Publications ***Click the title to activate the link to the paper*** "How Are Politicians Informed? Witnesses and Information Provision in Congress" with Pamela Ban and Hye Young You (Forthcoming at APSR) How are politicians informed and who do politicians seek information from? The role of information has been at the center for research on legislative organizations but there is a lack of systematic empirical work on the information that Congress seeks to acquire and consider. To examine the information flow between Congress and external groups, we construct the most comprehensive dataset to date on 74,082 congressional committee hearings and 755,540 witnesses spanning 1960-2018. We show descriptive patterns of how witness composition varies across time and committee, and how different types of witnesses provide varying levels of analytical information. We develop theoretical expectations for why committees may invite different types of witnesses based on committee intent, inter-branch relations, and congressional capacity. Our empirical evidence shows how certain institutional conditions can affect how much committees turn to outsiders for information and from whom they seek information. “When Do Politicians Grandstand? Measuring Message Politics in Committee Hearings” 2021. Journal of Politics. While congressional committee members sometimes hold hearings to collect and transmit specialized information to the floor, they also use hearings as venues to send political messages by framing an issue or a party to the public which I refer to as “grandstanding.” However, we lack clear understanding of when they strategically engage in grandstanding. I argue that when committee members have limited legislative power they resort to making grandstanding speeches in hearings to please their target audience. Using 12,820 House committee hearing transcripts from the 105th to 114th Congresses and employing a crowd-sourced supervised learning method, I measure a “grandstanding score” for each statement that committee members make. Findings suggest that grandstanding efforts are made more commonly among minority members under a unified government, and non-chair members of powerful committees, and in committees with jurisdiction over policies that the president wields primary power, such as foreign affairs and national security.
Working Papers [Book] "Invitation to Congress: Congressional Hearings, Witness Testimonies, and Strategic Communication" with Pamela Ban (UCSD) and Hye Young You (NYU) "Electoral Rewards for Political Grandstanding" (R&R at PNAS) Members of Congress often use committee hearings as venues for political grandstanding. What we do not know is if members who engage in this behavior are electorally rewarded. Using a dataset of 12,820 House committee hearing transcripts from the 105th to 114th Congresses, I nd that an increase in a member's grandstanding tendency in a given Congress leads to an increased vote share in the following election. The effect is stronger when voters are potentially more exposed to grandstanding. To further investigate the causal path, I test mechanisms through which voters reward members' grandstanding e orts using the Cooperative Congressional Election Study (CCES) panel survey data. The results show that the effect of grandstanding tends to work through persuading non-supporters rather than mobilizing turnout of supporters. An additional analysis shows that PAC donors and voters react differently to members' grandstanding behavior, providing members with incentives to represent these two groups differently.
"Validating the Text-to-measure Pipeline: A Procedure-based Approach to Creating Measures of Latent Concepts with Supervised Machine Learning" with Jacob Montgomery (WashU) This study explores how to best measure a latent trait in textual data using crowd-sourced supervised learning and the ensemble Bayesian model averaging which combines multiple learners by assigning weight to each to optimize performance. Using the original dataset on Senate confirmation hearings from the 105th to 115th Congresses, we measure the negativity of committee members’ questioning tones to showcase necessary validation steps that are important for justifying modeling choices as well as improving the model’s prediction performance but often ignored by researchers utilizing the supervised learning method. Furthermore, we compare our results to other supervised and unsupervised learning models commonly used in political science literature and show that our model outperforms the others.
"Flexible Two-Dimensional Policy Preferences for Lobbyists, Experts and Other Outside Agents in Committee Hearings"with Kevin Esterling (UC Riverside) (Under Review) Recent studies have measured the preferences of legislators and non-elected outside agents, such as lobbyists, agency officials or policy experts, on a one-dimensional common space. Outside agents, however, typically have policy preferences defined on a dimension that is different from that of legislators. We develop a measurement method that flexibly estimates the policy preferences for a class of outside agents -- witnesses in committee hearings -- on a preference dimension that is separate from that of legislators' and that identifies distances across the two dimensions in units necessary to test institutional hypotheses. In our application to Medicare hearings, we show that the witness preference space recovered from our proposed measurement method is almost orthogonal to the one-dimensional measurement. Using our new measurement, we find that legislators heavily condition their questioning of agents on preference distance in a way consistent with ``cheap talk'' informational models of strategic lobbying, a result which is not found when a one-dimensional measurement is used. The contrast in results lends support for the construct validity of our proposed preference measures.
"The Impact of Income-Partisan Dealignment on Economic Voting"
"Testing Conditional Effects of a Moderator in Deliberation: A Lab Experiment"
Works in Progress [Book] "Grandstanding in Hearings: An Electoral Strategy"
"The Changing Role of Committee Hearings in the Era of Polarization and Party Government" (Funded by the British Academy Leverhulme Grant & Center for Effective Lawmaking Grant) Legislative committees are considered at the heart of policy-making processes. One of the key roles that committees play is to collect and transmit policy-relevant information to their parent chamber. Theoretical literature on legislative processes has focused on this informational role of committees. However, in the United States, as Congress went through major institutional changes over the recent decades such as polarization inducing legislative gridlock and the transition from committee government to party government, whether the informational role of committees in legislative procedures has changed is in question. Using hearing transcripts from 1960 to 2018 and crowd-sourced supervised-learning text analytic methods, this project proposes to test whether committee members’ information-seeking efforts have decreased over time and identify which of the two institutional changes drove this change and to what extent. The results will yield critical insights for understanding the effects of institutional changes to the functioning of representative democracy.
"Inversed Representation: Top Down Issue Framing through Twitter"
"Why Do Political Elites Use Moral Rhetoric?" with Taegyoon Kim (Northwestern University)
"Identity of Information: Diversity in Witnesses in Congressional Hearings and Representation" with Pamela Ban and Hye Young You (Funded by American University and the Hewlett Foundation) Information is one of Congress’ most important needs during policymaking. Interest groups, bureaucrats, and other individuals seek to influence legislators through the provision of information, including testifying as witnesses in congressional hearings. The extent to which diverse voices are represented in the information transfer from external groups to Congress is a critical question in debates on representation. What is the diversity of witnesses invited to Congress, and what affects the presence and engagement with minority witnesses? Using a new dataset with demographic information of all congressional witnesses from 1960-2020, we investigate how representational factors in Congress drive members of committees to both invite and deliberate with a witness pool that is more diverse in terms of race, gender, and geography. Further, we use a natural experiment stemming from Congress’ shift to virtual hearings during the covid-19 pandemic to evaluate the effects of political networks and transportation costs on the geographic and economic diversity of witnesses. Findings will shine a spotlight not only on what affects the presence of diverse witnesses in information provision to Congress, but also on what drives Congress’ engagement with these diverse witnesses during policymaking.
"Grandstanding in the Senate" with Sean Theriault (UT-Austin)
"Comity in the Senate" with Sean Theriault (UT-Austin)