My research asks how public opinion, scientific information, and special interests filter through institutions to shape policymakers’ decisions, especially on climate change and the environment. Trained as a political institutionalist, I consider how legislative and administrative structures, rules, and policy processes shape the inputs decision-makers receive, and how they analyze, arbitrate, and respond to these inputs through policy planning, design, and implementation. I am particularly interested in how institutions shape the representation of interests in climate and environment policy, and frequently work on projects that investigate public and interest group preferences, perceptions, and behaviors in these issue areas. My empirical work has spanned forest management, extreme drought, harmful algal blooms, and renewable energy.
SELECTION OF RECENT PUBLICATIONS & WORKS IN PROGRESS
Algara, C., Hare, I., Struthers, C.L. 2022. "No Balance, No Problem: Evidence of Partisan Voting in the 2021 Georgia U.S. Senate Runoffs." American Politics Research.https://doi.org/10.1177/1532673X211070819 Recent work on American presidential elections suggests that voters engage in anticipatory balancing, which occurs when voters split their ticket in order to moderate collective policy outcomes by forcing agreement among institutions controlled by opposing parties. We use the 2021 Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs, which determined whether Democrats would have unified control of the federal government given preceding November victories by President-elect Biden and House Democrats, to evaluate support for anticipatory balancing. Leveraging an original survey of Georgia voters, we find no evidence of balancing within the general electorate and among partisans across differing model specifications. We use qualitative content analysis of voter electoral runoff intentions to support our findings and contextualize the lack of evidence for balancing with an original analysis showing the unprecedented partisan nature of contemporary Senate elections since direct-election began in 1914.
Struthers, C.L., Arnold, G., Scott, T., and Fleischman, F. 2021. "After the vote: climate policy decision-making in the administrative state." Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cosust.2021.06.014 While the science-policy interface has been a major focus of recent climate policy research, the role of agency practices and bureaucratic behavior has been largely overlooked. With a focus on U.S. federal agencies and similar bureaucratic contexts, we review the literature on how administrative decision-making influences the acquisition and application of climate evidence, including information provided by both scientists and stakeholders. We show that administrative procedures (requirements for gathering and analyzing information), agency characteristics (such as mission and institutional design), and bureaucrat attributes (an individual’s expertise and values) shape agencies’ use of climate evidence. Given the key role of the administrative state in policymaking, our review calls for greater attention to public administration and its consequences for climate responsiveness.
Struthers, C.L., Scott, T., Fleischman, F., and Arnold, G., 2021. "The Forest Ranger (and the Legislator): How Local Congressional Politics Shape Policy Implementation in Agency Field Offices." Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. https://doi.org/10.1093/jopart/muab037 Research on political control over government bureaucracy has primarily focused on direct exercises of power such as appointments, funding, agency design, and procedural rules. In this analysis, we extend this literature to consider politicians who leverage their institutional standing to influence the decisions of local field officials over whom they have no explicit authority. Using the case of the US Forest Service (USFS), we investigate whether field-level decisions are associated with the political preferences of individual congressional representatives. Our sample encompasses 7,681 resource extraction actions initiated and analyzed by 107 USFS field offices between 2005 and 2018. Using hierarchical Bayesian regression, we show that under periods of economic growth and stability, field offices situated in the districts of congressional representatives who oppose environmental regulation initiate more extractive actions (timber harvest, oil and gas drilling, grazing) and conduct less rigorous environmental reviews than field offices in the districts of representatives who favor environmental regulation. By extending existing theories about interactions between politicians and bureaucrats to consider informal means of influence, this work speaks to (1) the role of local political interests in shaping agency-wide policy outcomes and (2) the importance of considering informal and implicit means of influence that operate in concert with explicit control mechanisms to shape bureaucratic behavior.
Shugart, M.S., Bergman, M., Struthers, C.L., Krauss, E., Pekkanen, R.J. 2021. Party personnel strategies: Electoral systems and parliamentary committee assignments. Oxford University Press. Key party goals serve to advance a policy brand and maximize seats in the legislature. This book offers a theory of how political parties assign their elected members—their" personnel"—to specialized legislative committees to serve collective organizational goals, here known as" party personnel strategies". Individual party members vary in their personal attributes, such as prior occupation, gender, and local experience. Parties seek to harness the attributes of their members by assigning them to committees where their expertise is relevant, and where they may enhance the party's policy brand. However, under some electoral systems, parties may need to trade-off the harnessing of expertise against the pursuit of seats, instead matching legislators according to electoral situation (eg marginality of seat) or characteristics of their constituency (eg population density). This book offers an analysis of the extent to which parties trade these goals by matching the attributes of their personnel and their electoral needs to the functions of the available committee seats. The analysis is based on a dataset of around six thousand legislators across thirty-eight elections in six established parliamentary democracies with diverse electoral systems.
Struthers, C.L. 2019. “The Political in the Technical: Understanding the Influence of National Political Institutions on Climate Adaptation”. Climate and Development. https://doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2019.1689905 A growing body of research shows that local and international institutions as well as party politics affect climate adaptation. Yet few studies have considered the role of political institutions at the national level. Comparative political institutional theory argues that a country's party system, executive-legislative arrangement, and electoral rules affect elected officials’ incentives and behaviour. This study utilizes this theory to explain how Chile's national elected officials responded to the country's extreme drought in 2010–2015. Results indicate that ideologically distinct alliances, a strong president, and legislators’ competing incentives to cater to different interests resulted in adaptive policy solutions that only partially addressed the shortcomings that drought exposed. The findings of this study show how politics can underlie technical decision-making on climate change, help to account for the continued inadequacies of Chilean water reform even in the face of new climate extremes, and demonstrate the utility of the comparative political institutional lens for explaining national strategies for climate adaptation. Applying this lens to other country cases and climatic events will advance knowledge on how differences in electoral incentives and policy processes systematically shape climate adaption policy.
Works in progress:
"Advocacy strategies of entrenched and reformist coalitions in state-level preemption debates", with Cary Ritzler
"How adopters and co-adopters of climate solutions differ", with Marilyn A. Brown, Min-Kyeong Cha, Snehal Kale, and Oliver Chapman
"Why public participation in distributive decisions with focal benefits and diffuse costs differs from regulatory decisions with focal costs and diffuse benefits", with Gwen Arnold, Tyler Scott, and Forrest Fleischman
“Bloom and doom: Is increasing risk of harmful algal blooms an inevitable consequence of global change? Assessing risk and exploring strategies in Georgia from biological and social perspectives”. Presidential Interdisciplinary Seed Grant Program, UGA, with Michelle Ritchie, Alex Strauss, Pete Hazelton, and Krista Capps
“Private (on-farm), public, and political adaptation to climate-change-induced water scarcity: Evidence from California”. National Institute for Food & Agriculture, USDA, with Ariel Dinar, Scott Mackenzie, Mehdi Nemati, and Matthew Shugart