Brendan Nyhan

QSS scholars publish article on racial inequalities in drug policy


Three scholars associated with the Program in Quantitative Social Science at Dartmouth College recently published a paper in the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. Their paper, titled "Treatment versus Punishment: Understanding Racial Inequalities in Drug Policy," analyzes racial inequalities in policy responses to the ongoing opioid crisis and the crack scare of the 1980s and 1990s. Many observers believe that policy responses to the opioid crisis are less punitive than those associated with the crack scare and that the reason is that victims of the former are (stereotypically) white. The study's authors compare policy responses to these twin health crisis and show that legislators across the United States have introduced more drug treatment-related bills during the opioid crisis than punitive bills.  This was not the case during the crack scare.  However, the study’s author show as well  that legislators seeking to response to the opioid crisis have been more responsive to white deaths than black deaths in their legislative activities. This result suggests that the recent shift toward treatment-oriented responses to the opioid crisis is driven by white victims, and it constitutes evidence that racial inequalities in American drug policy are persistent.

The study's authors are Jin Woo Kim, Evan Morgan, and Brendan Nyhan. Kim, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, was a post-doctoral fellow in QSS during 2017-19 and is currently working on research projects on how partisans respond to new information and the effects of political rumors on public opinion. Morgan graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in QSS in June 2019 and is currently working as a data engineer at Mastercard. Nyhan is Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and serves on the QSS Steering Committee.


QSS alumni work with data and each other


Three former Dartmouth College students, Franklin Dickinson ’16, Clara Wang ’17, and Junghye Kim ’19, who studied in the Program in Quantitative Social Science, recently crossed paths as employees in the Washington, DC and Chicago offices of Civis Analytics, a data science consultancy and technology firm founded by the former chief analytics officer for Barack Obama’s re-election campaign.  Clara Wang was the first Dartmouth student to complete a minor in QSS, and Junghye Kim was a QSS major.

These three students all took Brendan Nyhan’s Experiments in Politics seminar, which is cross-listed in QSS and Dartmouth's Department of Government.  They are also co-authors on a manuscript reporting the results of the randomized controlled trial they conducted in the class, which they hope to publish in the coming year. Clara Wang recently left Civis after two years to pursue graduate study in China after being selected as a Yenching Scholar.

The Applied Data Scientist role at Civis involves coding in R, SQL, and Python to analyze, visualize, and communicate data, with a particular focus on survey data and predictive models. On the Political team at Civis, data of interest often pertain to which races are most important when considering resource allocation, the demographics and preferences of the electorate within such races, and which messages matter most to electorates.

Civis is Franklin’s second job since graduating Dartmouth; he first worked for a year and a half as a Revenue Intelligence Analyst for a search engine marketing technology startup in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  After this job, Franklin attended a three month data science bootcamp in New York City. He distinctly credits his time learning experimental design and online surveys in Nyhan’s Experiments in Politics in preparing him for his work now.

Civis is Junghye’s first job post-graduation. She has been able to use skills she learned in her QSS classes, such as tidyverse from both Data Visualization and Race, Incarceration, and Politics; survey research techniques from Experiments in Politics and the Washington, DC, Foreign Study Program; and, machine learning concepts from Computational Text Analysis. Overall, Junghye feels fortunate to have been a part of QSS at Dartmouth and to have had the opportunity to think about social phenomena and apply quantitative skills to learn more about them-something she does daily in her job.  She is always happy to talk more about her experience in QSS and/or life at Civis and interested students should feel free to reach out at


QSS graduate on Joe Biden's ability to attract black and racially resentful voters


Alexander Agadjanian, a 2018 graduate of Dartmouth College's Program in Quantitative Social Science, who currently works at the MIT Election Lab, recently published an article in the Washington Post examining what's shaping candidate preferences in the Democratic presidential primary. He finds significant roles for voter prejudices, like racial resentment and sexism, in dividing Democratic voters and an interesting paradox as well: current leader and former vice president Joe Biden enjoys huge advantages among both African American voters and also among those high in anti-black prejudice. In this recent work, Agadjanian applied the data analysis and visualization skills he learned in QSS 17 Data Visualization, a course he took his third year at Dartmouth.

Since leaving New Hampshire, Agadjanian, who double-majored in QSS and Government, has been working on election data projects at his lab at MIT. He’s also involved in numerous other research projects, including a recent academic publication with Dartmouth Professor of Government Brendan Nyhan and other seminar classmates, and a resently presented a paper at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Washington, DC.  This paper uses cast vote records—also known as ballot logs---to study rates of ticket splitting, e.g., voting for a Democratic presidential candidate and a Repulican United States Senate candidate. More of Agadjanian's work is available on his website. In addition, Agadjanian has maintained a politics and data blog, where he puts his data analysis skills to use.

Agadjanian wrote an Honors Thesis in QSS, titled "Party Leader Influence and Conflicting Signals in Opinion Formation.” In this work, Agadjanian explores the ability of political party leaders to influence public opinion. He finds that intra-party elite division — for example, when Republicans oppose Donald Trump on policy — significantly weakens a leader’s (here, Trump’s) persuasion ability. Policy information, on the other hand, is not particularly effective in remedying blind leader adherence: partisans still mostly “follow the leader” even after they’re better informed about the policy they’re evaluating. Agadjanian currently is in the process of revising his thesis for publication, and the latest version of it can be found here.

Professor Brendan Nyhan publishes with undergrads


Along with 15 Dartmouth College undergraduates, Professor Brendan Nyhan recently published "Counting the Pinocchios: The effect of summary fact-checking data on perceived accuracy and favorability of politicians." The article appears in the July-September 2019 issue of Research and Politics.

"Counting the Pinocchios" was a class project from Professor Nyhan's 2016 Experiments in Politics seminar. Students in this course, which is cross-listed between Dartmouth's Program in Quantitative Social Science and Department of Government, work with Nyhan in a lab-style format to design, field, and analyze an experimental study of political misperceptions.

Professor Nyhan regularly teaches Experiments in Politics. Previously published articles from the course are, "Classified or Coverup? The Effect of Redactions on Conspiracy Theory Beliefs" and "Real Solutions for Fake News? Measuring the Effectiveness of General Warnings and Fact-Check Banners in Reducing Belief in False Stories on Social Media." Research in this seminar has been supported by Dartmouth Undergraduate Advising and Research and the Dartmouth Center for the Advancement of Learning.

Professor Nyhan serves on the QSS Steering Committee. Among the co-authors of "Counting the Pinocchios" are Alexander Agadjanian '18 (QSS / Government double major); Ray Lu '18 (QSS Minor), Annie Ma ‘17 (QSS Minor), and Clara Wang ’17 (QSS Minor).

The abstract of "Counting the Pinocchios" is as follows:

Can the media effectively hold politicians accountable for making false claims? Journalistic fact-checking assesses the accuracy of individual public statements by public officials, but less is known about whether this process effectively imposes reputational costs on misinformation-prone politicians who repeatedly make false claims. This study therefore explores the effects of exposure to summaries of fact-check ratings, a new format that presents a more comprehensive assessment of politician statement accuracy over time. Across three survey experiments, we compared the effects of negative individual statement ratings and summary fact-checking data on favorability and perceived statement accuracy of two prominent elected officials. As predicted, summary fact-checking had a greater effect on politician perceptions than individual fact-checking. Notably, we did not observe the expected pattern of motivated reasoning: co-partisans were not consistently more resistant than supporters of the opposition party. Our findings suggest that summary fact-checking is particularly effective at holding politiciansaccountable for misstatements.

QSS steering committee member active in the fight against fake news


QSS steering committee member and Professor of Government Brendan Nyhan has joined in a multidisciplinary call for a new field of study focused on fighting the proliferation and effect of misinformation online. In a recent interview with Dartmouth News, Professor Nyhan discussed this proposal, which came out in a March 9 article in the journal Science. 

QSS postdoctoral fellow accepts position at IE University


D.J. Flynn, currently a postdoctoral fellow with the Program in Quantitative Social Science at Dartmouth College recently accepted a position as Assistant Professor of Political Science at IE University in Madrid, Spain. D.J. has spent two years at Dartmouth after completing his doctorate in political science at Northwestern University.  D.J. is currently working on several projects that examine how misinformation distorts important aspects of democratic politics, including public opinion, representation, and accountability. While at Dartmouth, he has conducted research into the psychology of misperceptions, people's responsiveness to fact-checks, and how politicians communicate with their misinformed constituents. Much of this work is joint with QSS students and affiliated faculty, including Brendan Nyhan, his postdoctoral supervisor and a professor in the Department of Government.

According to Jamie Druckman, the chair of D.J.'s dissertation committee at Northwestern, "D.J. is unique in his ability to apply cutting-edge social science methods to address problems of great contemporary importance. He was studying misinformation well before it was so fashionable to do so, and his work has already had a substantial impact on what we know about the topic. His time at Dartmouth also has played a critical role in ensuring that he will be one of the leading scholars of his generation."

At IE University, D.J. will continue his research into the effects of misinformation and will be teaching courses on public opinion, political communication, and quantitative methods.

QSS Postdoc wins Top Paper Award


Jin Woo Kim, a postdoctoral fellow in the Program in Quantitative Social Science at Dartmouth College, recently won the Top Paper Award from the Political Communication Division of the International Communication Association.  This award was for the paper Switching On and Off: Rethinking Partisan Selective Exposure.  The paper’s abstract is as follows:

Despite concern that selective exposure to congenial sources drives partisans to disagree about even purely factual matters, existing empirical research finds little to mixed evidence that most Americans do seek out like-minded sources of information. In this paper, we suggest an alternative conceptualization of selective exposure; people choose when to pay attention to politics, instead of which ideological sources to follow, such that they avoid politics altogether in the times when they anticipate unpleasant information. We argue that presidential performance shapes such expectations, which would, in turn, create divergent overtime ebbs and flows in the levels of political engagement across partisan groups. Drawing on two multi-wave survey datasets, we find partisans display a lower level of political interest and media consumption during a politically disappointing period. Our findings suggest that that the stream of information that Democrats receive in the long run can be different from Republicans, even if partisans follow mostly central news sources.

Jin received his PhD in Communications in 2017 from the University of Pennsylvania, and he is working with Professor Brendan Nyhan on a series of studies that examine how debates on social media create misperceptions about the extremity and incivility of partisan outgroups and increase polarization and negative affect toward them. Jin's other projects include a study that draws on observational data to identify the effect of online rumoring and a study that examines the role of evidence strength in political persuasion.


Nyhan quoted on


"It's easy to feel hopeless because the fringe won't listen. And it's true--the fringe won't listen. But there are a lot more people who are vulnerable to conspiracy theories, but don't necessarily believe them," says the QSS steering committee member and professor of government Brendan Nyhan in a February 22 CNN story about conspiracy theory 'pollution.'

Using the Tools of Quantitative Social Science to Study Fake News


Using new data collection technologies, QSS steering committee members Brenda Nyhan and Yusaku Horiuchi, with Dartmouth undergraduate students from Nyhan’s “Experiments in Politics” course, have been able to contribute to social science research on the prevalence and effect of fake news and fact checking. A recent Dartmouth News story, “Dartmouth Scholar Is at the Center of the Fake News Debate” highlights Professor Nyhan and his work.

2nd day in a row: QSS Steering Committee Member Featured Quote of the Day


Government professor and QSS Steering committee member Brendan Nyan was quoted in the VOX daily speaking about the Trump administration "Threats to the rule of law often start with these softer kinds of actions, these norms that grow weaker." This quote comes from an article on entitiled "Trump talks like a strongman. Good thing he’s governing like a weak man: Analysis"