My current research focuses on human security as well as questions of international conflict as they relate to violent non-state actors. Below, you can find some basic information about my current research projects.
Conflict, Rivals, and Human Rights: How International Fighting Exacerbates Domestic Repression
When does interstate conflict lead to repression in warring countries? A long-held maxim in the human right literature is that governments repress when they feel threatened. International tension would seem to be threatening to governments, yet recent literature has either ignored interstate conflict or found that international conflict has no effect on respect for human rights. In this paper I examine how interstate conflict and rivalry lead to domestic human rights violations by governments. Governments often attempt to increase their hold on political power by violating human rights when facing external threats. I first find that threatening international conflict has an immediate deleterious effect on human rights. Second, I examine how the threat of future conflict affects human rights even when there is no fighting ongoing. Rivalries, representing the danger of future conflict also contribute to repression.
The Most Important Problems Dataset (MIPD): Asked since 1939, tracking results from the “most important problem” (MIP) question reveals shifting public concerns over time, as the United States grappled with crises from recessions to war to natural disasters. My coauthors and I have collected and aggregated responses to the MIP question to create a powerful new public opinion dataset that can be used to track issue importance over time. This dataset includes demographic information, responses to economic evaluation questions, presidential approval, political preference information, and party competency questions that allow researchers to determine the correlates of the MIP at the individual and group levels. This dataset is available here.
Foreign Policy During Intrastate and Extrastate Conflict: Patterns of Support, Retaliation, and Opportunism
Abstract: External support for violent groups in other countries has become an increasingly popular instrument of foreign policy over the last seventy years. A central component of my dissertation asks why states favor the provision of certain resources (e.g.~territorial access, troop support, military training) over others. In addition, I examine how the provision of weapons and external arms control efforts (arms embargoes) affects civilian victimization and civil war intensity. This project focuses on understanding how foreign arms fuel internal conflicts and asks whether the international community can do anything to improve human security by denying arms to combatants. In all of this work I combine an emphasis on security and conflict issues between states with a focus on the importance of violent sub-state actors.
Marked Targets: Coercive Diplomacy and Domestic Terrorism. forthcoming. Journal of Global Security Studies.
Abstract: How do sanctions affect the dynamics of political violence in target states? More specifically, how might sanctions affect domestic terrorism in these states? The literature on the consequences of sanctions in target states is rich, yet there has been limited research on how sanctions affect terrorism in target states. In this paper I argue that economic deprivation associated with costly sanctions makes recruiting and carrying out attacks easier for domestic terrorist organizations. Building on work by Allen (2008) and Bueno de Mesquita (2005), I suggest that sanctions impose economic hardship on regular citizens, who are then more likely to turn to anti-government violence. The result is that the pool from which terrorist groups recruit is broadened during sanctions. I test this argument quantitatively and find support for the hypothesis that costly sanctions lead to higher levels of domestic terrorism.
The ‘Most Important Problem’ Dataset (MIPD): A New Dataset on American Issue Importance. with Brandon Park and Laron K. Williams. forthcoming. Conflict Management and Peace Science.
Abstract: This article introduces the Most Important Problem Dataset (MIPD). The MIPD provides individual-level responses by Americans to “most important problem” questions from 1939-2015 coded into 58 different problem categories. The MIPD also contains individual-level information on demographics, economic evaluations, partisan preferences, approval and party competencies. This dataset can help answer questions about how the public prioritizes all problems, domestic and foreign, and we demonstrate how these data can shed light on how circumstances influence foreign policy attentiveness. Our exploratory analysis of foreign policy issue attention reveals some notable patterns about foreign policy public opinion. First, foreign policy issues rarely eclipse economic issues on the public’s problem agenda, so efforts to shift attention from poor economic performance to foreign policy via diversionary maneuvers are unlikely to be successful in the long-term. Second, we find no evidence that partisan preferences—whether characterized as partisan identification or ideology—motivate partisans to prioritize different problems due to perceptions of issue ownership. Instead, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, respond in similar fashions to shifting domestic and international conditions.
Do Hawks and Doves Deliver? The Words and Deeds of Foreign Policy in Democracies. forthcoming. Foreign Policy Analysis.
What are the domestic determinants of international conflict? I employ elements of salience theory to build an issue emphasis approach to foreign policy. I argue that parties and candidates in democracies credibly signal their foreign policy position prior to their election and that leaders live up to their foreign policy position. Significant research explains how both the behavior of other states and domestic political institutions may constrain leaders, so there are reasons to doubt leaders may be able to match deeds with words. Some scholars have integrated measurements of partisanship into their theoretical explanations, but extant scholarship has not effectively introduced the foreign policy position of the executive into the equation. Using this approach, we can connect competing foreign policy platforms to conflict behavior in a new way.