MPSA Award Recipients - 2018

MPSA sponsors many awards for outstanding research presented at the annual conference and an award for the best article published in each volume of the American Journal of Political Science (AJPS). Nominations are made by conference chairs, discussants, and section heads after the conference and awards committees select the winning papers. The following awards were be presented at the 2018 business meeting for research presented at the 2017 conference:

Flagship Awards

Pi Sigma Alpha Award
A $250 award for the best paper presented at the annual MPSA conference. Sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society. Nomination pool will consist of papers selected for the field awards. Nomination pool will consist of papers selected for the field awards.

Culture, Capital and the Political Economy Gender Gap: Evidence from Meghalaya's Matrilineal Tribes
Rachel Brulé, New York University Abu Dhabi
Nikhar Gaikwad, Columbia University (previously Princeton University)

Award Committee: Brandon Bartels, George Washington University (Chair); George Krause, University of Georgia; and Olena Nikolayenko, Fordham University


AJPS Best Article Award
A $1,000 award for the best article appearing in the volume of the American Journal of Political Science published in the year preceding the conference. All published articles in this timeframe will be considered.

Ethnic Networks
Jennifer M. Larson, New York University
Janet I. Lewis, US Naval Academy

Award Committee: Cara Wong, University of Illinois (Chair); Corwin Smidt, Michigan State University; and Richard Matland, Loyola University Chicago

Commendation from the Committee: Larson and Lewis’s “Ethnic Networks” is an excellent article that explores why diversity may affect collective action.  The authors combine a clever field experiment with fine-grained network data to study how information dissemination relates to network density and and ethnic diversity. Using a matched pair of villages in Uganda, they find that information spreads more broadly in the more homogeneous village, which is consistent with past research. However, they also find that networks are denser in the more heterogeneous village, contrary to expectations.  They then model why this greater density might still lead to less information diffusion, hinting that less trust may lead to slight delays in dissemination, and that these delays propagated through a network can aggregate into a substantively meaningful effect.  This is multi method work at its finest, and the committee unanimously concluded that this article deserved the award.

Field Awards

Best Paper in International Relations

A $250 award for the best paper on the topic of international relations. 

Competition, Government Enforcement and Political Violence
Justin Conrad, University of North Carolina
William Spaniel, University of Rochester

Award Committee: Christopher Gelpi, Ohio State University-Main Campus (Chair); Ana Garriga, Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE); and Pablo Pinto, University of Houston

Commendation from the committee:  Recent academic work on civil wars and intrastate violence has focused on the strategies and organization of insurgent groups. Within this line of research the theory of outbidding has taken the center stage. This theory suggests that in the presence of multiple groups challenging a government, insurgent groups are more likely to resort to violence behavior as a recruitment device. Being able to successfully conduct an attack is a credible signal of the group's prowess vis-a-vis other insurgent groups. Increasing the number of challengers would thus result in more violence, as competition for recruits among violent groups becomes more intense. Yet the focus on violent groups and their audiences ignores the role of the incumbent government, which is interested in neutralizing the challenges from the violent groups. Conrad and Spaniely model the choice of insurgent groups of engaging in violent behavior, in the shadow of a government's decision to invest in enforcement. The authors derive a novel prediction where the government's ability to monitor the recruitment process results in lower violence even as the number of competing groups goes up. The empirical evidence is nicely tied to the theory, and shows that low marginal costs of enforcement significantly reduce the violence resulting from outbidding among insurgent groups. The theory and empirics offer new insights to academic debates on outbidding in intrastate conflict, and have important policy implications for understanding of the strategic determinants of political violence.

Kellogg/Notre Dame Award

A $250 award for the best paper in comparative politics. 

Culture, Capital and the Political Economy Gender Gap: Evidence from Meghalaya's Matrilineal Tribes
Rachel Brulé, New York University Abu Dhabi
Nikhar Gaikwad, Columbia University (previously Princeton University)
Award Committee:
Michelle Dion, McMaster University (Chair); Kunle Patrick Owolabi, Villanova University; and Su-Mei Ooi, Butler University

Commendation from the Committee: : This paper examines a central question in the study of gender and politics: Why do women tend to prefer and support redistribution and welfare more than men? The authors highlight the difficulties in disentangling the causal effects of wealth and culture as explanations for the gap in preferences because in most of the world wealth and cultural values tend to reinforce men’s economic autonomy and women’s dependence. To address this research question and resolve this difficulty, the authors have designed a multifaceted study that takes advantage of variations in cultural traditions around wealth inheritance and management in the Indian state of Meghalaya. While political institutions and society in the state are largely patriarchal, cultural practices around wealth vary. Some families follow matrilineal wealth traditions, in which women own and inherit wealth (with co-management within households), while others follow patrilineal traditions that are more common throughout the world. The authors use various experiments and qualitative interviews and focus groups to demonstrate that the gender gap evaporates in matrilineal communities and to explain how men and women think about their support for government redistribution or charitable giving. The result is a thorough and innovative answer to a key question in comparative politics, and one which we expect to be widely cited and impactful across a range of subfields, from political economy to political behavior. We also think the study reflects the best type of comparative research, which is both locally situated but also aims to inform our understanding beyond the community or country of study. 

Kenneth J. Meier Award

A $250 award for the best paper in bureaucratic politics, public administration, or public policy.

Reproducible and Replicable: An Empirical Assessment of the Social Construction of Politically Relevant Target Groups
Rebecca J. Kreitzer, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Candis Watts Smith, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Award Committee: Amanda Rutherford, Indiana University-Bloomington (Chair); Christoffer Green-Pederson, Aarhus University; and Sanghee Park, Boise State University

Commendation from the Committee:  Kreitzer and Smith build on existing theory related to the social construction of target populations by empirically testing both the categorization of groups into advantaged, contender, dependent, and deviant types and how consistently target groups are constructed with a unique methodological design.  More specifically, the authors use M-Turk to crowd source the social construction of 73 target groups to place them more accurately along a deservingness-power matrix.  Calculating point estimates for these groups has clear implications for both the theoretical understanding of how social constructions are formed as well as practical applications in considering the target groups of public policies crafted by individuals of different partisan and ideological leanings.   


Best Paper in American Politics

A $250 award for the best paper on the topic of American politics. 

Voting Can Be Hard, Information Helps
Melody Crowder-Meyer, Davidson College
Shana Kushner Gadarian, Syracuse University
Jessica Trounstine, University of California, Merced

Award Committee: Shana Gadarian, Syracuse University (Chair); E. Scott Adler, University of Colorado; Ben Bishin, University of California, Riverside; and Eric J. Juenke, Michigan State University (De Facto)

Commendation from the Committee: This paper addresses a very important question that we don't know much about, and the authors developed a nice set of experiments to gain leverage about how citizens decided and use cues to vote in non-partisan elections.  These types of elections are ubiquitous in American politics, but are dramatically understudied.  The results speak to questions not only about how people make decisions, but how various prejudices play out.  The paper is very thorough and addresses many of the initial concerns I had as I read though its very thoughtful design (e.g., demonstrating that the expected stereotypes from the literature and on which the hypotheses are based are reflected in the data).  Importantly, they also enhanced the validity by having the treatments copy the ballots actually used in real elections.  Moreover, they validated their results using observational data which is very rare in these kinds of studies. 

Best Paper in Political Behavior

A $250 award for the best paper on the topic of political behavior.

The Images in Our Heads: Race, Partisanship and Affective Polarization
Nicholas A. Valentino, University of Michigan
Kirill Zhirkov, University of Michigan

Award Committee: Hans Noel, Georgetown University (Chair); Hyeonho Hahm, University of Mannheim; and Laura Stoker, University of California, Berkeley

Commendation from the Committee: Valentino and Zhirkov build on the insightful work by Lilliana Mason that affective polarization is driven by the increasing alignment of voters’ social identities with the partisan identity. This paper argues that the main driver of this process is the racial component of both social and partisan identity. The paper offers multiple tests and pushes forward the increasingly important literature on affective polarization.

Evan Ringquist Award

A $250 award for the best paper on the topic of political institutions. 

What is a productive Congress?
Michelle Whyman, Duke University

Award Committee: Justin Phillips, Columbia University (Chair); Michael Crespin, University of Oklahoma; and Beth Leech, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

Commendation from the committee: Whyman careful employs the U.S. Code to construct three measures of congressional legislative productivity.  These measures are the number of provisions a Congress enacts, the proportion of enacted provisions that endure, and the number of provisions that Congress repeals.  These new measures not only provide a rich new data source for scholars, but they also challenge the idea that gridlock has increased in the modern Congress.  Indeed, Whyman shows that the durable legislative output of Congress remains high.  

Review of Politics Award (co-winners)

A $250 award for the best paper in normative political theory.

Alcmaeon’s Islands: Motion and Rest in Thucydides
Borden Flanagan, American University

Commendation from the Committee: Borden Flanagan’s “Alcmaean’s  Island: Motion and Rest in Thucydides” is a model of a daring, bold, and enlightening interpretation of a classic text.  Noticing an odd story inserted for no obvious reason into Thucydides’ History, Prof. Flanagan takes the anomalous presence of the story as an invitation to follow it into reflections on the “the cosmological themes of motion and rest, and the gods” in Thucydides text.  He thereby adds great depth and weight to recent considerations of the philosophic underpinnings of Thucydides’’ History.

Gold Rush: Cinema, Credit, Calculation, Chance, and Choice
Char Roone Miller, George Mason University

Commendation from the Committee: Forthcoming

Award Committee: Michael P. Zuckert, University of Notre Dame (Chair); Michaele Ferguson, University of Colorado - Boulder; and Johnny Goldfinger, Marian University


Robert H. Durr Award

A $250 award for the best paper applying quantitative methods to a substantive problem. 

The Effectiveness of Public and Private Signals: A Document-Based Approach
Azusa Katagiri, Stanford University
Eric Min, Stanford University

Award Committee: John B. Londregan, Princeton University (Chair); Fernando Daniel Hidalgo, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Philip Edward Jones, University of Delaware

Commendation from the Committee: Katagiri and Min compare the impact of crisis bargaining conducted along private and public channels using state of the art text as data methods. The authors conduct a supervised analysis of Soviet resolve as reflected in digitized diplomatic cables, communiques and internal memorandum. Using the resulting measures the authors then deploy Negative Binomial and Autoregressive Poisson Event Count Models to demonstrate that during the Berlin crisis private communications impacted real time White House assessments of Soviet intentions, whereas public communiques did not. Their finding poses a significant challenge to the emphasis on audience costs and public signals in the literature.

Subfield Awards

Lucius Barker Award

A $250 award for the best paper on a topic investigating race or ethnicity and politics and honoring the spirit and work of Professor Barker.

The New Racial Realignment: Democratic Appeals to Latinos and White Support for the Democratic Party
Mara Cecilia Ostfeld, University of Michigan

Award Committee: Bernard L. Fraga, Indiana University (Chair); K. Juree Capers, Georgia State University; and Tyson D. King-Meadows, University of Maryland-Baltimore County

Commendation from the Committee: Prof. Ostfeld's impressive study seeks to extend work on race and party alignment by examining how the Democratic Party's appeals to Latino voters may depress White support for Democratic candidates. Using multiple survey experiments grounded in the 2012 and 2016 elections, Ostfeld demonstrates that support for Obama and Clinton decreased when White respondents learned that these candidates were making appeals to Latino voters. The paper thus has crucial implications for the future of American electoral politics, suggesting a crossroads may be coming for parties seeking to negotiate an increasingly diverse electorate. Ostfeld's study makes an important and timely contribution to our understanding of political parties, campaigns, political psychology, and racial/ethnic politics.

Patrick J. Fett Award

A $250 award for the best paper on the scientific study of Congress and the presidency.

Legislative Staff and Representation in Congress
Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Columbia University
Matto Mildenberger, UC Santa Barbara
Leah Stokes, UC Santa Barbara
Award Committee: Brandice Canes-Wrone, Princeton University (Chair); Samuel Kernell, University of California-San Diego; and Craig Volden, University of Virginia

Commendation from the Committee: Congressional members are highly dependent on their staff for making policy decisions, yet we know little about the extent to which staffers have accurate perceptions of constituency preferences.  Hertel-Fernandez, Mildenberger, and Stokes offer an original survey of staffers in order to address this question. The survey not only offers direct observational evidence, but also two embedded experiments that consider interest group influence.  The results suggest that staffers systematically misestimate their constituents’ preferences in ways that favor powerful interest groups.  These findings cause us to reconsider the factors that influence democratic responsiveness.   

Sophonisba Breckinridge Award

A $250 award for the best paper on the topic of women and politics.

All Male Panels? Representation and Democratic Legitimacy
Amanda Clayton, Vanderbilt University
Diana O’Brien, Indiana University
Jennifer Piscopo, Occidental College
Award Committee: Christopher Karpowitz, Brigham Young University (Chair); Delysa Burnier, Ohio University-Main Campus; and Kathleen Dolan, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

Commendation from the Committee: The authors of this well-written, theoretically rich, and empirically impressive paper take up an important issue – women's descriptive representation – and examine it in a new light, asking whether women's presence affects citizens’ impressions of the legitimacy of government processes and decisions.  To answer their research questions, the authors designed a creative and careful set of survey experiments, and they find that women’s presence profoundly affects citizens’ views of both the procedural fairness and the substantive decisions that emerge from political institutions. Their work moves the literature beyond our current understanding of the importance of women’s representation, which tends to focus on how women behave as actors, to show the conditions under which women’s presence affects the perceived legitimacy of democratic procedures and decisions. The paper is impressive not only for its theoretical and methodological creativity, but also for its clear connections to core concerns of democratic theory. The authors have thus opened a new frontier in scholarship on the connection between women’s descriptive representation and democratic legitimacy. For all these reasons, the committee is pleased to honor this groundbreaking work.

Career Stage Awards

Best Paper by an Emerging Scholar

A $250 award for the best paper, regardless of field or topic, by a scholar or scholars who has or have received the terminal degree(s) within six years of the year in which the paper was presented.

Fear, Institutionalized Racism, and Empathy: The Underlying Dimensions of Whites’ Racial Attitudes
Christopher D. DeSante, Indiana University
Candis Watts Smith, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Award Committee: Jacqueline Demeritt, University of North Texas (Chair); Suzanne M. Robbins, University of Florida; and Bilal Dabir Sekou, University of Hartford

Commendation from the Committee: This year’s Best Paper by an Emerging Scholar Award goes to Christopher DeSante and Candis Smith for their paper “Fear, Instuonalized Racism, and Empathy: The Underlying Dimensions of Whites’ Racial Atudes.” In their research, DeSante and Smith argue that racial atudes are muldimensional. They suggest that two dimensions underlie how Whites think about race in contemporary American polics. One is cognive: an awareness of systemic racial bias against non-Whites. The other is emoonal, depending on feelings towards racial minories. They validate the simultaneity of cognive beliefs and emoonal reacons with new and excing survey data. The selecon commiee was impressed by both the ambion and potenal impact of DeSante and Smith’s work, and look forward to seeing it published, cited, and engaged in the future.

Best Paper Delivered by a Graduate Student Award

A $250 award for best paper delivered by a graduate student.

Keeping Your Friends Close: A Study of Punishment and Intraparty Insurgency
Zachary McGee, University of Texas at Austin

Award Committee: Natasha Altema McNeely, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (Chair); Peter John Loewen, University of Toronto-Canada; and David Ryan Smith, Texas A & M University-Corpus Christi

Commendation from the Committee: McGee offers a  compelling and insightful paper on intraparty relationships, specifically how Intraparty Insurgency has led to a strengthening between members associated with the House Freedom Caucus and the impact of that upon the House Republican Party. The findings, if continuing into the future, could lead to a rethinking of the strength of parties and their impact upon the workings of the chambers in Congress. 

Best Undergraduate Paper Presented in a Poster Format

A $250 award for the best paper presented in a poster format by an undergraduate.

Foster Care Privatization: How an Increasingly Popular Public Policy Leads to Increased Levels of Abuse and Neglect
Mandi Eatough, Brigham Young University

Award Committee: Jeffrey S. Peake, Clemson University (Chair); Gayle Alberda, Fairfield University; Gregg B. Johnson, Valparaiso University; Lori Kumler, University of Mount Union; and Michael Makara, University of Central Missouri

Commendation from the Committee: Eatough’s paper represents high-quality policy analysis of a pressing issue that has not received the analytical attention it deserves.  Essentially, she asks: What are the policy outcomes, in terms of positive placements, neglect and abuse, for privatization of foster care placements among the states?  While this question has received some attention in qualitative accounts, very little quantitative research has sought to address it in a comprehensive manner.  Privatization in all manner of public policy delivery has grown in popularity over the last several decades, yet we have only limited systematic understanding of its impact on clients.  This is especially the case for vulnerable populations who often lack powerful advocacy on their behalf, such as children in foster care. 
Using a massive data set of foster-care outcomes from across the states, covering a 14-year period, Eatough’s analysis suggests that privatization leads to systems emphasizing the costs of placement, and that positive and more costly outcomes (e.g., adoption or long-term placements) are significantly less common in privatized settings, whereas negative outcomes tend to be more common.  Her analysis of abuse and neglect shows clearly that greater privatization in a state’s foster care system leads to increased odds of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect.  Finally, her analysis of privatization legislation across the states indicate a relationship between the time of enactment and shifts in incidence levels of abuse and neglect.  The committee was especially impressed with the quantitative analyses in the paper.  To test her hypotheses, Eatough effectively employed multinomial logit, proportional hazard models, and across-state time series analyses.  Her visualization of the data and results as also quite effective, making her findings easy to digest. 

Updated 4/8/18