Faculty & Staff

Faculty Research

David Holian and Charles Prysby

David Holian Book Cover

Voter perceptions of the personal traits of presidential candidates are widely regarded to be important influences on the vote. Media pundits frequently explain the outcome of presidential elections in terms of the personal appeal of the candidates. Despite the emphasis on presidential character traits in the media, the scholarly investigation in this area is limited.  In this book, Professors Holian and Prysby set out to examine the effect that trait perceptions have on the vote, how these perceptions are shaped by other attitudes and evaluations, what types of voters are most likely to cast a ballot on the basis of the character traits, and how varying patterns of media consumption influence voters’ reliance on their perceptions of the character traits of the presidential candidates. The authors examine presidential elections from 1980 to 2012 and find that traits do have a very substantial effect on the vote, that different candidates have advantages on different traits, and that the opinions expressed by media pundits about how the candidates are viewed by the voters are often simplistic, and sometimes flat out wrong.

“Candidate Character Traits in Presidential Elections is an extraordinary analysis that contributes a new level of understanding to an area much discussed but relatively neglected by social scientists. The personal qualities and character perceptions of presidential candidates are assumed to affect voter decision-making. Precisely how and of what degree of importance compared to other influences has been a murky area for interpretation. This is no longer the case. Holian and Prysby assess how such qualities impact the vote; what shapes and influences the development of such perceptions; and the types of voters most likely to perceive individual personalities as determinants of their votes. They do it with style and an in-depth familiarity with their subjects that in itself provides a good read. This is an exceptionally sophisticated study, one that fills a major void in our analysis of voting behavior. It should be required reading for all students of elections and the forces that serve to shape the outcomes.”  —William Crotty, Thomas P. O'Neill Chair in Public Life and Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University.

Susan Johnson

Susan Johnson Book Cover

Professor Susan Johnson’s research focuses on judicial behavior in the United States and Canada.  In her recent book on the nature of judicial behavior in the Supreme Court of Canada, Johnson and her co-authors use qualitative and quantitative research strategies to examine judicial decision making and to show how a collegial court setting shapes these decisions. The authors critically examine the ideological tendencies of decision making using confidential interviews with the justices, analysis of their decisions from 1970 to 2005, and unique measures of the justices’ ideologies. Their findings strongly conclude that political ideology is a key factor in decision making and a prominent source of conflict in the Supreme Court of Canada.

“This is a methodologically sound, substantively interesting, and yet accessible volume. The book expands on earlier assessments of attitudinal decision making in Canada by applying a macro-level perspective of judicial decision-making rather than taking a micro-level look at specific subfields of law. It also expands on the methods of the earlier studies of the Court by the concurrent application of several methods to achieve a broader and yet more exact assessment of ideology’s role in judicial decisions making, offering a unique contribution to attitudinal literature.” -  Reza Barmaki, University of Toronto, Mississauga, Book review in Canadian Journal of Sociology, v37 (n4) (Fall 2012): 450(4).

Carisa Showden

Carisa Showden Book Cover

This book illustrates how the politics surrounding sex work shape individual and collective agency. Negotiating Sex Work rejects the divided framework that the selling of sexual acts is either legitimate work or a form of exploitation, instead offering diverse and compelling contributions that reframe these viewpoints. A timely and necessary intervention into sex work debates, this volume challenges how policy makers and the broader public regard sex workers’ capacity to advocate for their own interests.

Carisa Showden

Carisa Showden Book Cover

Professor Carisa Showden, whose research focuses on political theory and feminist theory, recently published Choices Women Make, with The University of Minnesota Press.  Choices Women Make looks at the political, economic, and social forces affecting how different groups of women, in a variety of situations, exercise agency. In so doing, it interrogates what we mean when we say someone has "agency" or can act as an "agent" for herself. The book explains how agency--commonly understood as an individual construct--is fundamentally social and political in its development. To explore what social and political agency looks like, Showden looks at how and why different groups of women make decisions in the contexts of intimate partner violence, assisted reproduction, and prostitution.