Research

Recent Work

Note

My full CV is available via the link below. For more information, contact me by email: asinclair@cmc.edu.

Electoral Politics

I wanted to highlight a few projects about nonpartisan top-two primary elections.  

Mike Alvarez and I wrote a book with Cambridge University Press about the first-use of the nonpartisan top-two primary in California (Nonpartisan Primary Election Reform).  Unlike in most states, for almost all offices aside from U.S. President, California conducts a nonpartisan top-two primary.  In a traditional partisan primary (and these come in different flavors as well), candidates of one party face off against each other in a first round (the primary) and then each party's winner faces off against the winners of other party primaries in the second round (the general election).  In the various flavors of partisan primaries, voters can be more or less limited in their choice; a "closed" partisan primary only allows registered voters of that political party to participate while an "open" primary allows voters to pick a party on election day (Eric McGhee of the PPIC has a great illustration of these rules: see here).  A nonpartisan primary not only gives voters free choice among all candidates but also has all candidates compete against each other, making it possible for the general election to feature two Republicans or two Democrats.  This passed as Proposition 14 in California in 2010 and was used for the first time in 2012.  Our book focuses on the first use of the rule; several chapters are built around very detailed surveys we did during the 2012 primary to get a close look at what voters were doing.  The goal was to get a solid understanding of where the top-two started so that further research could follow up on what changed over time and how patterns developed.    

Since writing our book, I’ve continued to work on research questions related to political reform.


Structure of Gov't.

I am interested in the relationship between voters, elected politicians, and bureaucrats.  Most notions of a democratic policymaking process imagine a chain of accountability: voters make demands of politicians (and evaluate performance) when then operate the machinery of government and make demands of bureaucrats (and evaluate performance).  I was involved in a project just before coming to NYU focused on the "bonfire of the quangos" (think "independent agency") in the UK after the 2010 election.  This produced a couple of papers in my first few years at NYU and expanded my research horizons:

"Democratic Accountability and the Politics of Mass Administrative Reorganization."  BJPS, 2016.  With Anthony M. Bertelli.  We argue that the "bonfire" is an interesting case because the government of the day evaluated the entire portfolio of organizations and decided what to do with them, including making choices about keeping/retaining independence, modifying or leaving alone the agencies kept independent, and taking into government or terminating entirely agencies not kept as independent.  

"Mass Administrative Reorganization, Media Attention, and the Paradox of Information." PAR, 2015.  With Anthony M. Bertelli.  A conference version of this paper won the "Best Comparative Policy Paper" award from the ICPA-Forum Scholarly Society and Joint International Adjudication Committee of Midwest Political Science Association and the Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis, following our 2015 presentation. You can read a bit about this - [here].

"Media Attention and the Demise of Agency Independence: Evidence from a Mass Administrative Reorganization in Britain."  PA, 2015.  With Haram Lee and Anthony M. Bertelli.  This won the Haldane Prize for the best paper published in the journal during 2015.  

These projects had the side-benefit of introducing me to the British televisions series Yes, Minister; there is a great episode with the punchline "it takes two to quango."