Jacob Morrier (he/him)

Ph.D. Candidate, Social Science

California Institute of Technology

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

Education

Research

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.

PLoS ONE. 19 (1): e0294047.

Leading up to the 2022 Congressional midterm elections, all predictions pointed to a Republican wave, given factors such as the incumbent president’s low approval rate and a struggling national economy. Accordingly, the underwhelming performance of the Republican Party surprised many, resulting in an election that became known as the “asterisk election” due to its unusual and seemingly unpredictable outcome. This study delves into the specifics of the 2022 midterms, exploring factors that may have influenced the results beyond those traditionally considered by political scientists. Our analysis particularly seeks to understand whether a sudden shift in the public salience of specific issues could have influenced voters’ preferences, leading them to consider factors they might not have otherwise. To achieve this, we analyzed data from a nationally representative sample of registered voters surveyed immediately after the midterm elections. Our findings reveal that the issue of abortion played a pivotal role during this election. The prominence of abortion was not predestined, as evidenced by a comparative analysis with data from a survey conducted after the 2020 presidential election. Indeed, it seems that the decision by the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022 significantly increased the salience of abortion. This unexpected policy shock had a significant impact on the behavior of voters in the 2022 midterm elections.

Forthcoming, Frontiers in Computer Science.

Online competitive action games are a very popular form of entertainment. While most are respectfully enjoyed by millions of players, a small group of players engages in disruptive behavior, such as cheating and hate speech. Identifying and subsequently moderating these toxic players is a challenging task. Previous research has only studied specific aspects of this problem using curated data and with limited access to real-world moderation practices. In contrast, our work offers a unique and holistic view of the universal challenges of moderating disruptive behavior in online systems. We combine an analysis of a large dataset from a popular online competitive first-person action title (Call of Duty®: Modern Warfare®II) with insights from stakeholders involved in moderation. We identify six universal challenges related to handling disruptive behaviors in such games. We discuss challenges omitted by prior work, such as handling high-volume imbalanced data or ensuring the comfort of human moderators. We also offer a discussion of possible technical, design, and policy approaches to mitigating these challenges.

Conditionally Accepted, 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 investigate whether and, if so, to what extent polarized issues wield more influence over voters' electoral choices. Doing so requires a valid way to measure issue importance. To this end, we formulate a novel measurement approach employing conjoint experimental designs to elicit issue importance. Unlike prevailing methods, ours is firmly grounded in the potential outcomes framework and intended to minimize respondents’ burden. In the aftermath of the 2022 Congressional midterm elections, we implemented this approach on a nationally representative sample of 2,109 U.S. registered voters. Using the resulting estimates, we study the relationship between issue importance and their polarization. We consider two notions of political polarization: policy and partisan polarization. Our findings reveal that partisan polarization exhibits a strong and significant correlation with issue importance, whereas policy polarization does not. This finding has noteworthy implications for American voters' electoral behavior and raises questions about our measurement approach.

This article explores the implications of the endogeneity of challengers’ decision to run for office for electoral accountability. To this end, I formulate a two-period model of electoral agency with adverse selection wherein a potential challenger has the discretion to choose whether to run for office. The effects of endogenous Challenger entry on policymaking are indeterminate: it can both exacerbate and mitigate policy distortions under different conditions. This indeterminacy also gives rise to ambiguous welfare implications. Nevertheless, I prove that there are sufficient conditions under which endogenous Challenger entry unambiguously improves voters’ welfare compared to a scenario in which the Challenger always runs. This suggests that imposing barriers to entry in elections can lead to a welfare improvement for voters.

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.

Miscellanea

Contact Information

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