Abstract This paper examines the extent to which social pressures can foster greater responsiveness among public officials. I conduct a non-deceptive field experiment on 1400 city executives across all 50 states and measure their level of responsiveness to open records requests. I use two messages to prime social pressure. The first treatment centers on the norm and duty to be responsive to the public’s request for transparency. The second treatment is grounded in the peer effect literature, which suggests that individuals change their behavior in the face of potential social sanctioning and accountability. I find no evidence that mayors are affected by priming the officials’ duty to the public. The mayors who received the peer effects prime were 6–8 percentage points less likely to respond, which suggests a “backfire effect.” This paper contributes to the growing responsiveness literature on the local level and the potential detrimental impact of priming peer effects.


Abstract Urban–rural differences in partisan political loyalty are as familiar in the United States as they are in other countries. In this paper, we examine Gallup survey data from the early-2000s through 2018 to understand the urban–rural fissure that has been so noticeable in recent elections. We consider the potential mechanisms of an urban–rural political divide. We suggest that urban and rural dwellers oppose each other because they reside in far apart locations without much interaction and support different political parties because population size structures opinion quite differently in small towns compared with large cities. In particular, we consider the extent to which the compositional characteristics (i.e., race, income, education, etc.) of the individuals living in these locales drives the divide. We find that sizable urban–rural differences persist even after accounting for an array of individual-level characteristics that typically distinguish them.


Other Publications

Research in Progress

  • The Mayoral Email Archive

  • Responsiveness in the Patchwork of Local Government
  • “A Gaussian process regression and post-stratification model for grouped public opinion estimation.” with Jacob Montgomery, Noah Dasanaike, and Santiago Olivella.

  • Racial Threat and Policy Adoption in Local Government: The Emergence of Criminal Activity Nuisance Ordinances in Ohio Municipalities