David Doherty Assistant Professor of Political Science
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. I have also coauthored a number of papers on the relationships between personality traits and political attitudes and behavior. In other work, I examine questions related to teaching and practicing political methodology.
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
What decision rules do people want representatives to follow when formulating and advocating for their policy positions? I report findings from an experiment embedded in a national survey that examines how people respond to two procedural characteristics of a Senator's decision making-whether they prioritize their state's preferences over those of the nation and whether their behavior is decisive in determining the outcome of a bill either through majoritarian means or through their participation in a filibuster. I find that, in the aggregate, people support the idea that Senators are, first and foremost, responsible for responding to their state and that people are averse to the use of the filibuster. However, I also find that, contrary to much existing research which suggests that people evaluate procedures even-handedly, the "procedural effects" I identify are strongly conditioned by people's preferences regarding policy outcomes.
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.
What do people in the Arab world have in mind when they voice support for "democracy"? While some in this region define democracy in terms of the procedures that elites typically cite as essential to democracy, many define democracy in terms of the substantive outcomes they imagine it might produce. We examine which individual-level factors are associated with people defining democracy in procedural, rather than substantive, terms. Our evidence suggests that factors associated with the likelihood that an individual learns to define democracy in formal, procedural terms as well as factors that may lead individuals to project their substantive desires onto the (broadly supported) term "democracy" shape conceptions of democracy. Our analysis also indicates that the individual-level correlates of how people define democracy are broadly consistent across the four populations we examine. Our findings have implications for our understanding of the prospects for lasting democratic institutions in this region.
This paper examines the effects of campaign advertising using a unique research design that allows us to compare the effects of positive and negative campaign mailers using similar treatment regiments in two field experiments and one survey experiment. The findings suggest public responses to negative advertising vary across contexts and methodological approaches. The first field experiment, conducted in a relatively low-intensity campaign environment, demonstrates that both negative and positive campaign mailers can affect evaluations of candidates and stimulate intent to turnout. The second field experiment was conducted later in the same campaign cycle, when targeted voters were being bombarded with campaign communications. Evidence from that study suggests that the mailers stimulated intent to turnout, but did not affect evaluations of the candidates. Finally, in contrast to the findings from the field experiments, when citizens are presented with the same mailers in the context of an online survey, exposure to a negative advertisement depresses intent to turnout.
Most politicians seek to avoid committing political missteps, such as involvement in a scandal or a policy flip-flop. Still, few errors amount to automatic political death sentences. Some past missteps provide opponents with powerful ammunition, while others end up being far less damaging. In this paper we focus on one factor that may be particularly influential in determining the extent to which political missteps can be used against a candidate—the length of time since the misstep 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 negative behavior (either a scandal or a policy flip-flop). Overall, our evidence suggests that the effectiveness of using past mistakes to challenge a candidate’s character dissipates (but does not disappear) as the misstep recedes into the past. We also find, however, that the consequences of the passage of time for a policy flip-flop depend on whether the legislator moved in the "right" or "wrong" direction (from the voter’s perspective). Voters prefer politicians who have consistently supported a desired position to those who only recently adopted that (same) desired position, but are unwilling to reward a politician for holding a consistently undesirable position. These findings advance our understanding of the electoral consequences of political missteps.
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.
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.
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)