"Us and Them: Foreign Threat and Domestic Polarization" (with Dominic Tierney), Revise and Resubmit at Journal of Conflict Resolution.
Can foreign threats reduce domestic polarization? This is a critically important question for the United States given the severity of internal polarization and the emergence of China as a potentially unifying foreign threat. Prior literature argues that external danger can reduce internal polarization, pointing to increased unity in the United States during World War II, the Cold War, and after the 9/11 attacks. However, a recent and seminal empirical analysis finds little evidence that, in general, foreign threats reduce domestic polarization. We offer a novel theoretical argument about when external danger will rally Americans based on the nexus between the vividness of foreign danger and bipartisan elite agreement about the nature of the threat. We test our theory through a series of survey experiments. We find that even vivid foreign threats do not reduce domestic polarization and therefore the threat from China alone may not be sufficient to spur domestic unity. However, vivid foreign threats in combination with policymaker agreement about the severity of the threat does significantly reduce domestic polarization. Overall, our study establishes that foreign peril can reduce domestic polarization under certain circumstances, and demonstrates that how elites react to foreign threats is highly important in shaping wider domestic effects.
"To Compete or Retreat? The Global Diffusion of Reconnaissance Strike" (with Michael C. Horowitz), Revise and Resubmit at Journal of Peace Research.
The reconnaissance strike complex is a critical element of modern military power, and realist theories would have predicted rapid proliferation after its public debut in the first Gulf War. In fact, the reconnaissance strike complex has proliferated slowly. To explain this puzzle, we theorize that interstate security threats significantly impact proliferation, but not in the way traditionally presumed. Drawing on the economics literature and game theoretic insights from political science, we argue that the relationship should resemble an inverted-U. When states have rivals with moderate reconnaissance strike capabilities, they have security incentives to compete with them. However, when states face highly advanced adversaries, it becomes more difficult to escape or match their competition, making acquisition less appealing. While most prior research focuses on narrower aspects of the reconnaissance strike complex like missiles, we test our theory on a novel dataset tracking country-level acquisition of eight aspects of the reconnaissance strike complex from 1980-2017. We find strong support for our inverted-U argument, which contributes to the literature by helping explain both why some states continue to invest heavily in conventional capabilities despite an already-large lead over their adversaries and why other states instead opt to invest in alternative capabilities rather than balancing symmetrically.
"Think Globally, Act Locally: The Determinants of Local Policymakers' Support for Climate Policy" (with Sabrina B. Arias), Revise & Resubmit at Journal of Politics.
[Washington Post Article][Harvard Belfer Center Presentation]
Given the lack of sufficient progress at the national level to combat climate change, local environmental initiatives have taken on increased importance. However, relatively little research examines the policy preferences of local policymakers themselves, whether the design features of climate policies impact their preferences, and whether policymaker and public preferences are contradictory or congruent. To address these gaps in the literature, we conduct a conjoint experiment on over 500 local policymakers and pair this elite experiment with an identical replication conducted on the American public. Per our theoretical expectations, we find that a range of climate policy design elements have a significant impact on policymaker support, and elite preferences are largely congruent with public preferences. Although national polarization over climate change suggests hope for progress is far-fetched, our findings demonstrate the probability of policy adoption can be increased by strategic design and local climate initiatives can potentially gain the support of both policymakers and members of the public.