I am a PhD student in Government and Social Policy and a Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy at Harvard University.

My dissertation research examines American public opinion about taxation. Drawing on literature of the “submerged state,” I treat tax opinion as a politically constructed outcome; what people know about the tax system is deeply shaped, and sometimes distorted, by both policy design and partisan mobilization. These factual misunderstandings have systematic and profound effects on tax policy preferences, on perceptions of government, and on what it means to consider oneself a “taxpayer." This work draws on national survey data, qualitative interviews with forty-nine Americans across the United States, and text analysis of over 1300 letters to the editor, written over the last ten years, in which the writer describes him or herself as a taxpayer.

I am also the author, with Theda Skocpol, of The Tea Party and the Remaking of Republican Conservatism (Oxford University Press, January 2012). The book examines how the three components of the Tea Party – at the grassroots, in the media, and among Washington elites – successfully pushed the Republican Party farther to the right. You can read a recent review of the book in the Journal of Politics, and it was named one of the ten best political books of the year in the New Yorker. For more, visit the book's website.

More recently, I have been examining other aspects of the interaction between tax institutions and political behavior. I have co-authored an article with my colleague Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, which uses the case of the state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to reconsider how ideological distance between the parties affects the potential for political compromise. In addition, I am developing a paper that uncovers and explains the rising success of tax increasing ballot measures since the 1970s.

Before coming to Harvard, I served as the Policy Director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, where I lobbied to improve the benefits and support available to military veterans, including for the passage of the 2008 GI Bill, a $60 billion investment in veterans’ college education. I am also the author of Supporting Our Troops, Veterans and Their Families: Lessons Learned and Future Opportunities for Philanthropy, an analysis of almost $250 million in philanthropic spending by the California Community Foundation. 

My work has been cited in diverse media outlets, including the New York Times, the Economist, the Associated Press, Reuters, the Washington Post, CNN's "Fareed Zakaria GPS," NPR, MSNBC's "The Rachel Maddow Show," McClatchy, Bloomberg, the Guardian, and Mother Jones. I have also testified before the House Veterans Affairs Committee regarding outreach to new veterans. 

I received my B.A. in French language and literature from NYU, and an MA from NYU's Institute of French Studies. I also manage the website I Heart Taxes, a project that donates its proceeds to the United States Treasury.

Twitter: V_Williamson