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Graig Klein
Applying a quantitative approach to the study of terrorism

“I wanted to be a politician when I was young, but after completing my undergraduate degree in political science I interned for the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq’s office in Washington, DC
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Scott Boddery


Dissertation Title: "The Same Passions for Party and Power: The Executive's Influence on Supreme Court Independence"

Chair: Jeff Yates

Committee: Wendy Martinek, Michael McDonald

Broadly, Scott's work entails empirical legal research. His dissertation addresses the iterative relationship between U.S. presidents and Supreme Court justices. Beyond his dissertation, Scott's research focuses on legal decision-making, Supreme Court legitimacy and public opinion, experimental design, and the U.S. presidency. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming in several peer-reviewed outlets.

Katherine Felt


Dissertation Title: The Effects of Exit Quality on the Strategic Dynamics of Civil War

Chair: David Clark

Committee: Ben Fordham, Michael Weintraub

Dissertation Synopsis: The dissertation argues that the quality of options available for civilians to exit from conflict zones shapes civilian choices to flee, and thus impacts the dynamics of civil conflict. To this end, I introduce a new measure of exit value, which accounts for both the forces that push civilians to flee - primarily violence against civilians - as well as the quality of the destinations available for flight. This includes original collection of time-series data on state practices towards refugees and asylum-seekers, comprising border closures, refoulement, and violence against refugees and asylum-seekers. Most immediately, this adds a new and vital element to predicting refugee flows; while violence makes civilians willing to flee, they may still lack the opportunity to do so. Low-quality exits, in conjunction with violence against civilians, lead to larger at-risk populations within conflict states, which creates larger pools of recruits and supporters for armed groups, greater attraction for humanitarian aid flows that are vulnerable to capture and fund the continuation of conflict, and slower economic recovery following the cessation of conflicts.

Amuitz Garmendia


Dissertation Title: Units Versus Units: Understanding Cooperation and Competition Dynamics in Asymmetric Federations

Chair: Olga Shvetsova

Committee: Mikhail Filippov, Will Heller

Dissertation Synopsis: Ever since the end of the World War II, the institutionalization of territorial asymmetries has been largely presented in literature as a mean of settling secessionist conflicts. My dissertation addresses the fundamental issue of stability in asymmetric federations through the prism of the diverse incentives involved in the renegotiation of constitutional distribution of territorial power. Specifically, by introducing a second dimension to classical models of distributive bargaining, I analyze the existing incentives for both territorial and political cooperation and competition in these contexts. I formalize federal bargaining in the specific context of those countries that have recognized de jure asymmetrical autonomy to one or few of their units. The implications of this model are tested empirically in various federations and quasi-federations. Hence, this project contributes to our understanding of how institutions affect choices and outcomes.

Graig Klein


Dissertation Title: "Terrorists' Strategic Target Selection as a Mechanism for Political Mobilization"

Dissertation Chair: David H. Clark

Dissertation Committee: Patrick M. Regan, Benjamin Fordham

Dissertation Synopsis: Terror groups, similar to other opposition movements, are in fierce competition with the state for supporters. Successful political mobilization is particularly crucial for terrorists since they rely on fanatics to perpetrate attacks and generate resources necessary for other group activities. Mobilizing fanatics is a key organizational necessity and encourages strategic attack target selection which includes size, timing, frequency and symbolism. Attacks aim to provoke governments into distributing collective "bads" amongst terrorists' audience creating new or additional grievances, desires for revenge and disruption of public goods as such collective "bads" are used for political mobilization. Framing terror attacks as mechanisms for political mobilization allows for a deeper understanding of the behavioral incentives that motivate terrorists' strategic target selection and attack planning. Terrorists, in their pursuit of attracting new recruits seek to distort or manipulate a president's policy and military options. When terrorists are in the greatest need of replenishing their most important resource – adherents willing to engage in acts of terror – we observe shifts in terrorism that are attributable to political mobilization incentives.

Kyle Mackey


Dissertation Title: War Aims and War Termination: How States Prosecute Their Wars

Dissertation Chair: David H. Clark

Dissertation Committee: Benjamin O. Fordham, Amanda A. Licht

Dissertation Synopsis: The dissertation provides a theory of how military capabilities shape conflict behavior during crisis and war, arguing that military capabilities have both informative and materially coercive attributes. Capabilities are informative during crises, as military threats reveal private information, and are informative during war because fighting allows belligerents to overcome the problem of uncertainty about the outcome of the conflict. Military capabilities are materially beneficial during crises, as mobilization procures material advantages that shape states' probability of victory if hostilities escalate to war. Moreover, the material characteristic of capabilities is present during war, and allows states to impose costs on the battlefield by reducing their opponents' capacity to continue fighting. Wars begin and end because the material and informative characteristics of capabilities force states to revise their demands and war aims. I empirically evaluate the differential effects of capabilities at two points in time: First, I focus on prewar mobilization behavior, where states adjust their capabilities to enhance the material or informative nature of their military strength depending on whether they mobilize in public or private. Second, the project focuses on the actual prosecution of war on the battlefield, where I assess how materially coercive and informative military engagements shape the decision to continue fighting or terminate the conflict.

S. Hande Ogutcu


Dissertation Title: "Outside the Battlefield: Impact of Internal and External Political Dynamics on Civil Conflict Negotiations and Settlements"

Chair: Seden Akcinaroglu

Committee: Michael McDonald, Olga Shvetsova, Ricardo Laremont

Synopsis:  This dissertation project examines the influence of various political dynamics on the decisions of governments and rebel groups to negotiate, settle, and commit to settlement's terms. The first chapter explores adversaries' internal political environment and argues that autonomy from constituent and elite obstruction is essential for negotiation and settlement. The second chapter studies the influence of external actors and argues that governments and rebel groups are more willing to negotiate a settlement when under pressure from their respective rivals to consolidate their scarce military or political resources. These chapters introduce original negotiations data for simultaneous estimation of negotiations and settlements. The third chapter analyzes the ways in which unilateral third-party intervention can stabilize or spoil post-settlement peace based on interveners' political interests. This dissertation expands our understanding of civil conflict resolution by examining its multiple stages and multi-actor dynamics.

H. Ege Ozen


Dissertation Title: "Middle East and North Africa After the Arab Uprisings: An Analytical Approach to Electoral Outcomes in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey, 2010-2015"

Chair: Ekrem Karakoc

Committee: Michael McDonald, Olga Shvetsova

Dissertation Synopsis: Long before the Arab Uprisings, a number of studies using public opinion polls showed that Middle Eastern societies express relatively high support for democracy as a political system, and that consistently high degree of religiosity does not hinder this support (Tessler 2002, Tessler and Gao 2005, Jamal and Tessler 2008). This high degree of support for democracy in the MENA region should not be surprising as previous studies on other post-authoritarian countries, most recently post-communist ones, have exhibited similar tendencies in the early 1990s (Evans and Whitefield 1995, Miller et al. 1997, Mishler and Rose 1997, 2001, Haerpfer 2008). What the previous literature is missing, however, is how high support for democracy and a high degree of religiosity impacts individual voting decisions in the region. This dissertation builds on an important question that the Arab Uprisings have made possible, but which have remained overlooked and understudied due to the absence of prior experience of democratic transition in the region. To what extent have attitudes toward democracy and secular politics shaped the outcomes of elections that have been held since the Arab Uprisings? In order to answer this question, I use original survey data collected in Egypt, Tunisia, and Turkey. Elections have been invalidated in Egypt by the Supreme Constitutional Court in June 15, 2012; but still public-opinion poll allows me to discover salient political attitudes in Egyptian society during the transition, and to understand the impact of support for democracy and secular politics on electoral support for Islamist secular parties in these three countries.

Zhiyuan Wang


Dissertation Title: "Globally Economic Competition, Politics and Labor Rights"

Chair: David Cingranelli

Committee: Benjamin Fordham, Amanda Licht

Dissertation Synopsis: The extant literature examines domestic policy changes under globalization by viewing them primarily as responses to international economic flows but overlooks the influences of policy choices by other states. Due to the costliness of altering polices, states make the alteration only when the cost of refusing the changes exceeds the cost of making the changes. As economic competition is globalized, policy changes in economic competitor states can often generate negative externalities to their "peers", which increase the cost of maintaining polices and pressure expansive policy convergence. Therefore, globalization influences domestic policy choices by making them more cross-nationally interdependent. Meanwhile, as policies differ from each other in their economic implications, pressure in different policy areas can cause either a race to the bottom or a race to the top. In addition, domestic institutions fundamentally shape the bargaining abilities of societal groups; the institutional variations should thus produce heterogeneous responses to the policy pressure. Employing new datasets and spatial econometric techniques (both conditional and non-conditional), this dissertation applies this theoretical framework to investigate changes in labor protection.

Sheryl Symons


Dissertation Title: "States and Human Rights Regimes: Advocacy, Treaty Participation, and Regime Complexity"

Chair:  David Cingranelli

Committee:  Ben Fordham, Katja Kleinberg

Dissertation Synopsis:  The project evaluates state advocacy (sponsorship, speeches, and votes) in the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Committee (United Nations General Assembly) as an indicator of state preferences for human rights, as well as multilateral approaches to enforcement. Preferences expressed in this Committee are informative because they help to explain human rights outcomes such as cooperation and expansion in the United Nations human rights regime, international human rights treaty ratification, and subsequent compliance. The project also provides a deeper understanding of human rights issues, international advocacy behaviors, and the interaction of states in an international setting.

Eric Walsh


Dissertation Title: "Individual Response to the Income Tax Rate: Economic Self-Interest, Principled Attitudes, and Fairness"

Chair: Michael D. McDonald
Committee: Daniel Magelby and Dave Clark

Dissertation Synopsis:
For as long as survey organizations have asked respondents about their federal income taxes in the United States, the rich have been more likely to complain about the amount they are required to pay. At first glance, this pattern may not be puzzling. Yet this ignores the fact that the progressive income tax rates are based on principles that are supposed to be fair across different levels of income. The rich pay more because the marginal utility for money declines as income increases. The problem is that if the tax rate extracts the same utility from each citizen, complaints should be roughly the same across income groups. If the income tax rates are supposed to be fair, why do the rich complain more about their taxes? My dissertation explores the puzzle of why the rich are more likely to complain about their taxes considering a number of possible explanations. First, it examines whether this pattern is driven by self-interested policy attitudes. Next, it considers the possibility that differences in principled policy attitudes about what constitutes a fair tax rate can explain why the rich complain more. Finally, it examines whether the pattern of complaint stems from the fact that the tax rates are based on the wrong principle of vertical equity for at least some of the population.

Joshua Whaley


Dissertation Title: Information Bubbles & Echo Chambers: The Role of Social Identity in Macro-Opinion Development

Dissertation Chair: Jon Krasno

Dissertation Committee: Greg Robinson, Michael McDonald

Dissertation Synopsis:The collective will of the public plays a considerable role in the policy choices of Democracies. Yet, the forces that influence the behavior of aggregate public opinion are not well understood. Micro-level theories of attitude development in individuals, while offering valuable insight, cannot account for aggregate behavior. Empirically, macro-opinion is relatively stable, responsive to changing conditions in logical ways, and those of population subgroups generally move in tandem (Page and Shapiro 1992). This dissertation argues that social identity plays a vital role in this behavior. Both though the influence of, group membership and "the value and emotional significance attached to the membership" (Tajfel 1974).

Andrei Zhirnov


Dissertation Title:  "Role of activists and donors as constituencies in the electoral process"

Chair:  Olga V. Shvetsova

Committee:  William B. Heller, Michael D. McDonald

Dissertation synopsis:  In my dissertation, I examine the role of donors and activists for the party system dynamics through the theoretical framework of strategic coordination in the electoral process (Myerson and Weber 1993, Cox 1997, Cox 1999). I view donors and activists as ''financial constituencies'', who, similarly to voting constituencies, make independent strategic decisions about which political parties they support. Unlike voters, financial constituencies can make variable contributions to the political campaigns and the timing of their input is not constrained to the election day. Empirically, I find the aggregate demand of financial constituencies for policy influence contributes to the safety of incumbent political parties, and hence -- renders some inertia to the composition of the legislative party system. I also find that if financial constituencies are induced to support challengers early the campaign (e.g., if restrictive ballot access rules threaten to reduce the options available to them later in the campaign), their support may increase the average electoral impact of the challenger parties. Finally, I argue that the difference in the income distribution between electoral districts creates territorial asymmetry in the development of the party system.


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Last Updated: 9/17/15