Kevin J. Mullinix
The prototypical conception of a representative democracy suggests that ordinary citizens should even-handedly evaluate political information and hold leaders accountable. Political parties play a critical role insofar as they facilitate accountability and collective decision-making. Moreover, citizens often rely on party cues when forming opinions. Yet, a long-standing concern is that in doing so, parties bias how citizens process information: in short, people seek out information that reinforces their existing partisan preferences, and ignore messages that are incongruent with their partisan beliefs. My research challenges the notion that parties perpetually interfere with even-handed evaluations of political information. In contrast to what has become the conventional wisdom, I show that there are important contextual features in contemporary politics that not only mitigate, but even eliminate the ostensibly deleterious effects of partisanship. In these situations, citizens become more responsive and attentive to messages that challenge their party's positions. My research does not dismiss parties as unimportant to democracy and public opinion, but rather demonstrates how and when parties shape citizens' attitudes and behaviors. All of which has implications for citizen competence, political parties, and information in democratic politics.
To understand how people respond to political messages in different contexts I employ diverse methodological tools, including experiments, surveys, and content analyses. As such, I have a related research agenda on the implications of research design for understanding preference formation. My research has been supported by two separate TESS grants (an NSF funded organization), and competitively awarded university grants.
Please see my CV for a list of published papers, projects underway, and grants.
Mullinix, Kevin J. 2015. "Partisanship and Preference Formation: Competing Motivations, Elite Polarization, and Issue Importance." Political Behavior. Link.
Robison, Joshua and Kevin J. Mullinix. 2015. "Elite Polarization and Public Opinion: How Polarization is Communicated and Its Effects." Political Communication. Link.
Mullinix, Kevin J. 2015. "Presidential Debates, Partisan Motivations, and Political Interest." Presidential Studies Quarterly. Link.
Druckman, James N., Thomas J. Leeper, and Kevin J. Mullinix. 2014. "The Experimental Study of Legislative Behaviour." In The Oxford Handbook of Legislative Studies. Link.
Sharp, Elaine B. and Kevin J. Mullinix. 2012. "Holding Their Feet to the Fire: Explaining Variation in City Governments' Use of Controls on Economic Development Subsidies." Economic Development Quarterly. Link.
Mullinix, Kevin J. 2011. "Lingering Debates and Innovative Advances: The State of Public Opinion Research." Policy Studies Journal. Link.