David Doherty Assistant Professor of Political Science
I am an assistant 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;
the relationships between core personality traits (the Big Five) and political attitudes and behavior;
how campaign communications affect voters' attidues 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.
Assistant Professor, Loyola University Chicago, 2011-present.
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
Although majority rule is often thought of as a central tenet of democratic rule, what it means for a Senator to respect this tenet is often unclear. I report findings from an experiment embedded in a national survey that examines how characteristics of a Senator's behavior that are tied to competing ideas about what it means to respect majority rule affect how people evaluate that Senator. I find that, in the aggregate, people support the idea that Senators should prioritize the preferences of a majority of their constituents, even when this thwarts nationally supported legislation. I also find that people prefer Senators who prove decisive in the defeat of bills by majoritarian means (rather than by joining an filibuster). However, these "process preferences" appear to be quite malleable: they are strongly conditioned by preferences regarding the policy outcome the Senator's behavior produces.
How and by what means do social forces shape the decision to participate in politics? In this paper we present evidence that how an individual is evaluated by others is affected by whether or not she votes and that variation in the social rewards to voting may help explain participation decisions. We first show that survey measures of social norms about voting predict county-level turnout. We then present a series of experiments that each provide evidence that information about whether a person votes directly affects how favorably a person is viewed. Importantly, we also compare the rewards and sanctions associated with voting to other activities, including the decisions to recycle, volunteer, and return one’s library books on time. Finally, we find that individuals are willing to take costly action in a dictator game to reward political participation. This work adds to the growing literature documenting the important influence of social concerns on political choices.
What do people in the Arab world have in mind when they voice support for "democracy" and what shapes these conceptions of democracy? 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 important explain variation in how people in this region think about democracy. We also find that the individual-level correlates of how people conceive of democracy are broadly consistent across the four populations we examine. Our findings contribute to our understanding of the prospects for lasting democratic institutions in this region and the policies that may encourage citizen commitment to democratic institutions.
A growing body of research finds that people care about more than policy outcomes--they also care about how and why those outcomes are achieved. However, little work has examined how people explain representatives' behavior. I report findings from national surveys and two survey experiments that shed light on these dynamics. I find that people attribute motives to representatives along three distinct dimensions and that both party cues and policy preferences can affect which motives people see as the most important explanations for a representative's behavior. I also find suggestive evidence that people are not strictly averse to representatives who appear to be motivated by political self-interest. Instead they appear to be more concerned with the extent to which they are motivated by their genuinely held preferences and a desire to serve the public.
A substantial literature has used field experiments to assess the mobilization effects of non-partisan mailers. However, little work has examined whether partisan mailers affect voter attitudes as intended. We report findings from two field experiments conducted in cooperation with partisan campaign strategists that allow us to assess the effects of negative and positive mailers. We find that mailers can affect voter attitudes and that both negative and positive mailers stimulate intent to turnout. Finally, we present findings from an online experiment that suggests that responses to campaign mailers in the field may diverge from responses in less natural settings.
Previous research has found that public responses to political scandals vary. Here we focus on one factor that may be particularly influential in determining the extent to which political scandals can be used against a candidate-the length of time since it occurred. We report findings from two survey experiments in which we manipulate the amount of time that has elapsed since a politician engaged in a scandalous behavior. Our evidence suggests that the effectiveness of using mistakes to challenge a candidate's character dissipates (but does not disappear) as a sex scandal recedes into the past. However, the passage of time does not appear to affect responses to all scandals in the same way. Specifically, we find no evidence that the passage of time diminishes voters' negative response to a tax evasion scandal. This suggests that voters see some types of scandalous behavior as indicative of enduring character flaws, while they see others as reflecting important, but perhaps more ephemeral lapses in judgment.
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
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)