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Andrew Bennett

CV

Dissertation Title: Internet Media and Democratic Breakdown: Polarization, Populism, and the Online Information Marketplace

Chair: Ekrem Karakoc

Committee: David Cingranelli, Robin Best

Dissertation Synopsis: Events like the 2011 Arab Uprisings and 2016 US Presidential election vividly demonstrate the profound role that internet media has come to play in politics. My dissertation focuses on two factors connected with democratic breakdown—rising polarization and populism—and how the ownership structure of internet media shapes its impact on these phenomena. Concentrated and oligopolistic internet ownership allow for an online marketplace that is far less transparent, regulated, or constrained—making it ripe for exploitation by political actors who are motivated to capitalize on unprecedented volumes of online advertising and propaganda in order to polarize public opinion, intensify bases of support, and open up new pathways to the political arena. Drawing on original data on global internet ownership, as well as original interviews conducted in Tunisia very shortly after their most recent presidential election (October 2019), I am able to show online marketplace concentration as a leading contributor to higher affective polarization and populist party vote share in forty electoral democracies across the globe.

 

Marc Davignon

CV

Dissertation Title: The Political Economy of Human Rights

Chair: David Cingranelli

Committee: Mikhail Filippov, Gregory Robinson

Dissertation Synopsis: My dissertation explores the role of economic incentives in determining respect for human rights around the world. While human rights scholarship often focuses on more formal constraints, this dissertation builds from a world like that of Olson’s hypothetical roving bandit by suggesting that economic self-interest provides for a foundational level of respect for human rights. This dissertation focuses on the behavior of regimes for two chapters, and the actions of business and labor in a labor rights context for the third. In each chapter, the hypothetical of a purely self-interested actor is argued to yield some level of respect for human rights. Using this thought experiment as a foundation for each theoretical argument, this dissertation tests these theories empirically using country-level human rights data. The results of each chapter suggest these underlying economic incentives to respect human rights may exist across a wide range of differently constrained political actors.

 

 

Andrew Foote

CV

Dissertation Title: Choosing Who Votes

Chair: David Clark

Committee: Amanda Licht, Ekrem Karakoç

Dissertation Synopsis: When are we likely to see incumbents undertake electoral reforms that selectively alter the voting population? I argue that reforms such as absentee voting, citizenship extensions and revocations, and ballot quotas are tools of pre-election manipulation (PEM) that an incumbent can use when there is growing support for an opposition group, but she has committed to improving the quality of elections. When an incumbent commits to improving the quality of elections, she makes it more costly to engage in electoral fraud or to repress the growing base of opposition support. PEM strategies allow the incumbent to selectively alter the electoral playing field while avoiding the perception that her commitment to election quality has weakened. I introduce the Citizenship, Absentee Voting and Suffrage Dataset, and create an index of PEM usage. I test the relationship between growing opposition support, commitment to election quality, and uses of PEM strategies, and also test the effects of PEM usage on the likelihood of future protests and leader turnover.

 

Roya Izadidastgerdi

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Patrick Jeffery

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Chair: Michael D. McDonald

Committee: Jonathan Krasno, Gregory Robinson

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Kourosh Rahimkhani

Dissertation Title:  Actors, Strategies and Coordination in Iranian Electoral Politics

Chair: Mikhail Filippov

Committee: Ekrem Karakoc, Gregory Robinson

Dissertation Synopsis: My research interest focuses on three interconnected areas: democratization, electoral authoritarianism, and ethnic and religious conflict. My research findings (including my dissertation) suggest that whereas a dictator uses crackdowns on organized political opposition, free press, and freedom of assembly (i.e., coordination goods) to disallow the masses from coordinating, competitive elections in nondemocratic regimes can pave the way for strategic coordination of collective action by elements of the political elite and the opposition. The nondemocratic leaders use political institutions strategically to increase their chances of remaining in power. Hence, institutions such as legislatures serve as an instrument of cooptation and as a forum for reducing the transaction cost of bargaining concessions for political support. When the key important means of political mobilization, preference aggregation, and interest articulation (e.g., political parties) are weak and politics in nondemocracies become personalistic, the critical task for dissident groups becomes how they can solve the problems of collective action among themselves and establish coordination between themselves and masses, understanding that autocrats aim to increase the polarization of dissidents.

 

Didem Seyis

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Christine Sylvester

Website:  https://christineasylvester.weebly.com/

Dissertation Title: (Con)Textual Politics: Intra-Party Issue Raising , Issue Emphasis, and Issue Adoption

Chair: Robin Best

Committee: William Heller, Ekrem Karakoc, Michael D. McDonald

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Brendon Szendro

CV

Dissertation Title: Religion, State, and Modernity: Defining the Contours of Desecularization

Chair: Gregory Robinson

Committee: Ekrem Karakoc, David Cingranelli

Dissertation Synopsis: Proponents of secularization theory assumed that religious activity would die out with modernization. Since the end of the Cold War, scholars have struggled to explain the renewed political influence of religion and religious actors. In this book-length project, I argue that globalization has facilitated a religious resurgence due to challenges to national sovereignty and changes in demogrpahics. In short, I demonstrate that a multilateral process related to globalization decreases positive religious identifiers, such as service attendance, and increases negative identifiers, such as attacks on religious minorities. I further examine these findings through two case studies regarding the rise of Evangelist Christianity in the United States and Jihadi Islam in the Middle East-North Africa.

 

Huei-Jyun Ye

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Last Updated: 11/30/20