Research

Josh's research interests are, broadly speaking, related to judicial politics in both the American and comparative contexts. More specifically, Josh is interested in questions regarding legal interpretation and precedent treatment, court agenda setting, collegial decision-making, and separation of powers. Despite these particular interests, Josh is always open to working on other research projects that in him. He is currently involved in research projects under the direction of Lee Epstein, Jim Spriggs, Betsy Sinclair, and Charles Lamb.

Below, you will find several abstracts for manuscripts Josh is currently working on independently and with co-authors.

"Strategic Anticipation of the Supreme Court by the Courts of Appeals: How lower courts can use opinion language to insulate their decisions"

What strategies do judges employ when they anticipate review? Scholars frequently note that judges are constrained by other actors' preferences and the nature of judicial institutions. Taking particular constraints and potential reactions into account, judges behave strategically by opting to utilize particular instruments when authoring opinions. One of those instruments is language complexity, which judges use in anticipation of legislative hostility toward judicial dispositions. The threat of review and reversal by a higher court may similarly spur opinion complexity. This study examines variations in Circuit Court opinion complexity as a result of precedent treatment and Supreme Court preferences. When a Circuit negatively treats a USSC precedent that the current USSC prefers or a Circuit positively treats a precedent the USSC dislikes, opinion complexity should increase. Empirical results support this claim, suggesting that Circuit Court panels may use opinion complexity to strategically insulate their decisions.

"Strategic Deference by the European Court of Justice: Understanding Economic Influences on Judicial Decision-Making"

Question: Does European Court of Justice (ECJ) deference to member states systematically vary according to national economic or electoral conditions?
Hypothesis: The ECJ will anticipate the likely compliance with rulings by member states -- compliance that is conditional on the country's domestic economic and electoral circumstances. As such, the ECJ constrain its decisions based on past economic performance and potential electoral concerns.
Data: The data for this exploratory study comes from \citet*{carrubba2014international}, and is supplemented with economic and electoral data.
Results: Preliminary results suggest that ECJ rulings in favor of the member state depend, in part, on the country's prior economic performance, with lower levels of growth corresponding to greater deference by the ECJ. Model estimations provide no evidence regarding the role of electoral concerns in a similar process.

"The Dynamic Relationship between Personality Stability and Political Attitudes" with Jonathan Homola, Betsy Sinclair, Michelle Torres, and Patrick Tucker
 
Abstract: Researchers frequently claim that personality traits, as measured using the Big Five personality through the TIPI (Ten Item Personality Inventory) battery, affect Americans’ political attitudes and behaviors. Such studies often depend on two key assumptions: personality measurements display stability over time and variability in such measurements predates political behaviors of interest. In this paper we employ new panel survey data to test these assumptions. First, we find high levels of variability in response to TIPI. Second, we associate this variability with not only socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, but also, and more concerning, political attitudes. The variability and associations of the instrument suggest that the relationship between personality and politics may be weaker than indicated by previous scholars and moreover, that personality as measured by TIPI should not be employed as a variable that predates political behavior. Finally, we address the consequences of these tests by applying our findings to previous research that hinges on the relationship between personality and political behavior. Ignoring the dynamic nature of (measured) personality alters the interpretation of its relationship to political attitudes.
 
 
“Casualties of the Culture Wars: Lifestyle Differences Between Democrats and Republicans” with Jonathan Homola, Betsy Sinclair, Michelle Torres, and Patrick Tucker
 
Abstract: Do our basic daily choices, from the comics we read to the sports we play, segregate us into distinct ideological communities? Using almost 700 survey items from a 2000 person US national probability sample on lifestyle choices ranging from recreational activities to media consumption to food preferences, we apply three tools to ascertain whether individual lifestyle choices are partitioned into ideological communities. Relying upon a community detection algorithm, latent class analysis, and principle-components analysis, we demonstrate that American lifestyles are divided into two communities and the greatest predictor of community membership is partisanship, even when controlling for race, education, region gender, knowledge and religiosity. We suggest that this ideological clustering with respect to lifestyles is an indirect effect of elite ideological polarization and has the potential to dampen cross-partisan deliberation and discussion across citizens.