New and Old Projects in Progress

Current Book Projects


Maps in Their Heads


If ``All politics is local,'' as Tip O'Neill famously stated, then understanding politics requires understanding how people and place interact. This project deepens our knowledge about how ordinary people use information about their environments to make decisions about politics in the following ways: It (1) improves the measurement of personally relevant places by creating an innovative map-drawing computer interface to a large scale survey; (2) clarifies the mechanism behind contextual effects by directly asking people to describe their environments; and (3) enhances our understanding of the causal relationship between place and attitudes by adding contextual information to a longitudinal study of political attitudes and behaviors.

For place to matter to an individual, it should to be personal. A boundary drawn by the Census or a state political party may contain meaningful places for some people, but it is not designed with any given individual in mind. Relationships between the characteristics of such geographies and individual attitudes and behaviors may be hard to interpret because of the heterogeneity in the psychological relationships between people and place. This project enhances the measurement of individuals' perceptions of their local communities by allowing them to draw boundaries of these places on maps; a self-drawn map will at least show us what area is personally relevant; and an online survey of a sample chosen to maximize variation on the racial characteristics (and changes) of people's environments will ask about the personal maps as well as about places that group people by administrative fiat.

While mapping allows improves the measurement and meaningfulness of observed relationships between place and person, researchers have long faced the difficulty of disentangling the fact that people choose to live in places based on their beliefs, attitudes, and interests, as much as (or perhaps more than) places may change such aspects of people. In any given observational cross-section, it is hard to differentiate the effects of place from those of selection. This project provides a way to address this problem by adding contextual information to the Youth-Parent Socialization Panel Study. In this study, a random sample of roughly 900 members of the high school graduating class of 1965 were tracked over 33 years of their lives; in addition to information about how political attitudes and behavior have changed over time, the study contains a record of residential mobility. The project will geocode the respondents' residences reported over the 33 year period and add information about the political, economic and social characteristics of those places to the dataset. The longitudinal data on people connected to places will allow description of the selection effect in action. These data will allow analysts to disentangle the effects of moving to a new place from the effects of life-cycle (by comparing similar people of the same ages who have and who have not moved).


Current Projects and Working Papers

(all titles are preliminary. comments are welcome. please do not cite without permission of author.)

Racial Context

Racial Context is Factual, but is Racial Threat Partisan? (with David Hendry).

Objective vs. Subjective Context: Questions about the Mechanism Linking Racial Context to Political Attitudes.

Multiracial Identities in Multiracial Contexts: The Conditional Political Effects of Race, Identity, and Environment. Examination of the effects of racial identity and context on voting for Proposition 209 by whites, blacks, Asians, and Latinos (with Katherine Drake Simmons).

Questions of Citizenship

`You've Flown the Flag. Now What?': Patriotism, Civic Duty, and Perceptions of National Identity (with Vincent Hutchings, James Jackson, Ronald Brown, and Katherine Drake Simmons).

Transnationalism and Immigrant Civic Engagement in London, Madrid, and Berlin (with Laura Potter).

Research project on Muslim immigrants in Europe (with Ken Kollman, Mark Tessler, and James Jackson).

Other Older Projects

National Politics Study (with James Jackson, Ronald Brown, and Vincent Hutchings). Funded by NSF and Carnegie.