Welcome! I am a post-doctoral associate with the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. My research examines political representation, policy responsiveness to partisan politics, and the development and implications of elite and public attitudes for political conflict and policy outcomes, with a particular focus on state politics and environmental policy. In my quantitative work, I assess the behavioral and institutional mechanisms by which partisan polarization and nationalization affect public policy in the American states. In my qualitative work, I study the politics of interpretation: how do political actors perceive, portray, and evaluate political issues, problems, and proposals, and what are the implications for policy outcomes? Read more about my research and work experience in this student spotlight feature from MIT News.
My dissertation probes the implications of political polarization for state-level environmental politics, along with the extra-partisan drivers of local environmental policy decisions. In one paper, I explore the public basis for environmental protection by estimating state-level public opinion about environmental protection from the late 1970s through 2016. I show that regional differences in public views about environmental protection have declined, whereas state publics have sorted more cleanly into partisan camps in every state. I also find that economic tradeoffs have increased in salience, opening up new research opportunities to explore how elite rhetoric has contributed to changing public priorities. My second paper assesses the implications of polarization and nationalization of the American political parties for state-level regulatory enforcement. I use a regression discontinuity design and find that partisan leaders in the state legislatures and governors' mansions cause meaningful shifts in Clean Air Act enforcement. The paper carries fundamental questions from the state politics literature into a new context--administrative policy--and it provides evidence for the differential mechanisms of political control available to the two branches of state government. In the third paper I move beyond public attitudes about environmental topics in the abstract to assess local views of one particularly salient environmental topic: energy. I apply a framework rooted in social psychology to explain how sense of place shapes residents' interpretations and evaluations of large-scale energy transmission infrastructure as a threat or an opportunity. Read more about these papers and my other collaborative and independent projects on my research page.
I earned my PhD from MIT's Departments of Political Science and Urban Studies & Planning. Prior to that adventure, I grew up in Birmingham, AL, and earned a B.A. at the University of Virginia and Masters degrees in environmental policy and urban planning from the University of Michigan. Between undergrad and grad school I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Honduras and worked with the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection and Office of International Affairs. If I'm away from my desk you'll likely find me in the mountains.