Hart Wins NSF Grant

Austin Hart has been awarded a dissertation improvement grant from the National Science Foundation. The grant will allow Hart to conduct a series of experiments as part of his project on “Campaigning for the Economy: Campaign Rhetoric and the Economic Vote in the U.S. and Mexico.”

Hart’s dissertation explains how people form perceptions about the economy and the extent to which those perceptions affect voters’ political decisions. By conducting experiments, in which participants will read different accounts of the economy in newspaper articles, Hart will be able to test, in a controlled environment, the dependence of people’s economic perceptions on the ways in which the economy is presented to them.

While one might think that social scientists have amassed a large body of knowledge about people’s economic perceptions, this is not the case. Rather, much knowledge is lacking about basic questions such as how people develop opinions about the economy and what they do with those opinions. Further, the impact of political campaigns on voters’ decisions remains contested.

Hart believes that people’s economic perceptions are very much up for grabs during political campaigns – political campaigns, and how they present the economy, shape people’s perceptions, which in turn shapes their voting behavior. His experiments, to be conducted in multiple cities in the United States and Mexico, will provide direct, controlled tests of these questions.

Hart’s previous research, “Death of the Partisan? Globalization and Taxation in South America, 1990-2006,” will be published next year in Comparative Political Studies. The article finds that the partisan makeup of government was a reliable indicator of tax revenue, and that, by embracing the value added tax, pro-market political parties generated more tax revenue than did interventionist parties on the left of the political spectrum.