Christopher P. Donnelly
- Ph.D., Political Science, University of California-Davis (expected June 2017)
- M.A., Political Science, University of California-Davis (March 2015)
- B.A., Political Science, Vanderbilt University (May 2008)
Primary Field: American Politics
Secondary Field: Political Methodology
PhD expected June 2017
Dissertation Committee Composition
Erik Engstrom (Chair), Frances E. Lee (University of Maryland-College Park), Cheryl Boudreau, and Jim Adams
My research agenda centers around American representation, with a particular interest in the means by which legislators represent their constituents as well as the mechanisms by which citizens evaluate and respond to those who represent them.
Focused on the relationship between U.S. Senators and their constituents, my dissertation consists of three chapters, each of which examines such a particular mechanism by which citizens might evaluate their U.S. Senators or the U.S. Senate candidates with which they are presented.
The first chapter, which was published in the June 2015 issue of Electoral Studies, seeks to explain the emergence of split-party U.S. Senate delegations--the phenomenon by which a state's voters elect one Democrat and one Republican to represent them in the Senate. Specifically, the article assesses whether split-party U.S. Senate delegations arise from strategic "balancing," whereby voters seek to bring the average preferences of their state's two senators closer to the middle and, as a result, might choose the U.S. Senate contender to whom they are less ideologically proximate.
The second chapter, which currently has a "Revise & Resubmit" at Legislative Studies Quarterly, employs survey data regarding individuals' perceptions of their senators' voting behavior on various issues to assess the degree to which citizens use party cues to infer their senators' roll call behavior. More importantly, I examine the degree to which use of such cues might lead citizens astray, as party cues will lead to the wrong inference when a senator votes against her party.
The third and final chapter is motivated by the fact that while a great deal of research has examined whether female candidates for office have a more difficult time being elected than their male counterparts, little has been done to examine how the interaction between a voter's own sex and partisanship might condition the ultimate answer to this question, especially with respect to recent elections. Moreover, most of the individual-level analysis that has been done to probe this question has relied upon survey data in which the number of respondents per electoral constituency is relatively sparse, making it difficult to offer robust estomates of how candidate gender affects vote choice, especially if one wants to the explore the conditional relationship in which I am interested. With these concerns in mind, I employ exit polling data from general elections taken across 251 U.S. Senate (and state gubernatorial) contests held between 2000 and 2012, which when combined contains nearly 400,000 respondents, and am thus readily able subset voters by gender and partisanship. I find that the relationship between candidate gender and vote choice is indeed conditioned by the gender and partisanship of voters rather than uniform across all members of the electorate.
Each of these chapters, then, contributes to our understanding of how voters use cues to assess and make decisions about those that represent them, or seek to represent them, and in turn lends new insight into the linkages between political elites and the mass public.