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About Me

I am a PhD candidate in the political science department at UCLA. I came to UCLA after receiving my masters of science in economics from the University of Texas at Austin and then teaching introductory micro and macroeconomics for one year at a community college in San Antonio, TX. Before I attended UT Austin, I receive my BA from the University of Texas at San Antonio in political science and minored in economics and mathematics. Currently I am adjunct faculty at California State University-Northridge where I teach the American presidency and political methodology.

American Politics

My main area of research involves the American presidency and its electoral politics. This includes voting behavior, electoral competition strategies, coalition formation amongst political factions, and the targeted spending of federal pork barrel projects. I am currently working on a three essay dissertation project.

In my job market paper, "Do Americans Respond to Presidential Pork?," I investigate whether pork barrel spending by the president changes citizens opinion of him or the candidate of his party or if ideology and party identification drown this out. I find that Americans do not reward the president for sending more pork to their county, contrary to what some studies have found. Although, I do find a statistically significant result for the case that citizens are more likely to turn out to vote as a response to a higher level of spending in their county, these results are not substantively significant (it hardly changes the probability that they will turn out to vote by any considerable level).

NEW PAPER: In one of my most recent research papers, I analyze what causes people to have extreme political opinions. I test the theory that people with higher income are more economically conservative, for which I find moderate evidence. I also test the theory that the more politically sophisticated a person is the more extremely she will agree with the policy position of her partisan identity. Using a new measure recently developed in the literature to determine a person's level of political sophistication, I find very strong evidence for this theory. I also find that the relationship between political sophistication and extreme political opinions has been strengthening over time since 1988.

I also do research on American political parties. In my paper, "A Factional Theory of Parties," I investigate the conditions under which groups in society coalesce to form large-tent parties previous to any election. I do this by constructing a formal model where groups seek to win office to implement their ideal points. These groups can either run on their own in the election or join forces in coalitional parties. Each group has a set of activists who are able to influence independent voters by contributing campaign resources. Coalitional parties are possible if at least one of two conditions are true. First, if there are no intense policy demanders (groups who care mostly about one policy dimension), the influence of activists' campaign activity must be very significant. Second, if are many intense policy demanders and many policy dimensions then the influence of activists can be very weak and coalitional parties will still form. The reason why they form is very similar to vote-trading (logrolling) in legislatures.

NEW PAPER: In another of my recent papers, "Why Trump Won," I do an empirical study of the 2016 presidential election. In an analysis at the county level of the change in Republican vote share from previous elections, I find that higher percentage of white residents, less college education, and a higher percentage of older people were significant factors in determining if a county was more likely to be supporting of Trump than previous Republican candidates. How much manufacturing decreased was not a significant factor at all. The level of unemployment was a significant factor, but only for being more likely to not vote for Trump than in previous elections. Furthermore, in an individual level analysis using survey data from the ANES, I find that attitudes toward race and immigration were much larger factors in predicting a vote for Trump than they were for Romney in 2012. I conclude that attitudes towards race and culture were the main factors more so than economics that drove people to be more supportive of Trump than they were of previous Republican candidates.

Methods and Formal Theory

In all of my research, I implement a variety of research methods that usually include both formal theory and data analysis. This includes ideal point estimation of survey respondents using procedures like Item Response Theory or Multidimensional Scaling. I also do a variety of maximum likelihood methods for structural models. For formal theory, I do research in spatial competition amongst candidates. I also use game theory to analyze how different interest groups form party coalitions in American politics.

Teaching

My main strength in teaching is American politics. This includes introductory course (which I currently teach at Pepperdine), electoral behavior, political parties, and the Presidency. Another one of my great strengths is teaching game theory and social choice theory, and I give an example of this in my lecture notes found on my Teaching page. I also have experience teaching statistical analysis and research methods in political science. Currently, I am planning course material for a class on the presidency and electoral politics in America.