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.

Monday, September 9, 2019