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Political Networks


Sinclair, Deborah Elizabeth (Betsy) (2007) Political Networks. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/NDY3-R566.


This dissertation examines the degree to which relationships between individuals determine their political behavior. The dissertation finds, through theoretical and experimental examination, that the political context within which an individual exists affects their preferences. Additionally, using a series of canonical data-sets the correlation between context and preferences is revealed to be a consequence of the information voters obtain via horizontal voter-to-voter communication. The dissertation is divided into five sections, each of which uses a distinct methodological tool in developing my argument that voters are indeed affected by their surroundings, and demonstrates the components of the process by which this happens. The normative concern regarding the implication of the contextual effect on voters is that if voters are increasingly selecting homogeneous political networks then candidates will use the lack of political discourse to their advantage and choose more ideologically polarized platform positions. Contextual effects, with some exceptions, have not been well studied in political science, due to the lack of detailed data on voters' networks, the difficulty in making causal inferences in the existing group membership data, and the lack of existing theory to guide empirical tests. This dissertation provides a theoretical framework in the first section, and then uses a broad array of tools to evaluate this theory, including laboratory experiments, field experiments, and empirical evaluation of canonical data-sets.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:causal inference; matching with multi-valued treatment; polarization; social networks; voter communication; voter mobilization
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Alvarez, R. Michael
Thesis Committee:
  • Alvarez, R. Michael (chair)
  • Grether, David M.
  • Katz, Jonathan N.
  • Nagler, Jonathan
Defense Date:3 May 2007
Record Number:CaltechETD:etd-05252007-111905
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:2070
Deposited By: Imported from ETD-db
Deposited On:31 May 2007
Last Modified:12 Feb 2020 00:02

Thesis Files

PDF (sinclairdissertation.pdf) - Final Version
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