Author Archives: jhkirkla

Representation, Competing Principals, and Waffling on Bills in U.S. Legislatures, with Jeffrey J. Harden

Abstract: Legislators are often placed in the position of representing the interests of their constituents against the preferences of their own party leaders. We develop a theoretical framework indicating that these cross-pressured legislators are more likely to initially support legislation and subsequently change their minds than are legislators whose constituents and leaders share similar preferences. Moreover, we expect this pattern to be most pronounced among members of majority parties than minority party members. We test our expectations using data on bill cosponsorship and final passage votes from 46 lower state legislative chambers and the U.S. House, finding considerable support for our theory.

Published: Forthcoming at Legislative Studies Quarterly. Find a pre-publication version here.

Find the supplemental appendix here.

Find the replication materials here.


Do Campaign Donors Influence Polarization? Evidence from Public Financing in the American States, with Jeffrey J. Harden

Abstract: Does the source of campaign funds influence legislative polarization? We develop competing theoretical expectations regarding the effects of publicly-financed elections on legislative voting behavior. To test these expectations, we leverage a natural experiment in the New Jersey Assembly in which public financing was made available to a subset of members. We find that public financing exerts substantively negligible effects on roll call voting. We then find a similar result in an examination of polarization with and without public financing across state legislatures. We conclude that, counter to the implied logic of the U.S. Supreme Court, pundits, and reformers, the source of campaign funds exerts minimal influence on polarization.

Published: Forthcoming at Legislative Studies Quarterly. Find a pre-publication version here.

Find the replication materials here.

Find the supplemental appendix here.

Holding Steady on Shifting Sands: Countermajoritarian Decision Making in the U.S. Courts of Appeals, with Matthew E.K. Hall and Jason Harold Windett

Abstract: Empirical claims that U.S. Supreme Court decisions tend to follow public opinion raise important questions about the countermajoritarian role of the American judiciary. Yet, for the vast majority of federal cases, the de facto court of last resort is actually a U.S. court of appeals. We examine the role of public opinion in shaping decisions on these courts. We argue that the courts of appeals’ position in the judicial hierarchy, lack of docket control, and lack of public attention encourage circuit judges to ignore public opinion and adhere to consistent legal rules; however, appeals by federal litigants are strongly associated with public opinion. Consequently, circuit judges actively resist ideological shifts in public opinion as they issue consistent rulings in the face of varying case facts. Applying multilevel modeling techniques to a data set of courts of appeals decisions from 1952 to 2002, we find strong support for our theory.

Published: Forthcoming at Public Opinion Quarterly.

Ideological Heterogeneity and Legislative Polarization in the United States

Abstract: Legislative parties respond to the changing preferences of the citizens they represent through the adaptation and replacement of their members. This creates an indirect electoral connection between the aggregate preferences of citizens and the aggregate behavior of legislative parties. In this research, I argue that legislators from moderate districts are the least likely to support their legislative parties and most likely to vote moderately during roll call votes. I also argue that states with low ideological variance among citizens are the most likely to have moderate districts. This implies that states with ideologically heterogeneous populations are more likely to have homogeneous, ideologically extreme legislative parties. Using measures of legislative ideal points and party cohesion from U.S. state legislative parties, empirical evidence largely supports my expectations. The polarization and internal homogeneity of state legislative parties is at least partly attributable to the citizens those parties represent.

Published: Political Research Quarterly. 2014. Vol 67 (3). Find the online version here!

Find the supplemental appendix here.

Find the replication materials here.

Partisanship and Reciprocity in Cross-Chamber Legislative Interactions, with R. Lucas Williams

Abstract: The bicameral nature of most U.S. legislatures implies that it is often in the interest of legislators to collaborate on legislation across chamber lines. In this research, we offer a novel theory of collaboration between upper and lower chamber members in U.S. legislatures. We expect that exogenous characteristics like party, constituency, and joint committee membership characterize collaboration across legislative chambers. Additionally, we expect that endogenous patterns of reciprocity will also characterize choices about cross-chamber collaboration. Using data on cross-chamber bill sponsorship in legislatures in Texas, Colorado, Maine, and Oklahoma, empirical evidence largely corroborates our expectations. Cross-chamber collaborative choices are reciprocal, and reciprocity occurs both within and between parties.

Published: The Journal of Politics. 2014. Vol 76 (3). Find the online version here!

Find the Replication data here.

Find the supplemental appendix here.

Chamber Size Effects on the Collaborative Structure of Legislatures

Abstract: The collective nature of legislating forces legislators to rely on one another for  information and support. This collaborative activity requires a choice about partnerships in an environment of uncertainty. The basic size and organization of a legislature amplifies this uncertainty in relational choices. Analysis of collaborative patterns between all the U.S. state legislators in 2007 corroborates this expectation, indicating that large legislatures have highly partisan collaborative networks with generally low density, while larger legislative committees mitigate these effects. Thus, even when the attributes of legislators do not change, the organizational size of the legislature can shape how those legislators interact.

Published: Legislative Studies Quarterly. 2014. Vol 39 (2). Read the manuscript here.

Find the Replication Materials Here.

Find the Supplemental Appendix Here.

Hypothesis Testing for Group Structure in Legislative Networks

Abstract: Scholars of social networks often rely on summary statistics to measure and compare the structures of their networks of interest. However, measuring the uncertainty inherent in these summaries can be challenging, thus making hypothesis testing for network summaries difficult. Computational and nonparametric procedures can overcome these difficulties by allowing researchers to generate reference distributions for comparison directly from their data. In this research, I demonstrate the use of nonparametric hypothesis testing in networks using the popular network summary statistic network modularity. I provide a method based on permutation testing for assessing whether a particular network modularity score is larger than a researcher might expect due to random chance. I then create a simulation study of network modularity and its simulated reference distribution I propose. Finally, I provide an empirical example of this technique using cosponsorship networks from U.S. state legislatures.

Published: State Politics and Policy Quarterly. 2013. Vol 13 (2).

Find the Published Article here!

Find the Replication Materials here!