About Michael

I am an assistant professor of political science at the University of Mississippi.  My primary research interests include political communication, political behavior, and public policy.  

I focus on how the strategic decisions political leaders make when crafting and targeting messages influence what citizens learn about public affairs and how they use this information. I am especially curious about how these decisions can produce knowledge gaps across groups within the electorate, advantaging some while disadvantaging others.  For example, my current research considers how electoral campaigns can bridge the knowledge gap between "news junkies" who follow politics closely and others who pay only intermittent attention.  There is widespread consensus that voters learn important information such as candidates' policy positions from campaign messages, but it is not clear which voters are learning.  Because the information citizens have about political issues tends to stratify along socio-economic lines, this becomes a question about the role of campaigns in enhancing democracy.  In short, does political communication make us better citizens and our democracy more equitable?  My work contends that campaigns have the potential to shrink this knowledge gap but only for those specific topics that candidates and media heavily emphasize.

In other research I focus on what people know about social welfare policy, particularly education policy, and how information shapes their perceptions about schools, their support for school reform, and their willingness to participate in local school politics.  I am currently completing a book (to be published by the Brookings Institution in early 2014) about the contour of public opinion toward school policy.