Jacob Morrier (he/him)

Ph.D. Candidate, Social Science

California Institute of Technology

I am currently a fifth-year Ph.D. Candidate in Social Science at Caltech. My research interests span wide-ranging topics within economics and political science. My primary area of expertise is computational social science and the application of advanced quantitative methods to analyze administrative and behavioral data.



This paper explores how politicians respond to the public salience of policy issues when determining which topics to publicly address. Using new data and state-of-the-art methodology, our study provides a fresh perspective on this fundamental question. We focus on a multi-party parliamentary system, specifically the Canadian House of Commons, with a specific emphasis on the issue of climate change. To assess the attention given by political parties to various policy issues, we analyze transcripts from the Question Period spanning from April 2006 to June 2021. To gauge the public's level of concern for these issues, we incorporate data obtained from Google Trends. Employing an instrumental variable estimation strategy, our study causally estimates the extent to which the public salience of climate change influences elite attention. Our findings reveal that the public salience of climate change significantly influences the attention given to this issue by parties, albeit with noticeable partisan variations. Moreover, our research highlights the effectiveness of the Question Period in compelling the government to address challenging or potentially embarrassing issues. Lastly, we uncover evidence suggesting that the Liberal Party of Canada successfully increased the public salience of climate change during its tenure in government.

Revise and Resubmit, Journal of Politics.

In parliamentary regimes, legislatures often set aside time for lawmakers to question government ministers. While these institutions can serve essential functions for democratic accountability, they also present an occasion for incivility to creep into political discourse. We wish to assess the incidence of uncivil behavior in these institutions and identify some correlated factors. We focus our analysis on the Canadian House of Commons. We measure the incidence and evolution of incivility in all Question Periods held between April 2006 and June 2021 with state-of-the-art, open-source machine learning models. We find significant evidence of uncivil behavior, especially insults and toxicity. We show through a multivariate regression analysis that variations in the incidence of uncivil behavior over time and across members of various parties are correlated with the time remaining until the next general election, the institutional roles of parties, the broader political context, and the language in which interventions are delivered.

In this paper, we aim to assess whether polarized issues wield more influence over the electoral choices of voters. Doing so requires a reliable way to measure issue importance. To this end, we introduce a novel measurement approach using conjoint experimental designs to elicit issue importance. Unlike previous methods, ours is firmly grounded in the potential outcomes framework and designed to minimize participants’ burden. In the aftermath of the 2022 Congressional midterm elections, we implemented this new approach on a nationally representative sample of 2,109 U.S. registered voters. Using the resulting estimates, we assess the correlation between issue importance and the polarization surrounding issues. We consider two notions of polarization: policy and partisan polarization. In both cases, a robust correlation exists between issue importance and polarization. However, our findings suggest that partisan polarization holds greater relevance in the relationship between these two variables.

This article offers a rationale for candidates who voluntarily and preemptively place a cap on the number of terms they will eventually be in office. I build my analysis on a standard political agency model, to which I add an election campaign in which candidates can commit not to seek a second term. Pledging to term limits allows candidates to: (i) signal their private type and (ii) shield themselves from career concerns. By doing so, politicians leverage the fact that voters endogenously prefer to elect candidates who do not seek reelection because they either: (i) have, on average, more desirable characteristics or (ii) distort their policy decisions to a lesser extent. As a result, candidates who pledge to term limits have a higher probability of being elected in the first place. I show that there are plausible circumstances under which term limits pledges can be informative and simultaneously beneficial to voters.


Contact Information

E-mail Address: jmorrier [at] caltech.edu