progress in D.C.?” (Advisor: Bartholomew Sparrow)

Maria Mendez:  “Green Constitutions or How Rules Protect Nature.  A comparative analysis of Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador” (Advisor: Daniel Brinks)

Rachel Osterloh: “Running While Female:  Regional campaign method variations in female gubernatorial elections” (Advisor: Bethany Albertson)

Brian Stewart:  “Evolving Political Socialization: Polarization-driven cynicism in children” (Advisor: Bethany Albertson)

Jacob Weaver: “Religious Rhetoric in the Contemporary Senate:  112th Senate analysis”  (Advisor: Sean Theriault)

The Effect of Candidate Race on Federal Campaign Contributions

david singer

Observing Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 fundraising machine, David Singer became interested in how political candidates raise campaign funds. One question he had was whether race or ethnicity affects the amount of money political candidates raise. Singer began pursing that question, and the end product made the university’s list of “30 Seriously Impressive Undergrad Research Projects.”

Searching the course catalog, Singer stumbled across a new two-sequence government course organized by Michael Findley and taught, this year, by graduate student Kyle Endres. The two courses, Government Research Internship and Applied Research: Political Science, are affiliated with Findley’s research lab, Innovations for Peace and Development (IPD). Students participate in IPD activities, such as coding World Bank projects, but they also get schooled in research methods and develop their own research projects.

Contrary to his expectations, Singer found that, in both political parties, minority candidates raise more money than white candidates. Moreover, the contrast is starker in the Republican Party than the Democratic Party. Based on 2010-14 data, Republican minority candidates raise, on average, about $14,000 more than their white counterparts; for Democratic candidates the number is about $4,000.

Pickle Fellow Makes University List of 30 Impressive Research Projects

hannah johnsonHannah Johnson grew up in Longview, an East Texas town no stranger to coal mining. There she saw firsthand mining’s double-edged sword — the economy benefited, but human health suffered. Johnson brought that interest in how energy policy affects people with her to the 40 Acres. In spring 2014 she was taking Rhonda Case’s “Human Rights & World Politics” course when Case encouraged her to pursue the department’s J.J. “Jake” Pickle Undergraduate Research Fellows Program.

Johnson became a Pickle Fellow in fall 2014 and began working on her project, “The war on coal: A case study in agenda setting,” which made the university’s list of “30 Seriously Impressive Undergrad Research Projects.” Sparked by Bryan Jones’ research in Agendas and Instability in American Politics, Hannah began investigating how coal issues get on the congressional agenda, and particularly the role of “tone” when the issue is presented. Conventional wisdom hypothesizes a “negativity bias” — when coal is presented in a negative light, it is more likely to appear on the congressional agenda. Johnson found that there is a slight negativity bias, but that when negative attention rises, so too does positive attention. She found a strong coal advocacy group, stable through time, consistently able to get coal discussed in a positive light.

Through her analysis of congressional hearings and New York Times articles since 1980, Johnson also found that the media and congress focus on different aspects of the issue. The media tends to discuss labor unrest and labor-management issues, as well as the business aspects of coal, whereas congress focuses more on environmental issues, such as regulating emissions and technological innovations.

Government Undergraduate Research Fair

The Department of Government hosted its annual undergraduate research fair today. This year the event welcomed a new element – joining the Pickle Research Fellows were researchers from the Innovations for Peace and Development Lab, making for an event featuring 32 aspiring scholars.

2015 GOV Undergrad Research Fair

Government’s 2015 undergraduate research fair featured 32 projects in American, comparative, and international politics.

Projects on display were wide-ranging — studies of the US Congress, lobbying in Australian politics, aid budgets in Africa, voting in Kenya, violence, rhetoric, and so on — and represented a year’s worth of work shepherded through two research courses.

The first, the Pickle Research Apprenticeship, draws off the resources of the Policy Agendas Project and is focused on public policy and congressional studies, primarily in the US context.

The second is a new course tied to the IPD Lab and overseen by Mike Findley. The course is led by an advanced graduate student, and the instructor and Findley supervise student projects.

Many of the projects showed evidence of active collaboration between faculty, graduate students, and undergraduate students, with graduate students providing guidance to undergraduates in the design and execution of their research.

Undergraduate Poster Presentations at the 2015 Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference

Olivia Arena. “Urbanization and Infrastructure: How Urban Population Change Affects Infrastructure Spending in Developing Countries.” Saturday, 9:45 am.

Daniel Chapman. “Constituency Development Fund, or Campaign Development Fund?: A Look at the 2007 Kenyan Parliamentary Election.” Saturday, 9:45 am.

Louchin Chi. “The Effects of Budget Support on Recipient Governments’ National Budgets and Development Goals.” Saturday, 9:45 am.

Caroline Thomas. “Chinese Finance in Africa: The Relationship between Foreign Direct Investment and Development Aid in sub-Saharan Africa.” Saturday, 9:45 am.

Raymond Weyandt. “Dollars for Dissent: Foreign Aid and Nonviolent Conflict in Aid Recipient Countries.” Saturday, 9:45 am.

Raymond Weyandt: Decolonizing Poverty Research Through Accurate Representations of Life in Africa

Raymond Weyandt: Decolonizing Poverty Research Through Accurate Representations of Life in Africa

“Striving for accuracy and cognizant of our collective tendency toward bias, today’s generation of emerging researchers stands poised to deliver a service that an information-saturated generation is aching to receive: the truth.”

Google Image Search of

Joseph in Kampala

Joseph in Kampala (Raymond Weyandt)

Experiments Workshop – Undergraduate Session

The Experiments Workshop is hosting a special undergraduate session February 9.

Angie AcquatellaAfrica Map
Title: Assessing the Impact of Maps on Foreign Aid Allocation Decisions

Foreign aid donors allocate billions of dollars of foreign aid each year. Scholars and practitioners question how effective current aid allocation practices are, and have suggested that providing donors with more accessible information will facilitate better decision-making. This project uses a lab experiment to understand how foreign aid allocation decisions change when subjects rely on high-resolution maps of foreign aid as opposed to the standard approach of using spreadsheets or relying on personal stories.

James E. BarrAIM-9_hitting_QF-4B_at_Point_Mugu_1974ington IV
Title: The Effect of Playing First Person Shooter Games on Support for Drone Strikes

This study examines the effect of video games on attitudes towards drone strikes in the Middle East. I argue that playing first person shooter games can desensitize people to civilian casualties of drone strikes. I find support for my hypothesis based on a survey experiment with a large undergraduate sample.

2014 Honors Theses

Emily Adams — Ideology versus Self-Interest: The Countervailing Forces of Texas Public Opinion
Supervisor: Eric McDaniel

Catherine Chlebowski — The Politically Motivating Effects of Social Networking Sites on Millennials
Supervisor: Bethany Albertson

Christiaan Cleary — Trust in National Legal Systems throughout Europe
Supervisor: Robert Luskin

Caitlin Cline — Improving Foreign Language Education: A Comparison of Texas and Bavaria
Supervisor: Benjamin Gregg

Daniel Hung — The Perfect Model: Election to the Texas Legislature
Supervisors: Daron Shaw and David Prindle

Mary Rose Legrone — A Funny Sort of Justice: Maritime Territorial Disputes and Law of the Sea
Supervisor: Patricia Maclachlan

Julia Schwartz — Comparing the Political Ideologies of the United States and the United Kingdom Using Their Diversity and Economic Policies
Supervisor: Alan Sager

Kalyan Venkatraj — Security Transgressions: Understanding Our Civil Liberties in a Post-9/11 World
Supervisor: Paula Newberg

Julia Wang — Visible Effects of Affirmative Action: An Analysis of Print Media in Brazil
Supervisor: Daniel Brinks

John Matthew Winston — A Critique of the Awkward Partner Thesis
Supervisor: Scott Wolford

Philip Wiseman — Challenging the Establishment: The Impact of Super PACs on U.S. Senate Elections in the 2012 Election Cycle
Supervisor: Brian Roberts

Stephanie Yarborough — Comparing Aristotle to Montesquieu: Virtue versus Commercialism
Supervisor: Erik Dempsey

Government Honors Thesis: James Nicholas Lovitt

Title: Displacement by Dispossession: Foreign Investments in African Land and Why So Many Fail

Author: James Nicholas Lovitt


The past decade has seen the number of foreign investments in African land swell, with rapid investing occurring just before and immediately after the 2007-2008 Food Price Crisis. Investors are attracted to Africa due to an abundance of cheap, fertile land. They intend to grow crops and biofuels for export. However, many investment projects have failed to become implemented. I have chosen four countries to study with varying degrees of investments, economic growth, and land and property ownership laws. These countries are Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Ethiopia and Tanzania. Within each of these, I have chosen four to six land deals and have attempted to connect each deal to the most relevant factor of investment delay.

There are four reasons for the slow materialization of these land acquisition ventures. They include (1) prematurity of the projects or contracts, (2) conflict or institutional disarray within the African governments, (3) speculation, and (4) the conflict of the traditional landowners. My hypothesis is that this fourth factor is the most salient in explaining the slow materialization of land acquisition ventures in Africa. My research reveals that the presence of local resistance is, in fact, not the primary source of delay. Rather, prematurity is the primary cause. I conclude with an analysis of the land investments and any improvements, financial or social, that can be made to make investments more successful for both investors and landholders.

Government Honors Thesis: Daniel Hatoum

Title: Law & Borders: International Courts and their Effect on Domestic Institutions

Author: Daniel Hatoum


The rise of international courts around the world has begun to reshape international order. One of the youngest international courts is the International Criminal Court which opened for business in 2002. While it has not been around for a long time, it has started making major waves across borders. The goal of the court is to punish human rights abusers, and encourage nations to follow good human rights practices. Through an examination of the several cases taken from around the world, I argue that the International Criminal Court does accomplish this goal by encouraging domestic institutions to better align with good human rights practices.

Government Honors Thesis: Charles Nwaogu

Title: The Politics of War: Examining Domestic and International Pressures During Vietnam

Author: Charles Nwaogu


From the 1964 Tonkin Gulf incident to the 1968 Tet Offensive, President Lyndon B. Johnson begrudgingly increased American involvement in Vietnam in what would amount to a costly and ill-fated foreign policy expedition into Southeast Asia. Yet despite disconcerting realities on-the-ground, President Johnson unceasingly pursued the status quo: stepwise military escalation in Vietnam, thereby cementing further and further U.S. commitment to stave off theDemocratic Republic of Vietnam. The central question is why? My analysis focuses on several distinct moments between 1964 and 1968 in which President Johnson deliberated over whether to escalate or deescalate troop presence in Vietnam. I examine if concerns over incurring domestic political costs and/or international repercussions were consequential in formulating these policy decisions. My analysis determined that President Johnson chose military escalation in Vietnam until the early months of 1968, when domestic opposition to heightened military involvement proved too restrictive. In contrast, international Communist pressures did not appear to prevent the President from imposing an increasingly committed foreign policy in the region. Further, my analysis seems to undermine audience costs as consequential in international crises situations.

Government Honors Thesis: Robert Belanger

Title: An Empirical Investigation of the Washington Consensus in the Context of Institutions

Author: Robert Belanger


The Washington Consensus was a widely promoted policy set during the 1980s and 1990s for developing countries. The “consensus” of Western economists was to integrate neoliberal policies into an economy to produce economic growth. Rodrik argues that this policy was never likely to be successful because the institutional arrangement that the Washington Consensus requires is unlikely to mesh with the institutional context of most economies. Further, he argues that five types of institutions are necessary to support a market economy. My results indicated that these institutions are indeed associated with positive economic growth. My results also indicate that the Washington Consensus is broadly associated positively with economic growth, in contrast to Rodrik’s theory. This suggests that the institutional arrangement implied by the Washington Consensus is much more flexible than Rodrik gives credit for.

Government Honors Thesis: Alexander Hatoum

Title: Neurotics and the News: Integrating Affective Science, Personality and Political Judgment

Author: Alexander Hatoum


It has been well established within Political Psychology that anxiety increases political information-seeking. Often times, anxious individuals also have increased political knowledge due to this increased information-seeking. In another strand of political psychology, individual personality traits influence political action, rather than emotional states. Some research even shows individuals with certain traits participating more in politics or even gravitating to particular political values. One specific trait, Neuroticism, seems to show little effect on political behavior and action. However, Neuroticism is the trait that rates highest in trait anxiety and Neuroticism is the trait that experiences anxiety most often as a result. Thus, this thesis will attempt to show that individuals high in Neuroticism will most likely show more of the political information-seeking behavior observed with anxiety. The results show three things, first that Neuroticism did have increased information-seeking, second that despite this increased information-seeking Neurotic individuals showed less political knowledge, and finally that other Big Five traits shared some relationships with political information-seeking, especially Openness to Experience.

Government Honors Thesis: Caroline Carmer

Title: First Come First Served: Land Ownership in Early America

Author: Caroline Carmer


This thesis examines the complex development of land ownership in America after the Revolution and during the founding years. The thesis predicts that boundary conflicts and conflicting political positions about how the land should be used were the two main principles defining land ownership in early America.

The research model is a comparative case study of the land laws from Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and the federal government. Throughout this work, who received legal land ownership in America and why is examined by studying how the laws resolved boundary disputes and differing political opinions about land in each state.

The body of this text divulges the conflicts resolution in the land laws. And, the laws verify the prediction that conflicts about boundaries and differing political positions about land influenced the foundation of American land ownership. The resolutions of boundary disputes fortify the physical boundaries of national, state, and local governments in America and allow for a strong government to enforce land ownership. And, the resolution of conflicting political positions about land expose how the government distributes the land and who receives land ownership.

Government Honors Thesis: Gregory Henson

Title: A Critique of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Impact on the American Political System

Author: Gregory Henson


Contrary to popular opinion, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt had a detrimental impact on the United States’ political system. Due to the Great Depression, Roosevelt was given a broad range of powers in order to help the country. His expansions of the federal government through the New Deal created the unconstitutional administrative state. Similarly, his consolidation of power in the executive branch goes against the Founding Fathers’ intentions. Furthermore, he was able to create drastic changes through manipulation of the Supreme Court. Moreover, the belief that Roosevelt and the New Deal ended the Great Depression is unfounded. Roosevelt is commonly considered one of the greatest presidents in US history, but in reality he should be viewed as a warning of how pushing constitutional boundaries can threaten our political system.

Government Honors Thesis: Joey Sorenson

Title: Looking for Locke in All the Wrong Places: The Case for a Liberal Continuity from John Locke to Barack Obama

Author: Joey Sorenson


As the philosopher whose words inspired the development of both modern democracy and free enterprise, John Locke remains remarkably relevant to contemporary politics. American conservatives’ political success in the late-20th century can be largely attributed to their surprisingly successful effort to align themselves with Locke’s legacy and that of his followers, the American Founding Fathers, on the basis of their supposedly shared devotion to “small government” and unrestricted capitalism. To the extent that Locke and many of the Founders were committed to these ideals, however, they were as a means to the ends of empowering as many citizens as possible to pursue their individual happiness in the socio-economic context of the largely agrarian society of the 17th and 18th centuries. Applied to the context of a 21st century post-industrial society, this commitment to providing as many people as possible the opportunity to pursue their individual happiness demands a greater role for the government to play in empowering its citizens to undertake such a pursuit. Their shared commitment to this more fundamental ideal of the pursuit of happiness establishes an essential philosophical continuity between classical liberals such as John Locke, and contemporary ones such as President Barack Obama.

Government Honors Thesis: Daniel Goan

Title:  Bio-Politics: The Stem Cell Debate In Comparative Perspective

Author: Daniel Goan


Stem cell research holds the promise of unlocking the future of regenerative medicine, at the same time it is also a major point of contention in global politics. The future of human embryonic stem cell research requires the use of stem cells harvested from fertilized human embryos for the development of novel treatments to a wide spectrum of human diseases. The use of these embryos is quite controversial, as the research often destroys or harms fertilized embryos, which in some religions is tantamount to murder.

The purpose of my thesis was to examine the relationships between global demographic trends and adopted national stem cell policies. Such a study is important in order to predict future stem cell policies. I conducted a large-N analysis using the 56 nations with currently promulgated stem cell policies and used that to create a typology classifying each nation as either liberal, permissive, restrictive or prohibitive towards human embryonic stem cell research. From this typology I went further in depth and conducted four individual case studies examining each category of my typology.

My researched shows that there are correlations between global demographic trends and the distribution of stem cell policy. This is especially evident with religious affiliation and education, but not as evident with political framework or age.

Government Honors Thesis: Sonya Chung

Title: To Proclaim Liberty to the Captives: The Promise of Christianity for Human Rights in North Korea

Author: Sonya Chung


This paper examines the religious structures of the North Korean regime and the religious activities of the people to argue that religion in general, and Christianity in particular, can be used as a resource for cultivating human rights consciousness in North Korea. Christianity provides an alternative belief system more compatible to human rights than the state Juche ideology to which the North Koreans can adhere. In fact, close examination shows that Juche’s structural roots were likely developed from observance of the Christian religion, making the Christian alternative a viable one. Theologically based human rights have the potential to form among Christian believers in North Korea’s underground church through doctrine that emphasizes expressing devotion to God through loving one’s neighbors, creating a community in which human rights can be mutually recognized and practiced. This is not to argue that Christianity is a prerequisite for human rights in North Korea, but that the benefits of Christianity can be a way for North Koreans living under hostile conditions to ultimately understand that possessing human rights is both a possibility and right.

Government Honors Thesis: Jaime C. Garcia

Title: Machiavelli’s Lone Wolf: Romulus and the founding of Rome in The Discourses

Author: Jaime C. Garcia


The founding of any state is a difficult task and, therefore, must be carried out by a virtuous person. For Machiavelli, the paragon of virtue, and the best example of how a founder should act, is Romulus. I advance three specific arguments regarding Machiavelli’s discussion of the founding of Rome, and the lessons to be learned from it. First, Machiavelli creates his own distinct Romulus. In doing this, Machiavelli diverges from the accounts of Livy and Plutarch, and endows Romulus with a unique set of virtues. Second, Romulus was successful. Though, as Machiavelli himself admits, Rome devolved from Republic to Tyranny, Romulus is still a successful founder, because of the example he provides and the institutions he established. Finally, Romulus was the most successful founder, even when compared against other virtuous founders such as Solon, Lycurgus, and Numa. Where these other founders lacked virtue, Romulus triumphed.

Government Honors Thesis: Emily Van Duyn

Title: Media Framing and Democracy: A Model of Descriptive Media and the Power of Affected Voice

Author: Emily Van Duyn


Previous research shows a gross over-representation of male voices in articles on women’s issues including abortion, contraception, women’s rights, and Planned Parenthood during the 2012 election cycle. As diversity increases across the country, the question of balance in media sources and voice becomes increasingly relevant. This research explores the concept of media framing and included sources both theoretically and empirically. First, a literature review of democratic theory and public discourse helps develop a model of “descriptive media” that is attentive to diversity in voice and includes voice of the affected population. Second, an experiment tests the impact of descriptive/non-descriptive media on individual perception by isolating all male or all female sources in an article on abortion to reflect descriptive or non-descriptive media. Results suggest that sources in media framing affect how important an individual finds his/her own voice in public discourse. Additionally, results show that current trends in media framing, as seen in 2012 election coverage of women’s issues, are incongruent with public demands for inclusion of the affected voice.

Government Research Intern: Michael Mazidi

Title: The Supreme Court and Statutory Interpretation: Are Justices Judges of Law or Politicians in Robes?

Author: Michael Mazidi


Justices on the Supreme Court for many years now have debated how to utilize ‘intent’ (more particularly, the legislative record) and the “plain language” of a statute in interpreting a law passed by Congress. This is fundamental for two reasons:

a)      The Court must come to a proper understanding of any statute before considering whether to strike it down.

b)      more than 60% of the Court’s docket each year is dealing strictly with statutory interpretation.

However, some political scientists suggest that these “legal” arguments are nothing more than a ruse. In reality, Justices vote according to their policy preference. Thus, political scientists studying SCOTUS have been at odds with each other – how much of the Court’s decisions are based on “law” and how much of their decisions are based on “policy preferences”?

While attitudinalists provide ample evidence for their inferences, they have yet to go to the two most fundamental aspects of legal thinking – text and intent. This study aims to get at the heart of the Justice’s behavior by studying statutory interpretation.

I created three variables that I coded for:

  1. “Plain Language”: When does a Justice in an opinion attempt to understand the statute via the “plain language”?
  2. “Congressional Intent”: When does a Justice attempt to divine the “intent” of Congress?
  3. “Legislative Record”: When does a Justice attempt to divine the intent of Congress by dipping into the legislative record?

I limited my study to cases from the 1986 term to the 2000 term, and examined only cases that dealt with a question of statutory interpretation.

The Plain Language variable has a “constraining” effect on the policy attitudes of Justices. As an example, when Stevens and Scalia do not use this judicial tool, their opinions are skewed towards the policy direction the attitudinal model predicts. However, when they use the “plain language” variable, both move towards the middle – Stevens becomes less “liberal” and Scalia becomes less “conservative”. The intent variables however have little effect.

These variables have a negligible effect on Majority opinions, but this is a result of the opinions already having a normal distribution (about 50/50 liberal conservative). Yet when we examine dissenting opinions, we see that Plain language once again has a “constraining” effect (taking the liberal skew towards the middle). We also see (yet again) that use of the legislative record has a negligible impact. In sum, the plain language variable (when used) tends to mitigate, or at least “constrain” the attitudinal skew.

While the attitudes of Justices certainly have a measureable influence, so too do legal variables (particularly plain language). However, caution must be exercised on two points:

1. We cannot necessarily conclude that the legal variables for intent (intent and intent with record use) are meaningless constraints. A problem with measuring these legal aspects empirically is that they do not measure “good” uses and “bad” uses of a certain type of judicial tool or legal reasoning. Thus, it might be that the legislative record is an effective constraint if Justices are only referring to certain aspects of the legislative record (such as committee reports and not floor remarks). This coding scheme would not pick up on that.

2. The chicken and the egg problem still exists. Which is primary and comes first – the attitudes of the Justices, or the legal variables that constrain them? One could still argue that Justices are attitudinal actors who are (to a degree) constrained by law. Or one could argue that Justices are legal actors, who decide on the basis of policy only when the law is ambiguous

Government Research Intern: Dilip Kanuga

Title: Presidential Popularity and Oppositional Voting Patterns on Presidentially-Backed Legislation

Author: Dilip Kanuga


Studies have been made to examine the President’s “Honeymoon Period”, the period of euphoria following a president’s inauguration. The research I have concerned myself with asks the question: when the public is supportive of an incoming president’s beliefs on policy, does opposition in Congress tend to be more conciliatory and vote in support of a popular president’s position? If the honeymoon period does exist, what effects do differences in popularity have on potentially influencing congressional opposition (and maintaining a loyal same-party coalition with fewer defectors)?

There are three major methodological questions my project needed to answer before processing the data. First, I need to understand how and which presidents can be classified as “popular.” I decided to look at the president’s electoral success with both the popular vote and electoral vote. If they pass a certain point threshold, they are designated as “popular”. The modern presidents that are considered popular (irrespective of polling, starting with “most popular” and descending thereafter) are as follows: Reagan, Eisenhower, Bush 41, Obama, and Clinton. The modern presidents that are considered non-popular (starting with “most popular” and descending thereafter) are as follows: Kennedy, Carter, Nixon, and Bush 43. — Truman, Johnson, and Ford were not considered. Further, in an effort to limit the retrieved data to times when public support would remain present, I only take into account the president’s first Congress while in office.

Second, the data are gathered from president’s beliefs on major pieces of legislation during their first congress. To research major pieces of legislation, I use Congressional Quarterly and Almanac to gather my data on which pieces of legislation a president outwardly voiced his opinion regarding, Congressional Quarterly Landmark Legislation 1774-2002, The Yeas and the Nays by Castel and Gibson, and GovTrack.us to find voting records for those major pieces of legislation. Finally, I outline each president’s party affiliation and there “opposition” in Congress is considered as any legislator who belongs to a party different than that of the president’s.

I analyzed opposition votes in support of the president’s opinion from Obama to Eisenhower. For example, under President Reagan the Agriculture and Food Act of 1981 (HR 4995), 35.91% of Democrats voted in favor of the Republican president’s stance on the legislation. After completing this same process for all modern presidents, with each having 50-70 major pieces of legislation, the results thus far have indicated only marginal changes in oppositional support with changing popularity: a negligible 2% swing in favor of popular presidents.

Interestingly however, with this research I thought it would also be of value to simultaneously record the votes for same-party legislators in all the same bills. As it turns out, when tracking same-party support on presidentially-backed legislation, it appears that the more popular a president is the more likely it is he will have fewer defectors: a more notable swing of 8% in favor of popular presidents.

Opposite-party support change was surprising in its non-conformity; same-party support was surprising in how it seems to be tied in some way to differences in popularity. With the potential future results of this research, including the addition of data for pre-modern presidents, it can be understood not only how schisms stem in Congress, but also how two branches of government play off one another when you have an explicit majority of public support won by the Executive Branch.

Government Research Intern: Justin Perez

Title: The Texas Flip: A County-by-County Look at Hispanic Population Growth and Its Political Impacts

Author: Justin Perez


With the ever-growing Hispanic population in this country and specifically in the state of Texas, it is imperative that one look at the demographics with respect to their impacts on national, state, and local elections. Collection of population and voting record data was essential to this study; just as essential was the campaign expertise of political leaders, pundits, strategists, and analysts from across the nation. From the information collected one is able to deduce the potential impact of the Hispanic vote, county by county, in the State of Texas.

The data collected for this research came from two credible sources. Population data were collected from the State of Texas Demographer, based on the 2000 and 2010 U.S. Census. The population data were used to interpolate the 2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008 estimated population; as well as to extrapolate the 2014 & 2016 estimated population. Election results and voter data were collected from the Office of the Texas Secretary of State, specifically the Presidential and Gubernatorial returns from 2000 to 2012.

The research revealed that as the Hispanic population increases in a county, so do the number of Democratic voters. While a direct correlation can never be established, a presumable correlation is present. There is a visible consistent presence of Republican voters. Republican voter data suggest little to no change in the number of voters, while Democratic Voters have increased (from 2000 to 2012). This is precisely what leads to a flip or sway in which party receives a majority of a county’s votes.

These data combined with the campaign expertise of political leaders, pundits, strategists, and analysts from across the nation provide a roadmap for campaign strategy across the state and create a greater dialog about the Hispanic vote. In order to speak with these experts I traveled to Washington D.C. with my professor, Sean Theriault, and several other research students who went armed with questions about their own research. The trip provided my classmates and I the opportunity to speak with those who deal with projects like ours on a daily bases. We met with chiefs of staff, archivists, bipartisan committee chairs, the U.S. House of Representatives Parliamentarian, and several other political pundits strategists, and analysts.

It is expected that as the Hispanic population grows, interest in their voting habits will as well. The data collected through this study will help to strategize get out the vote efforts and provide factual information about the voting Hispanic population in Texas. Talk about the sleeping giant, Hispanics who do not vote is a common occurrence. This study will provide truth to this statement and provide factual information about the implication of a higher Hispanic voter turnout.

Government Research Intern: Karl Bock

Title: Print Media Tone and Chance of Winning in the 2012 Presidential Election

Author: Karl Bock


The media and its tone are always perceived as playing an important role in politics, with pundits on the right constantly decrying the liberal biases of the “Main Stream Media” and their counterparts on the left characterizing Fox News and it’s brethren as the mouthpieces of billionaires and corporations. And in what is referred to as “horse race politics” by The Washington Post, the media is constantly concerned with the small fractions of a percent that polling data changes from day to day, and tries to connect these changes to the overall narrative of the race. But is the positive or negative atmosphere in the media towards the respective candidates shaped by the polling data or does the media drive polling? And when Election Day finally arrives, do either of these make a difference in who the American people choose to be inaugurated in January? I became interested in this topic in the fall after Mitt Romney received a large amount of negative press about his remarks on the Benghazi attack. Throughout the campaign, Romney seemed to have a knack for putting his foot in his mouth, from insulting the British when talking about the Olympics, to calling 47% of Americans “takers”. I was surprised that a candidate who had so many public gaffes was still being perceived as doing relatively well in the race. The purpose of my research then was to explore the relationship between print media tone and a candidate’s chance of winning in the 2012 presidential election. My working hypothesis was that there would be some kind of relationship between media tone and chance of winning, with one likely preceding the other.

I elected to use print media as opposed to broadcast or web-based media because published news articles would be easier to work with from a coding perspective. I coded articles published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Wall Street Journal from September 7, 2012, the day after the conclusion of the democratic national convention, until November 5, 2012, the day before Election Day.  I selected those three papers because they have strong journalistic reputations, have wide circulation, and the library had access to databases of their articles. Moreover, they are perceived as being pretty well distributed across the ideological spectrum, with The New York Times being more left leaning, and The Wall Street Journal having more of a conservative bent.  I only coded articles that were not editorials, were in the main section of the print edition, and that were substantially about Obama or Romney. I coded articles as either “Positive Incumbent” (Pos) or “Negative Incumbent” (Neg) based on how the Obama campaign would perceive the article. So, if an article was positive or neutral in tone and focused on Obama or on both candidates, it was coded Pos. If an article was negative and focused on Romney it would be coded as Pos as well. Articles that were negative in tone and focused on Obama or both candidates were coded Neg.  And lastly, if an article was positive or neutral and focused on Romney, it would be coded Neg.  I then graphed the percentage of positive articles with a seven-day moving average and compared that to the chance of winning measure from the 538 blog, a poll aggregator run by Nate Silver and published by The New York Times. The resulting correlation between the two measures was found to be .094, so it may be that the measures do not interact in a manner as straightforward as I hypothesized.

Government Research Intern: Cortney Sanders

Title: Politics of the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Author: Cortney Sanders


The purpose of my research project is to examine the evolution of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Specifically, I investigate the degree to which polarization and increased partisanship have affected votes taken on each of the four reauthorizations since the law’s original passage. My procedures consist of looking at four congressional reauthorization periods for the Voting Rights Act, including 1970, 1975, 1982, and 2006. I utilize the party disparity equation, a measurement created to determine the distance between the parties. In addition, I collect roll call votes on hearings regarding the Voting Rights Act of 1965 data sets from the Policy Agendas Website. I also calculate the party disparities and polarization of the roll call votes using the govtrack.us website and create my own excel sheet displaying the data collections I find. I will examine whether increasing polarization has led to declining support for reauthorizations.

The roll call votes were from the original 89th (1965) Congress, and the reauthorization periods during the 91st (1970), 94th (1975), 97th (1982), and 109th (2006) Congresses. I examined the party disparity of every individual amendment, procedural, and final passage vote for the Voting Rights Act in the 89th, 91st, 94th, 97th, and 109th Congress. I calculated the averages of all the types of votes for each House and Senate within a Congress, and then by individual vote type per Congress. The party disparity equation is: the total number of Democratic yes only votes divided by the total number of Democratic yes and no votes subtracted by the total number of Republican yes only votes divided by the total number of Republican yes and no votes.

I find that party polarization did affect the Voting Rights Act of 1965 roll call votes. In addition, there is significant increase in polarization in the 109th congress (2006) reauthorization. There was, however, a significant decrease in the Senate during the 109th congress reauthorization period. For the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its reauthorizations, party disparity in the House was higher for every Congress relative to the Senate. In the House, within each congress there was a difference in party disparity among each type of vote. In addition, the over-time averages for all votes across congresses showed disparity in the House. Finally, final passage votes had the least party disparity average in both the House and the Senate.

For future analysis, I will evaluate the convergence and replacement votes of the Senators and House congressional representatives whose votes were counted in the reauthorization passages. In addition, I will look at the roll call votes within states that are pre-clearance and those that are not and compare their party disparities. Finally, I will investigate if Southern Republicans vote differently from Northern Republicans (same for Democrats), which might have an effect on the vote of reauthorization.

Government Research Intern: Taylor Calvin

Title: Party Dynamics of Cooperative Legislation with the Former Soviet Union

Author: Taylor Calvin


The dissolution of the Soviet Union in December 1991 signaled the expiration of the modern world’s largest totalitarian and socialist state. The fifteen countries that emerged from this cessation were left to fend for themselves, as their once “big brother” type government collapsed right before their eyes. Due to their dire need for assistance, these countries slowly began reformulating their political, economic, and military alliances across the globe, including those with the United States (The Cold War Museum). In Bill Clinton’s first inaugural address, just days after the official breakup, he pledged to work to shape international change with peaceful diplomacy. But over the past twenty years and four presidents, has that response held the test of time? More importantly, is the current U.S relationship with the Eastern Bloc as strategically strong as possible or is the Cold War sentiment still alive underneath layers and layers of obligatory co-mingling?

To comprehend these research questions, I analyzed congressional bills that promoted economic, social, and political cooperation between the U.S and these countries from both chambers that were introduced from December 25, 1991, the official breakup of the Soviet Union, to December 25, 2011, the 20th anniversary of the breakup (102nd-112th Congresses). I also used legislative context to determine whether or not these partisan differences in Congress and in the White House impeded one or more types of cooperation between the U.S and these countries. For our purposes, economic cooperation referred to bills that authorized appropriations, created trade agreements, and established development projects; social cooperation referred to bills that stimulated humanitarian, educational, and democracy promoting programs; political cooperation referred to bills that created platforms for peace negotiations, nuclear disarmament procedures, and improved partnerships between one or more countries and the United States. After I collected these bills, I grouped them according to their sponsor’s political party, their cooperative category, and the president in power when they were introduced.  As a result of this time span  I had the opportunity to analyze congressional votes from ten different congresses under four different presidents.

I found that, out of the 53 bills analyzed, only 52.8% of the cooperative legislation was sponsored by democrats and 47.2% was sponsored by republicans. The 5.6% difference between the parties does not constitute the large return expected and it can be concluded that democrats and republicans were relatively similar in their sponsoring of these types of cooperative legislation. The amount of economic and social cooperative legislation introduced in the early years was very high, due to these countries great need for financial and humanitarian assistance, and declined in later years as these countries became self-sustaining. Political cooperative legislation was significantly small in the early years but grew tremendously in the later years due to the introduction of these countries as actors on the world stage. In the 104th-108th Congresses all forms of cooperative legislation waned due to domestic economic downturns, the September 11th attacks, an executive leadership change in Russia to Vladimir Putin and in the United States to George W. Bush in 2000, and the beginning of the Iraq War. Cooperative legislation increased in the 109th-112th Congresses due to the New START treaty enacted by President Obama and then Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and increased partnership opportunities between all countries, in lieu of happenings in the Middle East. Finally, the party of the president played little to no role in the amount of cooperative legislation introduced in congress; instead time lapse was a larger variable in the types of legislation introduced.

Government Research Intern: Sean Carmichael

The purpose of this research was to better understand the causation of such divided and unproductive activity within Congress when it comes to raising the debt ceiling. Over the past several years and namely when the national debt crisis became a serious issue within the public sphere, debt ceiling deliberations have become some of the most polarizing and divided pieces of legislation recent Congresses have had to pass. Is the national debt crisis a symptom of growing polarization within Congress that has been brewing for decades, or are the current inhibitions of Congress when it comes to raising the debt ceiling a symptom of the growing national debt? I hypothesized that polarization has steadily been increasing around debt ceiling legislation, and did not believe there would be any drastic change in polarization in recent years due to the debt crisis.

All voting records from 1978 to present that involved legislation to increase the debt ceiling were gathered from the Congressional Research Service, Congress.gov, and THOMAS.gov, and analyzed to determine if how Congress acts legislatively has changed over time. Party difference scores were calculated finding the difference in the percentage of yes votes between the two parties. The higher the value, the bigger the difference between the two parties voting and the more polarized the vote was. Congressional hearings’ witness panel testimonies were analyzed to determine if how Congress conducted itself internally had become more polarizing. 111 hearings that involved raising the debt ceiling, adopting a balanced budget amendment, or reforming the federal budget process were gathered for analysis. Hearings in which the witness panel testimonies provided opposing opinions with no clear position or solution were coded as “differing” whereas hearings in which the testimonies had a united position or solution were coded as “positional.” All 111 hearings were broken down by year into these two categories and displayed on a stacked area graph. Congressional hearings pertaining to the national debt were gathered from the Policy Agendas Project database and analyzed using ProQuest’s congressional publication database.

The results were similar to my hypothesis. Polarization was shown to have existed within Congress for decades and had steadily gotten worse, while no drastic spikes in polarization were seen in how Congress operated towards the national debt within the last decade. Hearings also showed to have become more proportionately differing than in the past.

These results also provided more questions. If the debt crisis is a symptom of increasing polarization within the institution, it would indicate that a more polarizing Congress can have severe consequences for the nation. If this polarization occurs on such important pieces of legislation such as raising the debt limit and limiting the national debt, what other problems or crises could arise due to disagreement in our highest legislative institution? When will this trend of increasing polarization end, if it does? The consequences of even more disagreement within Congress are scary to think about. To further expand on this research in the future, I would like to incorporate a control group. Although the controlled legislation has not been decided yet, something like minimum wage legislation would be an interesting choice. If similar polarization levels are shown between the two areas of legislation, it would provide evidence to the idea that increasing polarization is not localized to just debt ceiling legislation but effects all legislation within the institution; similar to the idea that a rising tide lifts all boats, increasing polarization within Congress affects all legislation.

Government Research Intern: Owais Durrani

Title: The Congressional Committee System: Desirability of Committees in the US House

Author: Owais Durrani


The United States Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives, is composed of numerous committees that specialize in specific issues. Members of Congress desire some committee assignments more than others. Using a transfer ratio method I aim to calculate which committees are more sought after by members of Congress and how these committees’ desirability changes over time.

The raw data I started with consisted of all the members in the US House and the committees that they have served on from the 104th to the 112th congresses (1995-2013). I then sorted the data to portray each member and his or her committee assignments throughout the time period. Afterwards, I tracked the transfers between committees for each member. I then tabulated how many times each committee was added and dropped by members for each congress. It is important to note that although many types of committees exist, I looked at only the standing committees in the US House. At this point my data were in a form that could be plugged into the transfer ratio equation to give me the “desirability scores” for the committees.

Transfer Ration = # Transfers Onto Comm. X / # Transfers Onto Comm.X + # Transfers                                   Off Comm. X

By plugging in the adds and drops for each committee from the 104th congress to the 112th congress, I calculated a score ranging from 0 to 1 for each committee (0 being least desirable and 1 being most desirable).

The first analysis I conducted was looking at which committees were most desirable and which were least desirable during the period of study. A basic average of the committee’s desirability scores over the time period was calculated. The four strongest committees were Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Appropriations, and the Rules committee. The four weakest committees were Small Business, Agriculture, Science/Space/Technology, and the Veterans Affairs committee. I noticed that the four strongest committees were exclusive committees. Member of exclusive committees are for the most part not allowed to sit on other committees.

After getting a general overview of where the desirability of committees stood in respect to one another, I was curious as to what members of each party valued various committees at. The results showed that the top four committees valued by members of each party were once more the exclusive committees. It is important to note that the four committees were valued differently between the parties. These results show that the members strive for a select group of committees to be on.

The next logical analysis I went through was looking at how the non-exclusive committees ranked in desirability in relation to each other. Just as in my previous analysis, there were two levels to this aspect of the study — looking at committee desirability for the entire congress and at desirability from the viewpoints of representatives as members of political parties. The results showed greater variability in each party’s preferences for committees. Democrats valued the budget, standard of official conduct, foreign affairs, and public works/transportation committees the most. Republicans valued the foreign affairs, judiciary, budget, and armed services committees the most. Although differences did exist between the committee preferences, there were still similarities such as the budget and foreign affairs committee.

There were numerous significant findings from this study. The general pattern that emerged was that the exclusive committees are at the pinnacle of the committee structure. Another important finding is that even among the non-exclusive committees there emerge committees that are preferred by members from across the isle. This pattern parallels the behavior of members with regards to exclusive committees, that is there seems to be a hierarchy of committees that crosses partisan lines. This pattern is supported by the finding that the least desirable committees in Congress are the same for both Republicans and Democrats.

Government Research Intern: Kelly Depew

Title: The Relationship Between Educational Achievement and Voter Turnout Rates

Author: Kelly Depew


Many have speculated on the relationship between education and civic participation; some have argued that a more educated an electorate will be more civically involved, while others think that the more citizens are knowledgeable about the complexities of American politics, the more cynical and dissuaded they will be from partaking in democracy. So which is right? Or more specifically, which is more likely to have an overarching effect on society as a whole?

This research project aimed to identify a relationship between educational achievement and voter turnout rates by examining, state-by-state, 30 years of voting history and 10 years of college entrance exam performance. The results revealed that there are noticeable similarities among states that on average vote at higher rates and more often produce students who succeed academically, as well as a correlation between voter turnout rates and educational achievement of .55.

On the whole, this study proved that there is a positive relationship between education quality and civic participation. Though there are many variables that contribute to a state’s ability to provide “quality” education to its citizens, and even more variables that influence whether certain populations will participate in democracy, I aim to eventually account for those variables, and perhaps discover a causal relationship between the two. Assuredly this positive relationship will be only a first step in arguing the case that a better educated electorate leads to a more efficient democratic process.

Dr. Michael McDonald of the George Mason University Department of Public and International Affairs, as part of the United States Elections Project, provided the figures for this study, which include all presidential and mid-term elections beginning in 1980 to 2012. Comparing state voter participation can be clouded by variations in a state’s involvement in presidential election years and midterm election years; some states may turn out highly in presidential elections, but comparatively may turnout in lower rates in midterm election years. The value selected to measure voter participation was the Voting Age Population Rate, which indicates the percentage of the voting age population that exercised their voting right for each year from 1980 to 2012. The average taken across time provides a measure that shows overall participation for each state.

The NCHEMS Information Center for Higher Education Policymaking and Analysis provided “Number of ACT Scores 25 and Higher and SAT Scores 1780 and Higher (80th Percentile)- Per 1,000 High School Graduates” in 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, and 2007 for each state, and was selected as the Educational Achievement Measure. Comparing educational quality across states is difficult; the data for education funding and efficiency for each state is not uniformly gathered or reported, at least not for the length of time that should be examined. It is possible, however, to consider which states more often produce high-performing high school graduates that, although self-selected, presumably go on to attend college. Judging educational achievement through these college-entrance exams is a way to examine the overall culmination of the quality of education in a state, and although is a specialized type of data set, it can be argued that when it comes to quantifying the quality of education, the pursuit of college-level education should be a standard by which we measure a state’s educational quality.

In addition to the correlation yielded, a look at average state performance in both educational quality and voter turnout revealed that states that rank highly on a national scale in education consequently rank highly in voter turnout rates. Additionally, states that rank poorly on a national scale in education consequently rank poorly in voter turnout rates.

Campaign Finance, Citizens United, and the Case for Procedural Equality

by Kelsey Spector

While most of us are already familiar with Citizens United, my thesis aimed to cast a new light on some of the basic arguments which have driven the Court’s decisions in cases governing the use of money in politics. Advancing the thesis that a concern for procedural equality is integral to the institutional health of our republic and the proper treatment of citizens, I make the case that the Court was misguided in its categorical rejection of a government interest in equality.

I begin by presenting an empirical record, which focuses on the rise of super PACs and their coordination with campaigns, to challenge the notion that independent expenditures are really independent and don’t give rise to the reality or appearance of corruption. Given the inadequacy of these arguments, I then move to reexamine the Court’s logic in the cases which determined the constitutional status of campaign finance regulations. Highlighting key features of precedent, I make the case that the Court has been increasingly trending towards an absolute interpretation of the First Amendment, one in which the right to free speech is not properly subject to regulation. Though the majority justified these decisions in terms of self- government and the importance of the diverse and vibrant public discourse therein, I argue that this conception of the First Amendment right to free speech is not capable of realizing the democratic goals for which it was intended.

Rather, given contemporary inequalities, I argue that this conception of the political arena systematically excludes many, if not most, citizens from meaningful access. While it is a common refrain of those opposed to regulations that their position represents neutrality, I argue that it in fact endorses a “laissez-faire marketplace of ideas,” one which is incompatible with the democratic ideals embedded in our constitutional tradition. In stark contrast to the alternative model for self-government, which often goes under the title “deliberative democracy,” I argue that the marketplace of ideas is incapable of creating fair political procedures which maintain the ability of our representatives to be responsive to the needs of their constituents.

Beyond measures of institutional health, I further argue that the Court’s conception of the First Amendment right is in tension with the growing understanding that meaningful commitments to liberty, and the political liberties in particular, require attention to the opportunities with which citizens are presented to exercise them. Framing this interest in terms of “procedural equality,” or as Rawls coined, “the fair value of the political liberties,” I make the case that a government interest in equality absolutely merits attention when considering political participation in democratic processes. If the Court does not begin to take these arguments seriously, our commitment to liberty and our identity as a democratic nation are themselves implicated.

In light of my skepticism as to whether the Court will actually grant the proper attention to arguments deriving from commitments to fair political procedures and procedural equality, I conclude with a brief overview of policy solutions to the systemic corruption of our democratic institutions and our waning commitment to the public discourse. Reviewing new models for public finance, I highlight one in particular which can help provide access to the political arena and free representatives from the pressures of fundraising while still avoiding problems deriving from the bureaucratic control of money in elections.

Working Class Need, Corporate Greed: How Wealth Has Become Political Capital in America

by Caleb Rodriguez

The purpose of his thesis is to elucidate, as clearly and concisely as possible, the primary causes of the growing inequality between America’s top wealthiest earners and those who barely scrape by on dollars a day. The issue at hand is important because America seems to be reaching an economic tipping point; citizens are becoming more aware of the inequalities in wealth and are asking important questions. In June of 2011, James Carville posited that “if [the growing inequality] continues, we’re going to start to see civil unrest in this country… I think it’s imminently possible.” In fact, Carville’s prediction was correct—a mere five months later and the Occupy Wall Street movement, a movement with the purpose of protesting corporate involvement in American politics (among other things), has gone global. Thus, these questions are possibly the most important questions regarding the modern U.S. political and economic condition.

The thesis is comprised of three chapters. The first is a historical account of wages and labor. The second details tax loopholes that big business has used to reduce their tax burdens. The final chapter is a comprehensive examination of the most corrupt politicians in America and what they are doing to ensure the lower classes are not receiving their fair share.

The data are startling, but there is hope to return to political equality—and that hope lies within each of us working as a democracy by the people, for the people. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said that political equality is “meaningless in the face of economic inequality.” This rings true today more than ever before. The threat to democracy that manifests from concentrated economic and political power must be eliminated if there is any hope to return to an idea of meaningful democratic rule.

Free Thought and Political Society in the American Republic

by Matthew Levinton

My research considers how intellectual liberty and the modern democratic polity in- teract, and how the latter necessarily shapes the character of the former. To do this, my thesis first looks closely at Alexis de Tocqueville’s concept of “Tyranny of the Majority” as he presents it in his famous work Democracy in America.

I turned to Tocqueville for this project because his aristocratic upbringing and knowledge of the principles of political modernity allowed him to appreciate the incredibly transformative power of democracy as it swept through civilization and remade the world in ways unlike any political development had in the past. Looking to Tocqueville thus allows us to access a perspective difficult for us to appreciate today, as it opens our eyes to an outside point of view that permits us to look at our polity in ways otherwise challenging to experience. My treatment of Tocqueville ultimately reveals the potential for intellectual tyranny to occur within a democracy, so as to reveal the existence of this possible problem—a problem that is often all the more dangerous because it is rarely considered.

Following my analysis of Tocqueville, I turn to a consideration of some of the most successful educatory projects of the American founders, projects actually designed to shape majority opinion and thus to influence the character of intellectual liberty. I consider what role such founding efforts played in shaping the America that Tocqueville experienced in 1831, and whether such efforts can and should be taken up again today.

I first turn to James Madison, arguing that in his contributions to the Federalist, he sought not only to argue for the merits of the constitution, but also to encourage his audience to accept a specific understanding of politics that would both make them favor the constitution as well as hold those ideas required for the constitutional order to succeed. Thus, in his Federalist essays, Madison is not only discussing the institutional creations of the constitution, but he is also arguing for those institutions on the basis of a specific understanding of political justice and human nature, in turn encouraging his audience to accept those understandings as well, so as to encourage the citizenry to hold a uniform set of core political opinions.

After my analysis of Madison, my thesis turns to a discussion of Thomas Jefferson’s efforts to establish a tradition of American education. This part of my paper looks closely at Jefferson’s proposed curriculum for his school of government and law at the University of Virginia. I argue that for this school Jefferson sought to produce a unique combination of civic and liberal education that would allow the university to educate future leaders who would be grounded in and appreciative of the foundational ideas of the American Republic.

From here my work turns to a final discussion of civic education, education in the political principles of a polity, and to liberal education, education concerned foremost with liberating the mind. In this section I consider how the two can be reconciled as well as discuss how each in fact needs the other to be realized to its fullest.

My thesis concludes by pointing to the concern for human freedom that unites the projects of Madison, Jefferson, and Tocqueville, as I suggest that such a concern, one which considers how intellectual freedom and political society interact, speaks to the very core of a genuine devotion to liberty itself. I am very thankful to Professor Lorraine Pangle for serving as my faculty adviser during this project.

Perception vs. Reality: The Truth About Terrorism and Counterterrorism in Post-9/11 America

by Ben Lancaster

The primary focus of this thesis is to explore the impact of the United States’ post-9/11 counterterrorism policy on domestic terrorism. To do so, I employ a quantitative analysis of two datasets and a theoretical analysis of post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism policy. The first dataset contains information on every terrorist attack that occurred on U.S. soil between 1994 and 2010. This analysis yields a downward trend in both the overall number of attacks and the percentage of attacks resulting in casualties. My hypothesis is that this trend is due — in part — to actions taken by the U.S. government in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The second set of data focuses on attacks arising out of right-wing extremist ideologies. This dataset begins with the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995 and ends with an unsuccessful bombing attempt in Georgia on Nov. 1, 2011. The information contained within this dataset leads me to hypothesize that the ability of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agents to thwart attacks before they happen and effectively respond to terrorist violence has improved. Combining the two hypotheses into one, the United States has improved its counterterrorism policy since 9/11.

A theoretical analysis of post-9/11 U.S. counterterrorism policy demonstrates objective improvement in U.S. policy and also shows three areas where the policy is lacking. The three areas regarded the policy’s failure to: (1) abide by U.S. principles; (2) improve security and reduce the risk of attack at low economic and social costs; and (3) implement long-term defensive strategies focused on creating trust and negotiation. Despite these problems, I conclude the United States has indeed improved its counterterrorism policy since Sept. 11, 2001. This improvement can be said to have occurred without any sort of data collection because of the lack of coherent counterterrorism policies in place prior to 2001. These facts alone—(a) as of 2002, law enforcement now has the same powers to combat terrorism that it historically possessed in combating other organized crime and (b) as of 2004, there is now a government entity responsible for accounting terrorism—show the post-9/11 counterterrorism policy of the United States is a drastic improvement to its previous policy.

Based on the data, I conclude domestic terrorism resulting out of extreme right-wing ideologies poses a much more real threat to the United States than the threat posed by international Islamic militant groups like al Qaeda. Therefore, the United States should allocate its resources and focus its efforts on diminishing the greater threat of right-wing terrorists here at home as opposed to the lesser threat of terrorists abroad. This is not to say al Qaeda poses no threat, or the United States should not continue its efforts to decrease the threat of other Islamic militant groups, but rather there should be more emphasis on eliminating the more real and present threat.

When comparing the decade leading up to Sept. 11, 2001 with the decade after, the data also show there have been fewer overall terrorist attacks, fewer attacks resulting in casualties, a lower percentage of attacks resulting in casualties, and a greater percentage of attacks thwarted by law enforcement in the years since 9/11. This empirical data, along with the objective improvement in U.S. counterterrorism policy, demonstrates a correlation between government action and a decrease in terrorism. However, this correlation is not enough to establish causation. So while this thesis provides a likely argument for how and why U.S. counterterrorism policy has improved, it is impossible to empirically prove whether or not this improvement led to the decrease in domestic terrorism that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001.

Towards Free and Fairness?: Regional Variances in Democratic Elections in Nigeria

by Chinyere Kimberly Ikegbunam

The research seeks to answer the question of whether or not Nigerian elections are becoming more free and fair over time, and to determine which regions experienced the greatest amount of progress or digress during the period analyzed. Levels of electoral fraud and electoral violence in Nigeria were collected by region for the 2003, 2007, and 2011 elections in Nigeria. I hypothesize that where a past history and/or new occurrence of  1) ethnic/religious tensions; 2) lower income/increased poverty rates; and 3) long history of electoral violence exists, the amount of violence and fraud reported will increase.

The research found that over time, elections in Nigeria have become more violent and fraudulent. All four regions in Nigeria were consistent with this trend except for Southwest Nigeria, which experienced reduction in violence levels from 2007 to 2011. Other interesting findings include highlighting Southeast Nigeria as the most violent and fraudulent region in both the 2003 and 2007 elections, and finding that the Northwest experienced unprecedented levels of fraud in the 2011 election, which is most likely a result of the rise of Boko Haram attacks. The thesis concludes with suggestions towards improvement for the 2015 election.

When Lies Matter: The Effect of Media Coverage of Misinformation in the Health Care Reform Debate on Public Opinion

by Jordan Humphries

Much has been made of mis-information in the media as of late—from PolitiFact’s Pulitzer-winning fact-checking to recent condemnation of the organization as biased in its corrections. The role of untruths in the health care reform debate has been examined by researchers fascinated by the spread of Sarah Palin’s 2009 “death panels” claim—one that garnered belief by 30% of Americans after the ex-governor’s mere mention of it, as well as the title, Lie of the Year by PolitiFact.

My study builds on contemporary research on misinformation with an experiment to determine the extent to which journalistic practices help propagate misperceptions about health care reform and political information more generally. The study exposed 744 participants to one of four stories: a control, a story quoting a Republican presidential candidate with a piece of health care reform misinformation, one with that quote corrected by PolitiFact, and a story with the quote and same correction instead attributed to The White House.

The study determined that PolitiFact, as a non-partisan fact-checking organization, is an effective tool for debunking misinformation, while coverage of policy facts as partisan differences of opinion (a frequent practice according to researchers) can dangerously direct citizens to form misinformation-influenced opinions about policies, like repealing the health care reform law and determining the law to be unconstitutional in this study. This study found that, despite decreased misperceptions in politically knowledgeable and attentive citizens, partisanship (support for political party and support for a candidate) as well as interest in topics related to the misinforming claim led to higher rates of misperceptions. This is to say that misperceptions can be corrected by explicitly labeling them false and backing up that ruling with a reliable source.

This study argues that journalists use resources like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact to buttress their reporting because, in this world of heightened partisan polarization, objectivity is rare and valued by citizens as a result. These organizations make smart tools for journalists because they prepare reports and make judgments about the truth of political claims within hours of their utterance.

In this hyper-mediated world, it can be just as easy to propagate misinformation as it can be to correct it, and if more journalists aided fact-checkers by making indictments on the basis of truth as opposed to getting both sides’ opinions, we may be able to shift the impetus to report the truth from journalists back to politicians to keep them honest under fear of humiliation by being the next Liar of the Year.

The Effects of the High School Experience on the Civic and Political Participation of College Students

by Natalie Butler

Between the 1970s and now, voter turnout among 18 to 24 year olds dropped steadily, and at a greater rate than older Americans. Turnout for the presidential elections in 2000, and to a greater extent in 2004 and especially 2008, increased, but young people still did not vote at levels comparable to older Americans. Most recently, during the midterm elections of 2010, young people represented 11% of all voters, compared to 12% of voters in 2006 and 11% in 2002. Although the rates of youth participation have recently increased, young people are still not voting at rates as high as their older counterparts, no matter which election one examines. At the same time, many states are cutting back on civic education requirements and changing curriculum in ways that put civic education at a disadvantage. With classes being taught to satisfy stringent requirements and often with standardized tests in mind, how can civics and government classes in high schools be best used to teach young people about our government and civic participation?

Why do young people vote or not? The goal of my thesis is to better understand how the high school experience affects the civic and political engagement of college students. I looked at different methods of teaching high school government, civics, and history classes to see if there are any commonalities among the high school experiences of voting students and non-voting students. I wanted to know if the high school classroom experience plays a role in how engaged a student will be once they are at a university. First, a discussion of other research evaluates the state of current civic education and participation among young people. Then, my research is discussed, which was conducted in one-on-one interviews.

The methods of instruction, the levels of participation and experiential learning, the role of current events and news, and the overall quality of the instructor and the course are evaluated. This project concludes with an analysis of findings, and recommendations for teaching civic education.

At the end of the project, I concluded the following: government and civics classes in America’s high schools can have an impact on youth voting habits and attitudes toward civic engagement. Using experiential learning techniques in the classroom, engaging parents, making issues relevant and relatable to young people, and practicing mock elections were some of the most promising practices that helped young people feel a sense of efficacy.

There are many other factors, such as family voting history and demographic indicators that play a large role in determining how someone engages with their community, but the classroom can be a tool to help create a class of involved citizens.

Indigenous Tourism and Economic Development: Building Community to Promote Development in the Valley of Liquiñe, Chile

by Derek Brinks

This study was conducted to understand tourism’s potential for development in an indigenous community. Can indigenous tourism projects bring development without sacrificing the local community’s culture, their belief system, and the environment that sustains their identity? What implications does this have for their political agency in the future? Fieldwork was conducted in the Valley of Liquiñe, Chile, with a Mapuche tourism initiative emphasizing ecotourism with a distinctive local culture. In order to achieve development that strengthens the local culture, develops sustainably with the environment, and provides for economic benefit throughout the community, this study identifies two necessary variables. First, local control of tourism is vital. Local leadership must be in control of the development of the tourism project, and the tourism enterprises must be locally owned. All involved must have the autonomy to make decisions for the future development of the community. Second, social capital must be present to strengthen local institutions and keep the tourism project on track. If the community has fostered this trust, cooperation and reciprocity, local institutions will develop to keep tourism development positive and manage relations with the government and external forces. Furthermore, when these factors are present, it seems that an indigenous tourism project is capable of empowering the community politically. Over the course of this research, it became clear that indigenous tourism, when implemented with local control and social capital, has the potential to provide development with identity and bring greater equality in politics. By developing economic power and organizing the community around a collective identity, tourism is empowering the Mapuche of Liquiñe to assert greater agency in Chilean politics.

The Mind and Sociability of the Democratic Man

by Jackson Archer

How does equality affect the mind and man’s artistic endeavors? What changes do an equal social condition bring to man’s relationship with others and with himself? The political and governmental consequences of equality are plentiful, but the effects of equality on the internal and external character of human beings are often over- looked. Alexis de Tocqueville outlines the effects of equality in Democracy in America, and describes at length the political as well as social changes that occur when an equal social condition is introduced. The pervasiveness of equality reaches much further than the realms of politics and government; equality affects many social and individual aspects of a political community. The study of the social influences derived from a political change unearths a wealth of surprising observations, and Tocqueville’s American analysis contains a plethora of remarks on the influence that equality has over a body politic.

Tocqueville analyzes equality’s role in the minds and hearts of those in an equal social condition and explains that the roots of many common social aspects of America lie in the country’s extensive system of equality. Tocqueville was an early commentator on the effects of democracy on an isolated country, as America was only roughly fifty years old at the time of his writing; this analysis provides an early view of democracy, yet one can still relate with it today. Many commonalities found in the society of America today can be explained if one traces their origin back to the foundation of the United States. To learn that the modern family rapport is heavily influenced by the prohibition of the laws of primogeniture, which occurred due to the desire for laws that favor equality, would surprise many. One can see the effects of equality in modern America even today, and this thesis is valuable in uncovering their origins from a primary source.

I decided to research Tocqueville after considering the origins of democracy and its place in the world. I found his work to be perfect for my interests; it covers democracy at an early age and in a unique country, it is from an outsider’s perspective, and it is written quite beautifully. Furthermore, I’ve always had an affinity for the history of art and science, as well as a strong interest in social relationships. Democracy in America allowed me to see how much equality effects society in non-political ways. Having never considered democracy in such a way, I wanted to learn more about these effects. The extent to which Tocqueville discusses equality is incredibly overwhelming; only by wading through the information was I able to arrive at my topic. I found his chapters on the development of arts and sciences under democracy to be especially interesting. I had never thought about the differences between aristocratic and democratic art, and I certainly had not imagined that some of the differences could be attributed to the political system itself. I learned that  Tocqueville was not just a brilliant philosopher and historian, but a profound early sociologist too. His discourse on relationships really drew my attention, and I sought to discover his feelings on love and its merits under democracy. The conclusions I reached were surprising.

Benefitting From Fear: The United States Political and Media Portrayal of Spillover Crime on the U.S.-Mexico Border

by Wilson Albright

The United States public perception of the spillover crime along the United States-Mexico border resulting from the Mexican drug cartel is skewed and misinformed. The United States side of the U.S.-Mexico border has been portrayed as an area plagued with crime and violence by many different sources, specifically the media and American politicians seeking political gain. While the Mexican side of the border is clearly a hostile area victim to corrupt law enforcement empowered by the ruthless drug cartels, their American sister cities are, contrary to common belief, some of the safest cities in the entire United States. In this thesis, I combine the statistical realities with theoretical insights to answer the following question: How and why has the American political community and media exaggerated spillover crime and violence from Mexico on the United States border and what does this mean for the United States?

I assert that both the media and political community exaggerate spillover violence on the U.S.-Mexico border to benefit from the fearful public perception it creates. I give a brief description of the issues in Mexico concerning the drug cartel crisis and how the United States and border communities in particular contribute to the situation. Following this situational background, I present the readers with the actual spillover violence and crime statistics, which are significantly lower than national averages. I then compare the national opinion and perception of the situation to that of the border city populations. I then describe my research over media portrayal of spillover violence, followed by an analysis explaining why the media exaggerates the realities. I do the same for the American political community along with an analysis as to why they exaggerate the situation as well. To conclude, I tie all of these different factors together and explain their significance to assert my thesis: that the United States media and political community portray and exaggerate the Mexican drug cartel spillover violence on the United States border to benefit from a fearful public.

Politicians and the media are focusing on the wrong problems and have the American public blind to the reality along the border. The real crime happening in Mexico, which has seen significant increases since 2006, has allowed the media and politicians alike to manufacture a fantasy along the U.S. side of the border. This thesis explores the incentives that reward politicians and the media for exaggerating the severity of spillover crime along the U.S.-border, and in doing so, explores various theories as to why they exploit a fearful public in general. Although I consistently refer specifically to the situation involving the public perception of the border, I maintain a high level of generality when exploring the different schools of thought concerning political and media utilization of fear. The border region is a special place that has been completely misconstrued and incorrectly portrayed as a terrible and lawless area plagued with crime and violence. Problems do exist on the border, and those that exist in Mexico must be dealt with. But because of the incentives in fear mongering, Americans are focusing on the wrong problems and in doing so the wrong solutions. In this thesis I look to examine why and how the media and politicians create fear, what this means for the border, and what this means for democracy. I strive to present a different and largely ignored perspective as to what America can do to improve the prosperity of the border on both sides, while not destroying the unique and important culture that took root in this region.

After 9/11: American Soft Power and the Arab Spring

by Grace Zhang

On Dec. 19th, 2010, a jobless, hopeless Tunisian col- lege graduate named Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest of the government’s autocratic rule and lack of economic opportunity. This event ignited outrage from millions of Arabs and sparked copycat acts of self-immolation throughout the Arab world. In Egypt, Bouazizi’s suicide was a wake-up call of sorts. As ordinary Egyptian citizens read more and more about such events and began blogging or using other social media to express their discontent with the government, they broadened their networks, communicated their ideas, and planned mass protests. On Jan. 14, 2011 the Tunisian president of 23 years, Ben Ali, stepped down amid the protests. The Tunisian example set the stage for other Arab countries, now emboldened, to take similar steps to topple their own ruthless dictators.

On Jan. 25, 2011, the first planned pro- tests were held across Egypt, with protestors calling for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. After 18 days of continuous mass protest, the protestors achieved their short- term goal of ousting Mubarak, and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), a body of 20 senior officers in the Egyptian military, assumed the role of maintaining law and order until a new president is elected. Since the first popular protests began in Tunisia and Egypt, many other Arab countries have also witnessed mass demonstrations to overthrow their dictators, protest police brutality, demand basic human rights, and support free and fair elections. As a result, this movement has been termed the “Arab Spring.”

The protests feature common techniques of civil resistance in the form of strikes, demonstrations, and rallies. Furthermore, activists and organizers have used social media like Facebook and Twitter to organize and raise awareness of the movement; thus, many have noted the importance of the Internet and social networking sites in spreading the revolution.

Ron Nixon of The New York Times espoused an atypical view when he asserted that the U.S. government’s democracy promotion efforts played a key role in training and equipping activists, thereby contributing to the Arab Spring uprisings. He singled out the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute, and Freedom House as organizations that were in part responsible for the Arab revolutions. I believe that the Middle East presents one of the greatest challenges to successful U.S. foreign policy. It is an area of continual unrest and one in which we must guard our strategic interests — oil and Israel. Though America has long paid lip service to democratic values abroad, its track record in the Arab world belies such rhetoric. Undoubtedly, the Arab Spring has changed the nature of U.S.-Arab relations and challenged the existing partnerships and “stability” of this region. In the years ahead, it will be necessary for the U.S. government to assess whether it truly values and prioritizes democracy over mere stability, and if so, whether it will continue to fund democracy promotion in the Arab world.

Many remember President George W. Bush’s legacy as a hard power-oriented one, as the military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan came to dominate discussions of foreign policy. I explore whether the hard power responses to 9/11 were complemented by a renewed focus on soft power programs in the Middle East as part of a broader strategy to secure America’s strategic interests. By focusing on USAID appropriations to Egypt, the largest Arab recipient of U.S. foreign aid, I determine whether the U.S. increased its democracy promotion efforts in Egypt. Finally, I ascertain the extent to which the U.S.’s support for liberal, democratic institutions in Egypt served as a catalyst to the Arab Spring.