David Doherty Associate Professor of Political Science
I am an associate professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago where I teach courses on American politics and political behavior.
My research addresses a variety of issues related to political attitudes and behavior. I am particularly interested in:
public perceptions and evaluations of political processes--how people want political actors to make decisions, what procedures they view as fair and unfair, and how they make inferences about what drives representatives and other political elites;
lab, survey, and field experimental research methods;
how elite communications affect voters' attitudes and behavior;
innovative approaches to teaching political concepts and methods to undergraduate and graduate students.
My work has appeared in journals including The American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, The Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Behavior, American Politics Research, Social Science Quarterly, Political Research Quarterly, and Journal of Political Science Education. See below for a full list of my publications and working papers, including links to papers.
Associate Professor, Loyola University Chicago, 2016-present.
Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago, 2011-2016.
PhD, Political Science: University of Colorado, 2008 Fields of Specialization: American Politics, Political Methodology
Dissertation: "Perceived Motivations in the Political Arena".
Committee: Jennifer Wolak (advisor), Ken Bickers, Vanessa Baird, John McIver, and Chick Judd
B.A., Political Science: New College, Sarasota, FL, 1999
Doherty, David and Peter Schraeder. Forthcoming. "Social Signals and Participation in the Tunisian Revolution." Journal of Politics.
Doherty, David, Conor M. Dowling, Gerber, Alan S. and Gregory A. Huber. 2017. "Are Voting Norms Conditional? How Electoral Context and Peer Behavior Shape the Social Returns to Voting." Journal of Politics 79: 1095-1100.
Doherty, David, Conor M. Dowling, and Michael G. Miller. "Does Polarization Have Local Roots? Evidence from a Conjoint Experiment on Party Chairs and Primary Voters."
We leverage data from two surveys that each included a conjoint experimental design-a sample of 2016 primary voters and a sample of county party chairs-to examine the extent to which polarization may be rooted in misperceptions among local party chairs regarding the policy preferences of their base. In the chair sample we examine the effects of candidates' policy positions and disposition toward compromise on chairs' assessments of their viability in a primary election. We compare these effects to the effects of the same candidate traits in a design where primary voters were asked which candidate they would prefer in a primary election. In line with existing work, we find that Democrats see willingness to compromise as more attractive than Republicans. However, chairs underestimate voters' taste for compromise. Chairs assessments of the effects of candidates' positions on economic issues closely track primary voters' preferences. However, chairs from both parties view liberal social positions as more electorally problematic than voters' preferences suggest-particularly on the issue of gun laws.
Doherty, David, Conor M. Dowling, and Michael G. Miller. "The Effects of Candidate Race and Gender on Party Chairs' Assessments of Electoral Viability."
We conducted a national survey of local party chairs that included a conjoint experiment to assess the effects of candidates' race and gender on chairs' assessments of their likelihood of winning a primary election in their area. Chairs from both parties did not view women candidates as less likely than men to win the support of their base, but did view Latina/o and black candidates as substantially less likely to win a primary in their area. The disadvantage chairs believe minority candidates face is insensitive to variation in county characteristics among Republican chairs, but is attenuated among Democratic chairs serving counties with larger minority populations. Our findings suggest that officials from both parties-who are presumably attuned to voters' preferences-believe that minority candidates face an uphill battle with their base. This perception may color chairs' decisions about which candidates to recruit and most vigorously support.
Doherty, David, Conor M. Dowling, and Michael G. Miller. "Local Party Organization Engagement and Election Outcomes."
Can engaged local party organizations improve the party's electoral prospects in the contemporary United States? An original survey of county party chairs reveals substantial variation in chairs' involvement in elections. We assess the relationship between party engagement and county-level outcomes in "up ballot" races, leveraging a newly available measure of county ideology to account for an important potential confound. We find that more engaged parties can improve electoral prospects, but that this relationship is confined to counties where the party's presidential candidate lost the popular vote in the previous presidential election. In counties where the party's candidate won in the previous election we find marginally significant negative or null relationships between party engagement and performance, suggesting that local party engagement either faces diminishing returns in counties where the party is advantaged, or that these organizations pursue different-perhaps less broadly accommodating-strategies when their party is advantaged.
Doherty, David and Laurel Harbridge. "Passing the Buck in Congress: The Extent and Effectiveness of Blaming Others for Inaction"
The health of a democracy relies on citizens holding elected officials accountable when they fail to implement policies that serve the public. However, the separation of powers embedded in the American political system can make it difficult for citizens to make sense of who is to blame when policy solutions are not reached. Strategic politicians may take advantage of this by blaming the opposing party or those in other institutions when policies supported by the public are not enacted, harming the opposing party and institutional reputations in the process. We examine the consequences of elected officials blaming other institutions in their communications with the public. We leverage a survey experiment to examine how effective these "pass the buck" strategies are at shaping public attitudes about the individual blaming others, as well as attitudes about the group being blamed. The findings have important implications for our understanding of the extent to which the separation of powers system provides representatives with a way to avoid electoral punishment by deflecting blame, and how party and institutional reputations can be affected by this type of behavior.
I examine the public's stated preferences about the mode of representation congressional representatives should provide. I also use experimental designs to assess the consequences of these preferences. The evidence I present demonstrates that, like normative and empirical scholars, the public is conflicted about how the representation relationship should work. This said, the experimental evidence I present shows that people are more inclined to reward some modes of representation than others. I also find that, in some situations, policy preferences substantially affect how people resolve their conflicting feelings about which mode of representation is best. The findings offer new insight into how the public thinks about the representation relationship and the potential electoral consequences of a legislator prioritizing one mode of representation over another.
What do people in the Arab world have in mind when they voice support for "democracy" and what shapes these conceptions of democracy? The answer to this question is likely to have important implications for the prospects of establishing lasting democratic institutions in this region. The evidence we report here demonstrates that while some in this region prioritize rules and procedures like elections and free speech in their conceptions of democracy, many see the substantive outcomes democracy might produce as more essential. We find that individual-level characteristics associated with the likelihood that a person is exposed to procedural conceptions of democracy, as well as factors that may lead individuals to see reduction in poverty and inequality as particularly desirable explain variation in how people in this region think about democracy. These findings offer insight into the policies that may encourage citizen appreciation of and commitment to democratic institutions.
We use variation produced by the Electoral College—the creation of battleground and non battleground states—to examine explanations for why people vote. We employ a longer time series (1980-2008) than previous research to gauge the effect of battleground status on state-level turnout. Our model includes (1) midterm elections, allowing us to directly compare the effect of battleground status with the broader increase in turnout associated with presidential elections, and (2) state fixed effects, which capture persistent state-level factors related to turnout. We find that the turnout boost from a presidential election is eight times the effect of being a battleground state. This suggests turnout is primarily linked to factors affecting the entire electorate, such as the social importance of presidential elections, rather than factors that influence just a portion of the country, such as intensive campaigning and mobilization efforts or a greater chance of casting a decisive vote.
The legitimacy of democratic election results rests on the perceived fairness of the rules and procedures for voting. New democracies, for example, go to great length to install democratic institutions, while one of the hallmarks of long-standing democracies is strong institutions protecting the electoral process. In this paper, we argue that beliefs about these democratic institutions, and not just their existence, are of central importance to legitimate elections. We show that even in the United States doubts about democratic institutions are surprisingly prevalent: We find that 36 percent of respondents to a nationally representative survey hold doubts that the choices they make on their ballots remain anonymous. We also present evidence that polling place voters experience a variety of situations that might violate the privacy of their voting process. Concerns about the anonymity of the ballot are greater among those who have not previously voted and for those voting with electronic machines and by mail. These findings suggest an important divergence between public perceptions about the secret ballot and the institutional status of the secret ballot in the United States, a divergence that may have important consequences. More broadly, this evidence suggests that individual beliefs should not be ignored when considering the effects and operation of political institutions.
Awards and Fellowships
Best Paper Award (APSA Experimental Methods Section): "The Effects of Candidate Race and Gender on Party Chairs' Assessments of Electoral Viability."
LUC Summer Research Stipend: "Using Machine Learning and Experiments to Examine the Effectiveness and Extent of Passing the Buck in Congress."
LUC Summer Research Stipend: "The Public's Concept of Representation."
Bonjean Award (Southwestern Social Sciences Association): "Pushing 'Reset': The Conditional Effects of Coaching
Replacements on College Football Performance."
LUC Summer Research Stipend: "Public Responses to Negative Political Information."
LUC Summer Research Stipend: "Public Preferences about the Representation Relationship."
National Science Foundation Grant: "Social and Psychological Dimensions of Ballot Secrecy" (PIs: Alan Gerber and Gregory A. Huber)
Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS) grant: "Who Do People Think Representatives Should Respond To: Their Constituents or the Country?"
Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences (CARTSS) Scholars grant: "Deciding What is Fair" (Co-PI: Jennifer Wolak)
Alumni Teaching Fellowship, New College (Sarasota, FL)