My current research interests fall into two, non-mutually exclusive, categories. First, the concept of providential beliefs–the believe that God has a plan that people can help bring about–has prompted a number of research strands. The set of three survey questions I use to identify providential believers has proven both reliable and valid and I have submitted a proposal for their inclusion in the American National Election Studies. Second, my work on framing foreign policy has led to collaborations with Dr. Amber Boydstun of UC Davis.

Providential Religious Belief Projects

  • Divine Direction: How Providential Religious Beliefs Shape Foreign Policy Attitudes, Foreign Policy Analysis, forthcoming 2012.

Abstract: Despite recent scholarly and popular work regarding the role of religion in U.S. foreign policy, we still know little about how religious factors affect the public’s foreign policy views. This paper proposes one potential mechanism for influence—the connection of providential beliefs to foreign policy issues through a compelling religious frame—and tests the explanatory power of this approach through a nationally-administered survey experiment. The “providential” orientation of respondents—the extent to which they believe in a divinely-authored plan—is measured through questions that tap the non-denomination specific nature of religious beliefs. A multi-methods approach of means comparisons, logit analyses, and exact logistical regression indicates that when a foreign policy is framed in religious terms, providentiality is a significant predictor of support, even in the face of countervailing political beliefs. These findings highlight one mechanism through which religion can influence foreign policy attitudes, thereby demonstrating the value of further investigating the role of religious beliefs in politics.

  • Terrorism and Religiously Motivated Political Violence

I contributed a chapter entitled “Religiously-motivated Political Violence in Iraq” to the book “Religion, Conflict and Military Intervention” edited by Rosemary Durward and Lee Marsden and published by Ashgate in December, 2009.  This paper was originally presented at the British International Studies Association’s Working Group on International Relations, Security and Religion Conference “Engaging with Religion for Building Peace: the Experience of Afghanistan and Iraq,” held at the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst in November 2007.

  • TB vs. TNT: Understanding the Choice to Use Biological Weapons

This paper that came out of the Institute for Global Cooperation and Conflict’s Public Policy and Biological Threats Summer Training Program I attended at the University of California San Diego in 2007. In this paper, I use offense/defense theory, providential beliefs, and other theoretical tools to explain the choice of both state and non-state actors to acquire and use biological weapons. This paper is being revised for resubmission.

  • Religious Peacemaking

I was awarded the Graduate Research Award for Social Science Surveys by the University of California Santa Barbara in 2008. This grant allowed me to conduct surveys on religious peacemakers identified by the Tannenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding. The data collection for this project was recently completed and the manuscript is being prepared for submission.

Framing Foreign Policy Projects

  • The Crisis Framing Cycle (manuscript under review)

Abstract: Is framing a uniform process, whereby frames appearing in the news vary stochastically in response only to events, or do the underlying mechanisms of frame selection change over time and context? We focus on crisis issues, arguing that media framing of crises follows a predictable pattern of change, moving with the public and elites from unity to division. These changes shift the range of frames at journalists’ disposal, changing in turn the likelihood of seeing different types of frames in the news. We examine news coverage of three key crises—9/11, the Iraq War, and Hurricane Katrina—finding evidence that the frame type and tone employed change in the same patterned ways, forming what we call the “crisis framing cycle.”

  • The President, the Press, and the War: A Tale of Two Framing Agendas, Political Communication, forthcoming 2012.

Abstract: Alignment between media and presidential framing following 9/11 and surrounding the Iraq war have been criticized as instances of “when the press fails.” We explore this idea further by comparing presidential and newspaper framing in the case of 9/11 and the subsequent “war on terror.” We argue that high president/press framing alignment after 9/11, and again during the start of the Iraq war, was largely driven by institutional incentives. Thus, “failure” of the press should be expected in these cases, as in the case of other “crisis” events that yield a strong rally response. Because the media and the president operate under different incentives, they exhibit different framing behaviors—and different framing dynamics. The result is that, in general, the framing messages of these two institutions sometimes align, especially at critical moments, but more often differ. And in the case of major crises like 9/11 and Iraq, we should see a distinct pattern in president/press framing alignment over time—namely, high initial alignment followed by steep decay—as incentives lead the president to “stay the course” while leading news outlets to shift their framing in line with elite and public opinion. We test this idea by applying a new measure of framing alignment to over 3,400 news stories and 500 presidential papers about 9/11 and the war. We find support for our theoretical expectations, showing that, despite their immediate similarities in the cases of 9/11 and Iraq, the president and the press exhibited increasingly divergent framing behaviors over time.

  • Presidential Debates Project

Link the to the project website here:


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