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Chelsea N. Kaufman
Major Fields of Sudy: American Politics
Minor Fields of Study: Comparative Politics, and Methods
Major Professor: Suzanne Parker
Dissertation Title: A Shrinking Rural Population the Future of the American Political and Economic Systems
Dissertation Defense: Expected Spring 2017
Dissertation Abstract:In recent decades, the size of the rural population in the United States, as in most advanced industrialized countries, has been decreasing. Past research has examined political attitudes and behaviors in rural America, but has not considered whether overtime variation in these attitudes and behaviors might be a function of rural population loss and its associated economic consequences. As rural areas shrink, they may lose economic and political power, leading to a decrease in political efficacy and trust. Additionally, as rural areas face decline, partisanship and vote choice patterns may shift as rural areas have new policy demands. Together, these changes in attitudes may affect participation patterns, as rural-urban polarization may lead to an increase in participation, or the increased alienation of rural citizens may lead to them choosing not to participate.
At the same time, it must be considered that the findings on the economic consequences of rural population loss have been mixed- some rural areas are experiencing decline, while others have been able to adjust to the changing circumstances and improve their conditions. Given these mixed findings, is the relationship between rural population loss and political attitudes and behaviors uniform, or does it depend on the economic context? Additionally, if these patterns vary based on economic circumstance, it calls into question many of the policies that have been put into place in order to address this phenomenon, which tend to be put in place at the state or national level and persist even when research has shown numerous times they are largely ineffective. Using data from the Census Bureau, the US Department of Agriculture, the American National Election Studies, as well as a case study, I examine these questions over time and discuss the implications of the conclusions for the future of the American political and economic systems.
Christopher F. Kulesza
Major Field of Study: American Politics
Minor Field of Study: Public Policy and Pschology
Major Professor: Eric Waltenburg
Dissertation Title: The Effects of Campaign Finance Law on Donations to State Legislative Campaigns
Dissertation Abstract: Donors influence state policy development through campaign contributions to legislative candidates. To curb this influence, states rely on disclosure requirements, campaign contribution limits, and public finance laws to restrain campaign contributions in elections. I argue that donors do not share the same motivations in providing campaign contributions to state legislators. For example, business interest groups seek to build long-term relationships, while ideologically leaning groups hope to elect like-minded candidates. I examine the effectiveness of campaign finance laws to regulate donations to state legislative candidates. I find that the success of campaign contribution law is dependent upon the motivations of the group providing contributions. Using data on 65,928 legislative candidates from 1999-2014, I show that disclosure requirements, contribution limits, and public finance laws have very different effects on state legislative campaign contribution patterns based on their source. These findings have important policy implications on the effectiveness of state campaign finance law as we seek out ways to reform campaign finance regulations.
Toby L. Lauterbach, Ph.D.
Major/Minor Fields of Study: International Relations, Comparative Politics, Public Policy
Major Professor: Keith Shimko
Dissertation Title: Strategic Culture and the Iraq War
Dissertation Defense: Spring 2013
Dissertation Abstract: This work concentrates on how cultural assumptions among US policy makers influenced the Iraq War. Students of international relations generally use the classic logic of power politics to explain national security choices. However, my study reveals this kind of thinking was distorted by the beliefs U.S. policymakers held about Americas unique role in the world. As a result, President Bushs war advisors believed that it would be fairly easy to remake Iraq into a free market democratic society that would serve as a springboard for transforming the Middle East in the image of America and its Western allies. A faith in the superiority of the American way of life, rooted in the belief that the U.S.s vision of economic and political freedoms are universally applicable, fueled the premise that Iraq would greet American troops as liberators. My endeavor illustrates the role culture may play in international security and its impact on specific foreign policy choices such as the Iraq War.
Edgar J. Marcolin, Ph.D.
Major/Minor Fields of Study: International Relations, Comparative Politics
Major Professor: Harry Targ
Dissertation Title: A Comparative Study on the Impact of Neoliberal Economic Agreements and the Ideology of Political Elites on Democratization Processes: The Cases of Asean, Mercosul and NAFTA
Dissertation Defense: Spring 2014
Dissertation Abstract: My research examines and compares processes of democratization in countries party to three trade agreements - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Common Market of the South (MERCOSUL), and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) - that share a common commitment to increased trade aimed at economic development, and yet have political regimes that vary in their levels of democratic practice. Following John Stuart Mill's mehod of differences, it contrasts two ramifications of two antagonistic theories: modernization theory and elite theory. More specifically, it provides evidence that contrary to what some political elites believe - increased levels of international trade, understood as a way towards economic development, do not necessarily lead to higher liberal democratic standards. As an alternative, it tests the ideology of political elites in Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico and finds evidence of the important role tha ideological beliefs play in democratization processes.
Major of Field of Study: International Relations
Minor Fields: Political Methodology, Comparative Politics
Major Professor: Ann Marie Clark
Dissertation Title: Essays on International Human Rights Treaties: A Causal Inference Approach
Dissertation Defense: Expected Spring 2017
Major Field of Study: Public Policy
Minor Fields of Study:International Relations, Politics of Social Groups
Major Professor: S Laurel Weldon
Dissertation Title: Mobilizing Difference: The Power of Inclusion in Transnational Social Movements
Dissertation Abstract: Political Science and, specifically, the field of international relations have expanded their traditional focus on the behavior of nation-states in response to various developments in the international arena, including the phenomenon of globalization, the emergence of transnational activist networks, the proliferation of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and the penetration of global decision-making processes by these NGOs. This dissertation contributes to this body of literature by focusing on the most developed form of transnational activism, transnational social movements. The project employs a mixed-method research design to analyze how transnational social movements gain and exert power in world politics. The study combines a large-N analysis of how transnational social movement organizations influence world politics with three in-depth case studies of transnational social movements: 1) the transnational movement against sweatshops, 2) the transnational environmental movement, and 3) the transnational human rights movement. In particular, it uses case study techniques of process tracing and comparative historical analysis to trace, first, the process by which these three transnational social movements address challenges of organizing transnationally and across social group differences, and second, assess how inclusive and exclusive approaches to organizing affect a movements political influence in world politics. The project tests the claim that inclusive approaches to organizing transnational movements improve the odds of maintaining solidarity among different social groups and exerting political influence over movement targets, particularly states and multinational corporations.
Sara L. Wiest
Major/Minor Fields of Study: Public Policy, American Politics, and Research Methodology
Major Professors: Eric Waltenburg, and Daniel Aldrich
Dissertation Title: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in U.S. Cities: A Look at How Civil Society and Government Responsiveness Affect Urban Decline
Dissertation Defense: Expected December 2016
Dissertation Abstract: Since the onset of deindustrialization in the 1970s, many older industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest have been plagued by population decline, while othersfacing the very same obstacleshave been able to weather the post-industrial storm, stabilizing or even growing their populations. At the same time, even when a city experiences blight and abandonment as a whole, a few stable, even vibrant, neighborhoods often remain scattered throughout the urban landscape. This research seeks to explain contrasting patterns of population stability and decline at both the city and neighborhood level. Using a mixed methods approach combining historical narrative, geographic information systems (GIS) analysis, and multilevel modeling, this dissertation investigates the complex relationships between government responsiveness, civil society, and population change. I argue that the strength of civil society serves as the key determinant in whether a city will stabilize, grow, or decline. I use an original time-series cross-sectional dataset on 231 cities over 5 time points to explore divergent patterns of population change at the city level. Building on Hirschman's (1970) exit, voice, and loyalty framework, I present evidence that citizens with a deep attachment to their community possess a type of loyalty that reduces the likelihood of exit and increases the likelihood citizens will voice their discontent when confronted with an issue. Case studies at the neighborhood level illustrate the extent to which government can strengthen or weaken civil society through policy decisions specifically, local allocations of housing and community development funding. Findings reveal that where civil society is strong, citizens are more likely to remain regardless of government's performance.