2017 Seed Grants

To support the study of American democracy, Democracy Studies periodically funds seed grants for individual research projects.  In 2017, Democracy Studies awarded grants to the following research projects:

Faculty

Thomas E. Nelson and Erik Clarke, Department of Political Science

Professor Nelson and Mr. Clarke are investigating how accusations of “motivated reasoning” influence political attitudes and perceptions. Politicians, pundits and “political persuaders” sometimes accuse their opponents of motivated reasoning, which Nelson and Clark define as biased processing of information so as to uphold and defend existing attitudes. They will examine the prevalence of motivated reasoning accusations in real-world political discourse. By using surveys to examine a kind of political communication strategy that exploits an opponent’s “bias blind spot,” Nelson and Clark seek to demonstrate whether political communicators who accuse their opponents of practicing motivated reasoning are especially likely to persuade.

Wendy G. Smooth, Department of Women’s Gender & Sexuality Studies

Professor Smooth is examining the mechanisms necessary to move women of color from reliable voters to candidates for office. With an overarching research agenda to engage the field more critically in thinking about the mobilizations of communities of color that extend beyond voting, this project seeks to understand the extent to which civic groups (vs. political parties) are supporting women of color to run for political office and thereby build their political efficacy.

Christopher J. Walker, Moritz College of Law

Professor Walker is conducting a follow up study on the role of federal agencies in the legislative process, and the Congress-federal agency relationship more generally. Expanding on earlier research (also supported by a Democracy Studies grant) in which he focused on the perspectives of federal agency rule drafters on the role of federal agencies in the legislative process, Professor Walker will now interview Congressional lawmakers on their view of agencies, agencies’ role in writing legislation, and agencies’ rulemaking power.

Graduate Students

Elias Assaf, Department of Political Science

Mr. Assaf is looking at ways to influence mass opinion inside social networks. Elites are no longer able to set the terms of the debate as more people receive their political information from within social networks. Mr. Assaf has designed an experiment to see how friends can influence each other by providing news stories and seeing how they spread along the network.