My research agenda investigates the foundations of policy change and gridlock, with a particular interest in how institutional features and unelected elites influence the policymaking process. More specifically, I examine how legislative parties, electoral competition, legislative resources, and interest group activity determine how, when, and why public policy changes. Understanding when and how policies change is essential for assessing a political system’s quality of governance, and it is central to other core concerns such as representation and economic growth. My research examines the incidence and content of policy change at both the federal and state levels and explores a wide variety of its causes and consequences.
Please use the following links to learn more about individual aspects of my research agenda:
Parties, Electoral Competition, and Policy Change
“Waiting to Win, Choosing to Lose: Essays on Agenda Control, Party Competition, and Policy Change in the U.S.” (dissertation project)
My dissertation is organized into three papers, in which I underscore the important consequences of party agenda-control power in American legislatures. The first paper demonstrates how empowering legislative parties with gatekeeping agenda control depresses policy change, beyond what polarization alone might suggest. The second and third papers underscore the vital but understudied role that elections play in encouraging policy change or gridlock. In these papers, I illustrate how macro-level electoral competition influences both micro-level proposal behavior and macro-level institutional outputs in Congress. I provide further summaries of these papers below.
Paper 1 (job market paper): “Stalemate in the States: Negative Agenda Control, Veto Players, and Legislative Gridlock in the American States.” Forthcoming at Legislative Studies Quarterly.
- Examines the impact of negative agenda control on state legislature’s levels of legislative gridlock.
- Uses actual institutional differences in control of voting calendar to measure directly the influence of partisan agenda control on policy output.
- Theory tested on aggregate legislative productivity data, as well as data on Affordable Care Act compliance.
- Presented at 2017 NSF Empirical Implications of Theoretical Models student symposium, 2015 APSA Annual Meeting, 2015 MPSA Annual Meeting, and 2015 NYU Hamilton Center Political Economy Conference.
Paper 2: “Mandate to Message: Bill Introduction and Position-Taking among Members of Congress”
- Builds upon current formal models of policy change by allowing veto players to condition their actions on beliefs about a second round of play, following a hypothetical election. Under certain conditions, the model predicts less policy change than preferences alone might predict. Other other conditions, agenda-setters face incentives to accelerate the policymaking process.
- Traces the influence of the model’s dynamism through the bill introduction process. Finds that members are more likely to introduce non-passable, position-taking legislation when agenda-setters are unlikely to grant agenda space because of electoral considerations.
- Relies upon innovative bill-level dataset (developed in Crosson, Furnas, and Lorenz 2018; see below) of simultaneously estimated status quo and bill location point estimates.
Paper 3. “Elections and (In)action: Partisan Competition and the Timing of Major Legislative Reauthorizations in Congress”
- Applies dynamic theory of policy change (introduced in Paper 2) to predict when reauthorizations should pass late or on time, and where those reauthorizations should move ideologically.
- Uses Bayesian IRT approach and original dataset of 1,100 reauthorization bill introductions throughout the 20th and 21st centuries to track status quo movements within 262 major reauthorization streams.
- Provides first quantitative evidence that the top-two primary in Washington and California leads to the election of more moderate candidates.
- Proposes and tests via simulation a multiple vote system that, under certain conditions, benefits centrist parties in multidimensional space.
Interest Groups, Polarization, and the Policymaking Process
- Generates first-ever measure of interest group ideology for both donating and non-donating interest groups at the federal level, using 150,000 bill-level interest group positions on congressional bills. Scores are generated for more than 2,000 interest groups.
- Demonstrates previously underappreciated level of preference polarization among interest groups and shows large distributional differences between donating and non-donating interests.
- Highlights prevalence of liberal interests in modern policy advocacy, in contrast to previous accounts of
Crosson, Jesse, and Michael T. Heaney. “Working Together in Washington: Assessing Collaboration within Interest Group Coalitions.” Ongoing Book Project.
- Winner: Best paper in Political Organizations and Parties Section, American Political Science Association 2016 Annual Meeting; for paper “Constructing Interest Group Coalitions.”
- Funding: University of Michigan Department of Political Science, University of Michigan Organizational Studies Program, University of Michigan School of Literature, Science and the Arts, University of Michigan Office of Research
- Project based primary on in-person interviews of over 220 executive directors from a nationally representative sample of interest group coalitions. Interviews designed to examine differences in coalition structure, governance, institutional targets, and tactics/strategy.
Hall, Richard L. and Jesse Crosson. “Lobbyist Access and Gender in Congress.” Work in progress.
- Examines whether a gender match between a lobbyist and her targeted legislative staffer increases her chances of gaining access to that congressional office.
- Leverages detailed data on members’ issue specific legislative staff, and interviews from 160 federal lobbyists over nearly 25 years.
Legislative Resources and Productivity
Crosson, Jesse, Geoffrey Lorenz, Craig Volden, and Alan Wiseman. “How Experienced Legislative Staff Contribute to Effective Lawmaking.” Forthcoming in edited volume, Congressional Capacity.
- Leverages data from Congress and Its Experts data to delineate the conditions under which legislative staff experience improve a member’s legislative effectiveness.
- Finds that the primary beneficiaries to staff investment are committee chairs and House freshmen. Finds also that investment into experienced staff is met with positive marginal returns, but that most members do not invest in staff experienced enough to enjoy these returns.
- Presented at Congressional Capacity Conference, New America Foundation, Washington, DC.
- Makes extensive use of Congress and Its Experts data to investigate an underappreciated de facto institutional development in Congress: member-level divestment in legislative resources and endeavors.
- Finds that legislative divestment is not due to conservative ideological pushes for smaller government, but that members of both parties have willfully divested in their own capacity, in response to growing competition over majority control of Congress.
Crosson, Jesse. with assistance from Alexander Furnas and Tim LaPira. Congress and Its Experts. Ongoing research project.
- Major data collection effort to gather and categorize information on congressional staffer service in the House of Representatives, from 1994 to 2015.
- Data includes information on staff responsibilities, salaries, education, race, gender, and experience.
- Recipient: University of Michigan Library data grant award.
- Winner: 2017 Eldersveld Prize for best graduate student paper in Department of Political Science, University of Michigan.
- Presented at 2016 SPSA, MPSA and APSA Annual Meetings; available on SSRN.
- Develops first institutions-level theory and model of interest group hiring selection between contract and in-house lobbyists in the U.S. states.
Crosson, Jesse, Zander Furnas, and Geoffrey Lorenz. “Estimating Bill Proposal Point Estimates Using Position-Taking Data.” Work in progress.
- Generates point estimates for hundreds of bills from the 110th through 115th Congresses, using interest-group position-taking and member cosponsorship data.
- Point estimates generated using Bayesian IRT, placing the scores on a common scale with members of Congress.
Dayaratna, Kevin, Benjamin Kedem, and Jesse Crosson. “Bayesian Inferences for Binary Logistic Regression Using Polynomial Expansions.” Working paper under revision.
- Generates an estimation approach, using polynomial expansions, dramatically improves the estimation of heterogeneous Bayesian logistic models, as it substantially reduces the parameter space and improves computational efficiency over traditional MCMC approaches.
- Applies approach to computationally intensive example predicting voter turnout using multilevel regression with postratification.