Presidents possess broad power to effect sweeping change with the stroke of a pen, leading many to decry the rise of an imperial presidency. But given the steep barriers that usually prevent Congress and the courts from formally checking unilateral power, what stops presidents from going it alone even more aggressively?  The Myth of the Imperial Presidency reveals the extent to which domestic public opinion limits executive might. Although few Americans instinctively recoil against unilateralism, Congress and the courts can sway the public’s view via their criticism of unilateral policies.  Anticipating this, presidents respond accordingly.  Presidents are emboldened to pursue their own agendas when they enjoy strong public support, and constrained when they are down in the polls.  Checks and balances remain resilient; but other actors check the unilateral executive primarily through political means.


Congressional investigations, which have produced some of the most dramatic moments in American political history, are far more than mere grandstanding. Investigating the President shows that investigations are a powerful tool for members of Congress to counter presidential aggrandizement. Marshaling an original data set of nearly 13,000 days of investigative hearings from 1898 through 2014, we examine the forces driving the exercise of investigative power over time; identify how hearings influence the president’s strategic calculations by eroding public support for the administration; and uncover the pathways through which investigations shape policy. By shining a light on alleged executive wrongdoing, investigations can exert significant pressure on the president and materially affect policy outcomes.


The Particularistic President challenges the notion that presidents are sole stewards of the national interest and provide an important counterbalance to the parochial impulses of members of Congress. Through an examination of a diverse range of policies from disaster declarations, to base closings, to the allocation of federal spending, we show that presidents, like members of Congress, are particularistic. Presidents routinely pursue policies that allocate federal resources in a way that disproportionately benefits their more narrow partisan and electoral constituencies. Concentrating greater power in the executive branch will not necessarily produce better policy outcomes; rather, executive branch politics generate their own form of political inequality.



After the Rubicon challenges the conventional wisdom of congressional irrelevance in military affairs by illuminating the diverse ways in which legislators have influenced the conduct of military affairs from the end of Reconstruction to the present day. Even in politically sensitive wartime environments, individual members of Congress frequently propose legislation, hold investigative hearings, and engage in national policy debates in the public sphere. These actions influence the president’s strategic decisions as he weighs the political costs of pursuing his preferred military course.  Marshaling a wealth of quantitative and historical evidence, the book reveals the full extent to which Congress materially shapes the initiation, scope, and duration of major military actions.



The Casualty Gap shows how the most important cost of American military campaigns – the loss of human life – has been paid disproportionately by poorer and less-educated communities since the 1950s. Drawing on a rich array of evidence, including National Archives data on the hometowns of more than 400,000 American soldiers killed in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, this book is the most ambitious inquiry to date into the distribution of American wartime casualties across the nation, the forces causing such inequalities to emerge, and their consequences for politics and democratic governance.




Peer-Reviewed Articles

Beyond the Base: Presidents, Partisan Approval, and the Political Economy of Unilateral Action. (with Dino Christenson). 2020. Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy. 

Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat? Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House? (with Francis Shen). 2020. PS: Political Science and Politics. Replication Data

Does Public Opinion Constrain Presidential Unilateralism? (with Dino Christenson). 2019. American Political Science Review. 113: 1071-1077. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Public Knowledge, Contaminant Concerns, and Support for Recycled Water in the United States. (with David Glick, Jillian Goldfarb, and Wendy Heiger-Bernays). 2019. Resources, Conservation, & Recycling. 150: 104419.

Congress, Public Opinion, and an Informal Constraint on the Commander-in-Chief. 2018. British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 20: 52-68.

Self-Interest, Partisanship, and the Conditional Influence of War Taxation on Support for War in the United States (with Breanna Lechase and Rosella Cappella Zielinski). 2018. Conflict Management and Peace Science. 35: 43-64.  Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Mobilizing the Public Against the President: Congress and the Political Costs of Unilateral Action (with Dino Christenson). 2017. American Journal of Political Science. 61: 769-785. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Constitutional Qualms or Politics as Usual? The Factors Shaping Public Support for Unilateral Action (with Dino Christenson). 2017. American Journal of Political Science. 61: 335-349. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

All the President’s Senators: Presidential Co-Partisans and the Allocation of Federal Grants (with Dino Christenson). 2017. Legislative Studies Quarterly. 42: 269-294. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

The Specter of Supreme Court Criticism: Public Opinion and Unilateral Action (with Dino Christenson). 2017. Presidential Studies Quarterly 47: 471-494.

Costs, Benefits, and the Malleability of Public Support for Fracking (with Dino Christenson and Jillian Goldfarb). 2017. Energy Policy. 105: 407-417.  Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Building Public Support for Science Spending: Misinformation, Motivated Reasoning, and the Power of Corrections (with Jillian Goldfarb). 2017. Science Communication. 39: 77-100. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Geographic Proximity to Coal Plants and U.S. Public Support for Extending the Production Tax Credit (with Jillian Goldfarb and Marric Buessing). 2016. Energy Policy. 99: 299-307.  Replication Data

The Elasticity of Reality and British Support for the War in Afghanistan (with Graham Wilson). 2016. British Journal of Politics and International Relations. 18: 559-580. Supplemental Information

Conscription, Inequality, and Partisan Support for War (with Francis Shen). 2016. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 60: 1419-1445. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Presidential Particularism and Divide-the-Dollar Politics (with Andrew Reeves). 2015. American Political Science Review. 109: 155-171. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Responding to War on Capitol Hill: Battlefield Casualties, Congressional Response, and Public Support for the War in Iraq (with Francis Shen). 2014. American Journal of Political Science. 58: 157-174. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Investigating the President: Committee Probes and Presidential Approval, 1953-2006 (with Eric Schickler). 2014. Journal of Politics. 76: 521-534.  Supplemental Information   Replication Data

Reassessing American Casualty Sensitivity: The Mediating Influence of Inequality (with Francis Shen). 2014. Journal of Conflict Resolution. 58: 1174-1201. Supplemental Information    Replication Data

Obama’s Authorization Paradox: Syria and Congress’ Continued Relevance in Military Affairs. 2014. Presidential Studies Quarterly. 44: 309-327.

Responsive Partisanship: Public Support for the Clinton and Obama Health Care Plans (with Andrew Reeves). 2014. Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law. 39: 717-749.

The Influence of Federal Spending on Presidential Elections (with Andrew Reeves). 2012. American Political Science Review. 106: 348-66.  Supplemental Information    Replication Data

How Citizens Respond to Combat Casualties: The Differential Impact of Local Casualties on Support for the War in Afghanistan (with Francis Shen). 2012. Public Opinion Quarterly. 76: 761-770.  Supplemental Information

Limited War and American Political Engagement (with Francis Shen). 2009. Journal of Politics. 71: 1514-1529.  Supplemental Information

Partisan Dynamics and the Volatility of Presidential Approval (with Liam Schwartz). 2009. British Journal of Political Science. 39: 609-631.

Divided Government and Congressional Investigations (with Liam Schwartz). 2008. Legislative Studies Quarterly. 33: 295-321.

Dynamics of Vice Presidential Selection (with Mark Hiller). 2008. Presidential Studies Quarterly. 38: 401-421.

Iraq Casualties and the 2006 Senate Elections (with Francis Shen). 2007. Legislative Studies Quarterly. 32: 507-530.

World War II and the Variance of Presidential Approval. 2006. Public Opinion Quarterly. 70: 23-47.