Research

Published work:

“Racializing Captain America: How racial attitudes affect perceptions of affirmative action and diversity initiatives in media,” with Denzel Avant. Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, Forthcoming.

Is announcing a commitment to diversity enough to activate attitudes toward diversity initiatives? And what are the spillover effects of these programs? To address these questions, we conduct an experiment embedded in a nationally-representative survey of non-Hispanic White Americans (n=1,519). We inform respondents that the White actor who plays Captain America will be replaced, while varying whether there is a reference to a diversity initiative and whether the replacement is White or Black. We find that reference to diversity initiatives on its own has no effect but the action of displaying diversity affects marketplace preferences and attitudes towards diversity initiatives.

“How Incivility on Partisan Media (De-)Polarizes the Electorate,” with James N. Druckman, Matthew Levendusky, and Ashley Lloyd. Journal of Politics, 81(1): 291-295.

Partisan media—typically characterized by incivility—has become a defining element of the American political communication environment. While scholars have explored the consequences of partisan media for political attitudes and behaviors, little work has looked at how variations in incivility moderate partisan media’s effects. Using a population-based survey experiment, we show that incivility affectively de¬polarizes partisans when it comes from an in-party source (e.g., MSNBC for Democrats, Fox News for Republicans). Incivility on out-party sources affectively polarizes the audience, however, and we show that the respondent’s degree of conflict aversion conditions these effects. Our results raise intriguing normative questions about the tradeoffs between polarization and incivility, and highlight how scholars must account for both levels of incivility and partisan slant when studying the effects of partisan media.

Ongoing work:

Note: I frequently edit this page to remove projects currently under peer review to maintain the double-blind process. If you’re curious about these redacted projects, shoot me an email!

“The Price of Victory: Game-Frame Coverage and the Politicization of the Supreme Court,” with Warren Snead. Presented at APSA 2019 Political Communication Pre-Conference.

Whether the Supreme Court of the United States’ legitimacy is robust or vulnerable to change remains an unsolved question. While existing research has greatly advanced our understanding of Supreme Court legitimacy, we argue that further attention should be paid to news media and partisan considerations. We test the effects of both game-frame coverage and partisanship on perceptions of Supreme Court legitimacy. We expect game frame coverage to undermine perspectives that the Court is “above the political fray” by emphasizing winners and losers of a case. Further, we posit that emphasizing partisan dynamics will similarly politicize the Court, thereby undermining its legitimacy. We conduct an experiment embedded in a survey of 2,400 Americans and find that game frames do not have a significant effect on perceptions of Supreme Court legitimacy. However, we do find that the partisan identity of the losing party has a significant, deleterious effect on Supreme Court legitimacy.

“Who is the Whole World Watching?: Variations in Coverage of Violence and Protest,” with Elizabeth Jordie Davies and Dara Gaines. Presented at MPSA 2019.

How is violence and protest in the United States covered by the news media? News media often prioritize sensationalism and novelty in their reporting, and thus emphasizes particularities of a situation rather than putting it in a larger context (Gitlin 1980; Bennett 2016) . Variations in these two dimensions help explain which narratives and stereotypes are applied by some news media in their coverage of social movement activities and victims of violence. We use structural topic modeling to analyze newspaper coverage of the 2014 Ferguson protests, the 2015 Charleston church shooting, and the 2018 Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. We model three weeks of coverage for each topic in the Washington Post, the New York Times, and USA Today. We argue that the race of the group associated with the social movement is a key variable that differentiates positive news coverage from negative coverage for similar movements. News media relies on negative stereotypical narratives of African American victims and protesters while similar situations with whites lack such stereotypes, thus explaining the differences in coverage valence. Since media serve as gatekeepers for public knowledge concerning social movements, understanding variations in coverage is important for activists attempting to sway the public and gain resources from government entities.