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Experts@Vanderbilt


Political Experts

Vanderbilt has a campus broadcast facility with a dedicated fiber optic line for live TV interviews and a radio ISDN line. The News and Communications number ((615) 322-2706) has 24/7 on call information.

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Presidential Elections · Campaigns · Polling · Attack Ads · Civility in Politics

John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science; Professor of Public Policy and Education; Co-Director, Vanderbilt Poll

Geer, who has been interviewed numerous times by all the major news networks, has written extensively on political campaigns, including articles on incivility in campaigns, the impact of negative campaigning on voter participation and the news media’s coverage of negativity. His most recent book, In Defense of Negativity, analyzes negative ads during the 1960-2004 presidential campaigns. The book received the prestigious Goldsmith Book Prize from the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public at Harvard University. Geer, who co-chairs Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, also wrote From Tea Leaves to Opinion Polls and Nominating Presidents. This fall he is teaching a course on political campaigns and the electoral process. Previously, he’s co-taught courses on the presidential nominating process and the impact of genetics on political choices.


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Public Opinion · Campaigns and Elections · Representation · Wealth and Political Attitudes

Larry Bartels, May Werthan Shane Chair of Public Policy and Social Science; Co-Director, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions; professor of political science

Bartels researches how people make political decisions, the electoral process and how election outcomes matter. He has done extensive research on the impact of economic conditions on voting behavior. His 2008 book Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age was cited by then presidential candidate Barack Obama during the campaign and named one of the “economics books of the year” by The New York Times. He is researching the political attitudes of citizens with net worth above $20 million.


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North Korea · Japan · East Asian Defense Policies

James Auer, director, Center for U.S.-Japan Studies at Vanderbilt; retired naval commander

Auer can discuss North Korea’s military threats to Japan and the U.S. Auer was stationed in Japan and the Western Pacific during his naval career and was the special assistant on Japan with the office of the Secretary of Defense. He has written numerous articles and made presentations addressing East Asian security and defense policies. He is co-author of “Japan: America’s New South Korea?” published in the journal Current History.


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Immigration Politics · Radical Politics · Intercultural Communication

Robert Barsky, editor of AmeriQuests; professor of French and comparative literature

Barsky is working on a research project on immigrant incarceration —”Issues of Inter-Cultural Relations among Inmates Held for Immigration Concerns”— and can speak to the idea of making first entry a felony. Prior to joining Vanderbilt, Barsky taught at Yale University’s Center for International and Area Studies. He has authored many articles and two books on refugees and immigration policies. His book Arguing and Justifying looks at why people flee their country seeking refuge elsewhere. He is the founding editor of AmeriQuests, a Vanderbilt journal that focuses on dislocation and relocation in the Americas. He is also author of two books on Noam Chomsky and an expert on the beat writers and radical politics.


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Political Rhetoric · Media · Politics

Venessa Beasley, associate professor of communication studies

Beasley’s areas of expertise include the rhetoric of American presidents, political rhetoric on immigration and media and politics. She can discuss campaign speeches as well as how political campaign strategists must take into consideration the expanding forms of media covering the candidates, including blogs and participatory/collaborative websites. In addition, she has a strong interest in gender, race and ethnic diversity in contemporary U.S. politics, including the rhetoric surrounding candidates’ campaigns. Beasley can critique the performances of political candidates during debates and other campaign events.


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Congressional Politics · Campaigns and Eletions · Polling · Statistics

Joshua Clinton, Associate Professor of Political Science; Co-Director, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions

Clinton uses statistical methods to better understand political processes and outcomes, especially on issues dealing with elections and the conduct of the U.S. Congress. He has developed one of the leading methods for analyzing legislator roll call behavior and has conducted research on legislators’ posturing and lawmaking behavior – including work on claims regarding which members are “most extreme.” One of Clinton’s projects looks at the impact of the Swift Boat ads on John Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign and another looks at effects of the blanket primary in California. Recent papers that he co-authored include “Does Advertising Exposure Affect Turnout?” in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science and “Design, Inference, and the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism” in theAmerican Political Science Review. Clinton, who is co-director of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, previously taught at Princeton University.


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Labor Relations · Unions · Labor in Politics · Workplace and Employment Issues · Immigration's Impact on "New Destination Cities"

Dan Cornfield, Professor of Sociology

Cornfield looks at how “new destination cities” in the interior states are dealing with integrating documented and undocumented immigrants into their communities. While cities like New York, Miami, Chicago and Houston have historically been at the forefront of immigration issues, Cornfield says the “formerly secluded” interior states are now dealing with immigration’s implications for social services, health care, employment and the prospects for unionization. Cornfield led an immigration study looking at Nashville, Tenn., one of the new destination cities, during which researchers surveyed service providers and members of immigrant communities in cities of comparable size to Nashville – Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., and Memphis.


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American Politics · Presidency

Erwin Hargrove, professor of political science, emeritus

Hargrove is an expert on the American presidency and political leadership. In his latest book, The Effective Presidency, Hargrove analyzes the effectiveness of America’s eight most recent presidents. Previous books include The President as Leader: Appealing to the Better Angels of Our Nature, The Future of the Democratic Left in Industrial Democracies (edited) and Prisoners of Myth: The Leadership of the Tennessee Valley Authority, 1933-90.


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Trust and Politics · Authoritarianism and Polarization;

Marc Hetherington, Professor of Political Science

Hetherington arrived at Vanderbilt in 2004. He has published two books about the American electorate -- Why Trust Matters: Declining Political Trust and the Demise of American Liberalism (Princeton University Press, 2005) and Authoritarianism and Polarization in American Politics (with Jonathan Weiler) Cambridge University Press, 2009). He has also published numerous articles in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Public Opinion Quarterly, and British Journal of Political Science. Taken together, his publications have generated over 600 Social Sciences Citation Index citations. In 2004, he won the Emerging Scholar Award from the APSA section on Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior, and he has also won several teaching awards.


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American Politics · Presidency · Executive and Bureaucracy · Presidential Transitions · Presidential Power

David Lewis, William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Political Science; Professor of Law; Co-Director, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions

Lewis teaches and writes about the presidency, executive politics and public administration. His most recent book, The Politics of Presidential Appointments: Political Control and Bureaucratic Performance, explores why and how modern presidents including George W. Bush have politicized the bureaucracy and the consequences. Lewis, who is co-chair of Vanderbilt’s Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, also wrote Presidents and the Politics of Agency Design. Among his current projects is a study of the political views of government agencies and their employees.


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political behavior · political economy of development · bounded rationality · anti-immigration sentiment

Cecilia Hyunjung Mo, Assistant Professor of Political Science

Cecilia Hyunjung Mo's research and teaching interests include a broad array of issues in political behavior, public policy, and the political economy of development. She is concerned with basic research on bounded rationality, as well as in integrating insights from theories of bounded rationality into models and empirical analyses of political and economic decision-making and institutions. Her applied work namely focuses on understanding and addressing important social problems related to inequality, prejudice, gender-based violence, and education. She is working on several papers examining how to model biases to which individuals are subject, as well as research on human trafficking vulnerability and public opinion around human trafficking policies. In addition to this work, she has written on a variety of other topics, including anti-immigrant sentiment and education policy.


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Abu Ghraib · Women in the Military · Suicide Bombers

Kelly Oliver, Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy

Oliver is the author of Women as Weapons of War, which examines how women are increasingly being used by military organizations around the world. She has studied the use of young attractive females as Palestinian suicide bombers, how the United States has used female sexuality as an interrogation tool and rape issues in the military. She is the author of more than 50 articles and 15 books, including Animal Lessons: How They Teach Us to Be Human; The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Theory of Oppression; Family Values: Subjects Between Nature and Culture; and Reading Kristeva: Unraveling the Double-Bind.


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Congress · Legislative Process · Political Parties · Elections

Bruce Oppenheimer, Professor of Political Science; Professor of Public Policy and Education

Oppenheimer teaches and writes about congressional elections, legislative process and political parties. He co-authored the award-winning book Sizing Up the Senate: The Unequal Consequences of Equal Representation. In addition, he is co-editor of Congress Reconsidered, now in its ninth edition. Recent research includes how Congress has impacted the development of energy policy since the 1970s oil embargo. In the fall Oppenheimer will teach a course on the 2010 midterm elections. He is a former fellow and guest scholar at the Brookings Institution.


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Race and Politics · Public Opinion · Political Psychology

Efrén Pérez, Assistant Professor of Political Science

Pérez researches how bias against immigration and illegal immigrants plays out in the political process. He has analyzed data showing that politicians who make aggressive references to illegal immigrants alienate many Latinos, a growing segment of the American electorate. He has also studied language and survey response among U.S. Latinos. His research has been published in The Journal of Politics, Political Analysis and Political Behavior.


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American Foreign Policy · International Relations · Middle East · Vietnam War · History of U.S. Presidency · Iran and Iraq

Thomas Schwartz, professor of history

Schwartz can discuss America’s current foreign policy regarding Iraq and the Middle East and U.S. efforts to contain the nuclear ambitions of Iran and North Korea. He has done extensive research on the making of American foreign policy, the role of alliance politics and domestic politics in U.S. foreign policy, “nation-building” and efforts to promote democracy in post-World War II Germany and Japan. He has a strong interest in the modern presidency and has written Lyndon Johnson and Europe: In the Shadow of Vietnam and America’s Germany, both published by Harvard University Press. He is writing a biography of Henry Kissinger that is tentatively titled Henry Kissinger and the Dilemmas of American Power. He has been an historical consultant for Winston DuPont Films of New York and the Marshall Plan Film Project of Arlington, Va.


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Religion and War · Religion and Social Movements · Religion and Politics · Ethics

Melissa Snarr, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, Associate Professor of Ethics and Society

Melissa Snarr’s research focuses on the intersection of religion, social change and social/political ethics. She teaches courses ranging from "Modern Christian Political Thought" and "Religion and Social Movements" to "Religion and War in an Age of Terror" (comparative Muslim/Christian). She is an expert on ethics.

Her most recent book, All You That Labor: Religion and Ethics in the Living Wage Movement (NYU 2011), draws on extensive participant observation to analyze and evaluate the contributions of religious activists in the living wage movement. Snarr is also the author of Social Selves and Political Reforms (Continuum, 2007) as well as several articles in the area of feminist ethics.

Snarr will co-direct the 2016/2017 Robert Penn Warren Center Fellows Program, with the theme "Working for Equality and Justice: Theorizing from and with Lived Resistance to Economic Inequality and Injustice."

Snarr is an active member of Glendale Baptist Church (affiliated with the Alliance of Baptists and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship).


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African American Representation · Black Leadership · Reparations · White Nationalism · Race and Public Policy · Affirmative Action · Voting Rights Act · Immigration

Carol Swain, Professor of Political Science; Professor of Law

Carol Swain is passionate about empowering others to raise their voices in the public square. She has authored award-winning books, including Black Faces, Black Interests: The Representation of African Americans in Congress (Harvard University Press, 1993, 1995). Black Faces won the Woodrow Wilson prize for the best book published in the U. S. on government, politics or international affairs in 1994, and was cited by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in Johnson v. DeGrandy, 512 U.S. 997 (1994) and by Justice Sandra Day O' Connor in Georgia v. Ashcroft, 539 U.S. (2003). Professor Swain’s other books include Be the People: A Call to Reclaim America’s Faith and Promise (Thomas Nelson Press, 2011); Debating Immigration (Cambridge University Press, 2007); The New White Nationalism in America: Its Challenge to Integration (Cambridge University Press, 2002), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Contemporary Voices of White Nationalism (Cambridge University Press, 2003, edited with Russ Nieli). Professor Swain has served on the Tennessee Advisory Committee to the U.S. Civil Rights Commission and currently serves on the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Her opinion pieces have been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Washington Times and USA Today. Professor Swain has appeared on BBC Radio, NPR, CNN's AC360, Hannity, Lou Dobbs Tonight,  the PBS NewsHour, The Washington Journal and ABC's Headline News, among other media. She is a foundation member of the Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. Before joining Vanderbilt in 1999, she was a tenured associate professor of politics and public policy at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.


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Legislative politics · electoral politics · bureaucratic politics · regulation · bureaucracy · legislative effectiveness, industry regulation

Alan Wiseman, Associate Professor of Political Science; Associate Professor of Law; Co-Director, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions

Professor Wiseman's research addresses the impact of political institutions on political actors' behavior and strategies, focusing substantively on legislative, electoral, and bureaucratic and regulatory politics in the United States. He is the author of The Internet Economy: Access, Taxes, and Market Structure (Brookings Institution Press, 2000), and has published research in journals including the American Political Science Review, Journal of Politics, Legislative Studies Quarterly, and Journal of Theoretical Politics. His current scholarship examines the impact of executive oversight of bureaucratic rulemaking and lawmaking in the United States and other developed democracies, and he is also writing a book on the causes and consequences of legislative effectiveness in the United States Congress, and studying the emergence and consequences of industry self-regulation in different product and service markets. Prior joining the faculty of Vanderbilt University, he served on the faculty of The Ohio State University, where he directed the undergraduate public policy minor in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He has also been a visiting Associate Professor at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management; and before entering the academy he served as a visiting economic scholar with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.


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Comparative Politics · Latin American and Mexican Politics · Political Behavior

Elizabeth Zechmeister, Associate Professor of Political Science; Associate Director, Latin American Public Opinion Project

Zechmeister, co-author of Democracy at Risk: How Terrorist Threats Affect the Public (University of Chicago Press, 2009), has written extensively about the impact of terrorist and other threats on political leaders’ approval ratings, including those of former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama. She co-authored a recent journal article “Terrorist Threat, Leadership, and Vote Choice: Evidence from Three Experiments.” She also recently secured two National Science Foundation grants, one to study terrorist, economic, and crime threats across eight countries and the other to study the effects of the recent earthquake on public opinion in Chile. Zechmeister also is the co-author of the Latin American Party Systems (Cambridge University Press, 2010).



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