Research

Research interests and skills

My main research interest is the role of campaign promises and manifestos in political representation, public opinion and party competition. Other interests include public opinion, citizenship and Scottish politics since devolution. I have experience developing and administering survey instruments, conducting computerised text analysis of manifesto documents and coding party, media and citizen positions. I am proficient in R, particularly ggplot2.

Current postdoctoral project: CSR washing and lobbying

Little is known about the relationship between corporate political lobbying and Corporate Social Responsibility practices. Can companies use CSR credentials to gain access to policymakers? And if so, do they engage in “CSR washing” by lobbying for deregulation in spite of these credentials? In this Leverhulme Trust-funded project, we seek to examine the relationship between companies’ CSR activities and their political lobbying activities in a UK context.

We do so by investigating the association between companies’ CSR credentials and invitations to appear before parliamentary committees at Westminster and Holyrood. We also examine what companies do with this access by using quantitative text analysis to determine the extent to which companies’ CSR credentials predict their use of CSR tropes in these hearings. This project aims to answer vital questions about the relationship between responsible capitalism and representative institutions.

Previous project: The Public Understanding of Public Service

The John Smith Centre for Public Service is a non-partisan research centre based at the University of Glasgow’s School of Social and Political Sciences. The Centre seeks to promote the value of public service, especially elected office, at a time of increasing uncertainty for representative democracy. In addition to a growing parliamentary internship programme for undergraduates at the School, the Centre launched a research project which to contribute to the scholarly understanding of public service and the British public’s views on the concept in theory and practice.

I was hired to work on this project under Prof. Chris Carman as a Research Associate at the Centre. This involved a literature review, the development of concepts surrounding public service and the development and administration of a survey instrument to gauge public attitudes. The Centre hosted a one-day conference in February 2019 at which we presented key findings. The keynote address was delivered by the Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH. Academic outputs from the research project are currently in progress.

Doctoral thesis: The Programme-to-Policy Linkage

My thesis is titled “The Meaning of Mandates: Party Competition and the Programme-to-Policy Linkage”. My work makes theoretical and empirical contributions to an emerging field of scholarship which investigates the correspondence between the pledges in party election manifestos and eventual government policy. More specifically, I synthesise the general finding that parties fulfil many of their pledges with contemporary understandings of party competition and agenda setting.

Studies of the so-called “programme-to-policy linkage” have focused overwhelmingly on generating empirical findings, with research examining the extent to which specific manifesto promises are enacted in different countries dominating the literature. Important questions persist about the origins and format of manifesto documents, the conceptualisation and measurement of the linkage and its significance for democracy in theory and practice. My thesis contributes to the literature by shedding light on these gaps in understanding in a series of self-contained but sequential chapters.

In the first part of the thesis I focus on the conceptualisation and measurement of linkage. I re-evaluate an influential alternative approach to linkage – focused on the connection between issue emphasis and government spending – by replicating a seminal work and developing new tests. Having established that there is validity to this approach, I investigate the relationship between parties’ issue emphasis and pledge-making strategies, introducing the concept of “manifesto composition’’ as distinct from content. Then I examine its impact on mandate fulfilment. Finally, I turn to the idea of the responsible electorate, investigating the extent to which parties are rewarded for mandate fulfilment at the ballot box. By questioning established wisdom and innovating in equal measure, my thesis contributes greatly to the scholarly understanding of the meaning of mandates.

Further interests: Scottish Politics

I have worked on a variety of projects related to Scottish politics, devolution and the politics of the constitutional question. My undergraduate thesis was a “pledge” study of party manifestos from the first three sessions of the Scottish Parliament. I have recently returned to Scottish party manifestos with two colleagues, examining the emergence of the constitutional cleavage using text analysis. For my master’s thesis, I conducted media effects research, coding the editorial content of Scottish daily newspapers and linking it to BES panel data. I have also participated in two Voting Advice Applications as an expert coder of party positions.