William (Will) Marble - Responsiveness in a Polarized Era: How Local Economic Conditions Structure Campaign Rhetoric (Job Talk Practice)

Mon, Oct 26 2020, 11:30am - 12:50pm
William Marble

Politics in the United States has become increasingly nationalized and polarized, raising the question: Are politicians responsive to the local concerns of their constituents? I investigate this question by examining how local economic conditions affect the expressed priorities of congressional candidates, drawing on the content of televised campaign advertisements between 2000 and 2016. Exploiting over-time changes in local unemployment rates, I find that the issue content of campaign ads varies substantially with local conditions. Specifically, candidates in high-unemployment areas devote more attention to jobs and employment and less to the safety net. Democrats also discuss business less in high-unemployment areas. The magnitude of the effects varies by party in a way consistent with theories of strategic issue emphasis. These findings suggest that, rather than politics being uniform throughout the country, candidates are responsive to the conditions in their districts — but this responsiveness depends in part on the national-level political environment. Economic geography therefore acts as a constraint on the nationalization of politics.


I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science Department at Stanford University. My work investigates the ways that economic and social context influence political attitudes, campaigns, and behavior. I use administrative data, surveys, and social media data – along with modern causal inference methods and rigorous descriptive methods – to generate new insights about the forces that shape modern politics.

Much of my research explores the interplay between two important trends in contemporary American society: nationalization of politics and regional divergence of economic opportunity. An emerging consensus is that politics across the U.S. is increasingly defined by prominent national issues. At the same time, the economic circumstances facing voters are increasingly localized, as some regions thrive in the knowledge economy while others fall behind. With this backdrop, I seek to answer two overarching questions. First, does political nationalization hinder political responsiveness to local conditions? Second, how does local politics influence the geography of opportunity? Broadly, my research shows how economic geography acts as a limitation on the nationalization of politics.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a B.A. in political science and economics, and a minor in math.