Research

Publications:

Aldrich, J., Ballard, A., Lerner, J., Rohde, D. (Forthcoming) Does the Gift Keep on Giving?: House Leadership PAC Donations Before and After Majority Status (with John Aldrich, Joshua Lerner, and David Rohde). The Journal of Politics.

Johnston, C.D. and Ballard, A. (2016). Economists and Public Opinion: Expert Consensus and Economic Policy Judgments. The Journal of Politics.

Ballard, A., Hillygus, D.S., Konitzer, T. (2016). Campaigning Online: Web Display Ads in the 2012 Presidential Campaign. PS: Political Science and Politics.

Research in Progress:

Mapping Agendas: Text Analysis and Congressional Rhetoric (with Joshua Lerner and Shahryar Minhas).
Applications of Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA) in political science rarely leverage information from the full posterior topic mixture distributions underlying the generation of documents in a corpus. Rather much of the extant literature employing this approach simply focuses on the maximal probability topic for every document. We present an approach to help solve this problem, and validate our method via an exploration of Congressional rhetoric and its relationship to party power. Congressional rhetoric — the content of floor speeches — is a clear manifestation of well-studied concepts such as party organization and agenda setting, yet remains largely understudied. Based on the text of speeches from the 104th through 109th Congresses, we use LDA to model speech content, and create a Euclidean space for speeches in Congress via a Principal Components Analysis (PCA). We then predict 1) the amount of money given to a candidate by their party committee and 2) prestige committee appointment based on how much their oor speeches resemble those of the rest of their party. Consistent with findings in American politics, we show that speaking like the rest of one’s party is associated with receiving more party goods.

Needles in Haystacks: When Do Incumbent Face (Quality) Challengers in Primaries?
Many scholars attribute a substantial portion of Congressional polarization to primary elections, particularly to changes in the pool of primary candidates. Incumbents are advantaged in primary elections in much the same way as they are in general elections, but they are much more vulnerable to strong candidates. However, there exists no systematic analysis of the conditions that increase the likelihood of a strong primary challenge. The present paper fills this gap in the literature, utilizing a unique set of data including institutional, candidate, and constituency variables. I find that a number of race- and candidate-specific, as well as broad contextual variables, affect the likelihood that an incumbent faces a strong primary challenge.

The Primary Focus: Member Responses to Party Challengers.
Many scholars argue that strong primary challenges contribute to party polarization by inducing Members of Congress to become more ideologically extreme. I demonstrate that our thinking about primary elections is incomplete, providing evidence that incumbents who are part of a homogeneous party and survive a difficult primary challenge do not become more extreme, and even move closer to the ideological center of their party as a result. I find this effect for Democrats, but not Republicans, between 1980 and 2010, and discuss how these findings can be explained by an extension of the theory of Conditional Party Government.

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