Working Papers

2. "Policy or Party?  The Strategic and Expressive Motivations of Verified Donors." With Joshua Clinton and Gregory Huber. Current draft available by request.

Abstract: Do donors give primarily to express their personal policy positions or to help their party win elections? The extent to which individual donors are responsible for creating rather than merely responding to a polarized political environment depends critically on the answer to this question. Using a series of experimental vignettes given to 7,000 verified donors, we disentangle how candidate ideology and strategic context affect donors' reported likelihood of giving in both general and primary elections. In both general and primary election match-ups candidate positioning matters, but the effects are asymmetric -- more moderate candidates are much less likely to be supported than much more ideologically extreme candidates, especially by ideologically extreme donors.  The strategic context also matters -- donors are less likely to give to contests that favor a party, but much more likely to give when the opposition candidate is ideologically extreme. Common measures of candidate viability have no impact on donor responses.  Our findings raise important questions about donors' responsibility for increasingly polarized candidates as well as the assumption that donors give expressively and uniformly based on personal policy preferences.

1. "Everything in Moderation, Including Moderation: The Effect of Extremist Nominations on Campaign Fundraising." Current draft available by request.

Abstract: Are donors responsible for the election of extreme legislators? Fierce partisan polarization is one of the defining features of the contemporary U.S. Congress, and determining whether campaign contributions are the culprit is a first step in finding solutions for mitigation. Scholars have convincingly documented the relationship between candidates' positions and their fundraising -- with extreme candidates receiving greater contributions from individuals and moderates receiving more support from PACs -- leading many to conclude that donors are to blame for the rise of polarization. However, this evidence is correlational due to the endogeneity of candidate positioning to metrics of success such as fundraising, so the observed relationship may not be driven by candidate positioning per se. Given donors' and PACs' stake in electoral outcomes, strategic considerations may weigh more heavily on their donation decisions than ideology. Using a regression discontinuity design, I estimate the effect of "as-if randomly" nominating an extremist over a moderate on general election fundraising success. Contrary to the expectations of existing research, I find no increase in individual contributions nor decrease in PAC contributions when the extremist is the nominee. A subgroup analysis by seat type similarly fails to detect any effect of nominating an extremist on campaign receipts even in races where it should be most apparent. These null results cast doubt on the causality of the relationship between candidates' positions and their fundraising success, and call into question the stylized fact of ideology-motivated political donors.

Work In Progress

1. "Campaign Positioning and Majority-Minority Differences in Legislative Representation."