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Peer Reviewed Publications

“Encouraging Black and Latinx Radio Audiences to Register to Vote: A Field Experiment” 2023. With Jose Gomez, Donald Green, Gregory Huber, Joseph Sutherland and Michelle Zee. American Politics Research. Forthcoming

Abstract: Low voter registration rates represent an impediment to voting, especially among ethnic minority groups. Traditional in-person voter registration drives increase registration rates in minority communities but became infeasible during the 2020 COVID-19 epidemic. An alternative approach is to promote registration through mass media, such as local radio. We present results from a large-scale experiment testing the effects of radio ads on voter registration. During the run up to the November 2020 election, we identified 186 radio stations with predominantly Latinx or African American audiences; fifty randomly selected stations were assigned to a week-long advertising campaign each week for three weeks. Nonpartisan messages encouraged voter registration by stressing the importance of the election and featured celebrity voices. The number of new registrants rose slightly in treated areas during the week when the ads aired.  No further gains were apparent one or two weeks later. 

Working Papers


“Connecting the Vote: Evaluating the effect of Peer Encouragement on Turnout in the 2020 Election” With Donald Green.

Abstract: Friend-to-friend voter mobilization is a theoretically promising but understudied tactic. The present study reports the results of a randomized experiment designed to evaluate the effects of a distributed voter mobilization drive in which high school- and college-age "captains'' around the country encouraged turnout among people they know. Without stringent structures for captains to provide data about their friends, only half provide accurate information that can be matched to the voter file, leading to high rates of attrition. Still, we find little effect of friend-to-friend mobilization, despite past studies demonstrating large results. This study illustrates the limitations of friend-to-friend mobilization when conducted without close oversight of captains, during high salience elections, and among those captains whose friends are already likely to be politically active.


“Who you gonna call? How primary campaigns conduct voter outreach”

Abstract: Though scholars have examined the incentives, activity, and efficacy of campaigns during general elections, little work examines the same topics for campaigns during primary elections. Which voters do primary campaigns contact? And what information do they communicate? I develop a logical argument for who primary campaigns should target and for what purpose. Primary campaigns have less information about voters than general election campaigns, and so have unique disincentive to invest in GOTV and keep the electorate narrowed to hyper-involved primary voters. I find my hypotheses from this argument largely confirmed in interviews with campaign managers who have worked on state legislative, statewide, congressional and senatorial races. Primary campaigns do not seek to widen the primary electorate even when it could be beneficial for their candidate, instead seeking to persuade over hyper-involved primary voters. This work illuminates the elite side to primary turnout, and argues that this side is integral to understanding the composition of the primary electorate, and the consequences of that composition, an area of active debate in the literature.  

“General concerns of primary voters: strategic voting in primary elections”


As fewer general elections are competitive, a few primary voters hold increasing power to elect officials. But if general election voters were induced to turnout in primaries, would different candidates win? Do primary voters take the general electorate’s preferences into account when choosing whom to support in the primary? This paper uses a survey experiment of validated primary and general election voters to test the effect of information about primary candidates’ electability (i.e. chances of winning the general election) on voters’ willingness to vote strategically, for the most electable candidate. I find that primary voters and general election voters have similar attributes, candidate perceptions and preferences, and respond similarly to information on candidates’ electability. However, among all voters, information about candidates’ electability is only effective in increasing strategic voting when it confirms a voter’s perception of which candidate has a better chance of winning the general. Similarities between primary and general electorates may assuage concerns that so few voters elect so many representatives in uncompetitive districts, but, because primary voters reject counter attitudinal information about primary candidate’s electability, primary voters may be unlikely to take the general electorate’s preferences into account when casting their ballots.


"Running Scared in the Primary: Campaign behavior of safe incumbents in a partisan era"


Over the last few decades, partisanship in the electorate has strengthened and the

number of competitive congressional districts has shrunk. Now, the vast majority of

incumbents are overwhelmingly likely to be re-elected in general elections simply because their party affiliation matches that of their district. Despite this decrease in

electoral competitiveness, incumbents who are heavily advantaged to win their general

elections still campaign vigorously, raising more money each cycle and allocating

more time and staff to campaigning. I posit that these ”safe” incumbents continue to

campaign vigorously to project strength to deter strong candidates from challenging

them in the only remaining election that could be competitive: the primary. These

incumbents would rather deter these challengers from entering the race than risk facing

them in the primary when voters are not tied by partisanship to the incumbent. Using

fundraising data from House of Representative elections from 2002 to 2018, I show

that these incumbents use fundraising to project strength to outside political actors,

are less concerned with projecting strength during the primary and general election

campaigns, and are most concerned with projecting strength before the candidacy filing

deadline. Using data on primary challenger entry dates, I also show that primary

challengers announce their campaigns after receiving cues about incumbents’ strength

from fundraising data. Incumbents with safe general elections still campaign vigorously

because they are “running scared.”


“Crossing Over: Inducing Strategic Voting in Open Primaries” With Daniel Markovits.



In recent election cycles, efforts to meddle in the primary of the opposing party have proliferated; most frequently, Democratic Party actors have supported ideologically extreme Republican candidates. We call this phenomenon of getting involved in the opposing party's primary "crossing over." Drawing on Cho and Kang (2015), we define crossover "raiding" as supporting extreme candidates in opposing party primaries to win electoral advantage in general elections and contrast it to "hedging" where partisans support opposing party moderates to reduce the cost of losing the general election. Are primary voters willing to crossover vote? And are they more likely to do so when co-partisan elites encourage them? These questions are key to understanding the potential of institutional primary reforms. Despite increased activity in crossing over, little existing research has explored crossover voting in the mass public, and those that do focus on elections before 2000. No research has explored the effect of elites encouraging co-partisans to crossover vote. We develop a theoretical framework to understand when voters may engage in crossover voting and test it through a pre-registered survey experiment of 1500 self-identified Democrats in open primary states. We show that there are meaningful baseline levels of support for hedging among voters and that a simple treatment priming democratic threat of Republican primary candidates and the social desirability of hedging nearly doubles the percentage of Democrats willing to vote in hypothetical Republican congressional primaries from 9% to 18%. This treatment also substantially increases support for elite hedging behaviors like spending money promoting out-party moderates. Despite the plethora of elite encouragements to raid, few voters support raiding in any form. We argue this demonstrates evidence for strategic hedging in the mass public. 

“Homevoters on the national stage: Does homeownership change participation in national elections?”

Abstract: The local politics literature finds that homeownership creates “homevoters,” savvy political actors who engage in costly forms of participation to shape esoteric issues such as zoning and land use that affect property values. This is contrary to a dominant view of voters in the American political science literature that finds voters largely difficult to turn out and inattentive to politics. As the issue of zoning is elevated above the local level with presidential candidates taking positions on and multiple states passing legislation banning single family zoning, does homeownership create engaged voters in national and state elections? Using CES survey data, this paper finds homeowners are more engaged in and knowledgeable about both state and national politics: homeowners are more likely than renters to be registered to vote, turn out in general elections, gubernatorial elections and presidential and congressional primary elections. They are also more likely to answer political knowledge questions correctly and donate to candidates for state and national office. These associations hold when adjusting for demographic differences between the two groups. These associations also hold when respondents are matched based on their likelihood of owning a home. Future work should examine the causal effects of homeownership on political engagement and how homeowner participation in state elections varies as zoning policy become salient.

Works in Progress

“Inducing Turnout Among Renters on Issues of Zoning”

“How stable is the primary electorate?”

“What do voters know about primary candidates?”

Other Writing

Cohen, Hayley, Meredith Conroy, and Alexander Agadjanian. 2018. data for politics #20: A #MeToo Effect? Attitudes about Gender Equality and Workplace Harassment.” Data for Progress.


Cohen, Hayley, Peter Levin, Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg, Jodi Benenson, and Noorya Haya. 2018. The Impact of National Service on Employment Outcomes.” Corporation for National and Community Service. March 2018.

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