Current Research Projects


Timothy B. Gravelle, “Politics, Time, Space, and Attitudes toward US–Mexico Border Security.”

The tumultuous 2016 US presidential election cycle featured a range of policy proposals to address the issue of illegal immigration. Channeling anxieties around the economic and social consequences of illegal immigration with claims of porous, unsecured borders, Republican candidate Donald Trump notably committed to building a wall the length of the US–Mexico border. At the same time, border security is not a new issue on the policy agenda. Drawing on multiple surveys over the period 2006 to 2016 and spatial analytic tools, this paper explores two questions. First, how have attitudes toward border security shifted over time in response to changes in the partisan political environment? Second, how does spatial context – namely proximity to the US–Mexico border – shape attitudes toward the proposed border wall? Findings point to both time and space, in conjunction with individual-level political attitudes, as key factors shaping attitudes toward US–Mexico border security.

Timothy B. Gravelle, “Friends, Neighbours, Townspeople, and Parties: Explaining Canadian Attitudes toward Muslims.”

The 2015 Canadian federal election campaign put into focus relations between Muslim communities in Canada and wider Canadian society, featuring debates around banning the niqab, and a “barbaric cultural practices” hotline. At the same time, challenges in relations between Muslims and majority-group Canadians were not a new development in 2015: they had in the past faced periodic strains due to terrorism-related events, and attacks targeting Muslims in Canada. The Canadian case is in fact reflective of a challenge in intergroup relations facing several Western democracies. In light of this, what accounts for majority-group Canadians’ attitudes toward Muslims in Canada? Drawing on data from the 2011 and 2015 Canadian Election Studies and theories linking outgroup perceptions to intergroup contact (friends), local demographic context at both the micro-level (neighbours) and meso-level (townspeople), and political factors (parties), this paper seeks to explain why majority-group Canadians hold alternately positive or negative views of Muslims

Andrea Lawlor and Timothy B. Gravelle, “Framing Trans-Border Energy Transportation: The Curious Cross-National Case of Keystone XL.”

Increasing discussion over the safety of natural resource extraction and transportation to facilitate international energy needs, has given rise to controversy over the prospect of large quantities of bitumen and crude oil flowing through trans-national pipelines. This debate, incorporating the voices of industry, government and interests, has gained traction in the news media, alternately framed as an environmental, economic, human rights or public safety concern. It is possible, however, that such coverage may vary substantially with regional interests. To uncover how the framing of energy transportation varies with local considerations, this paper looks at regional and national media coverage of the Keystone XL pipeline from 2010 to 2014 in Canada and the US. Findings show that national and local papers frame the pipeline according to different considerations, suggesting public knowledge of the benefits and drawbacks of this mode of energy transportation likely varies as well.

Timothy B. Gravelle, “Party Identification, Local Context, and Australian Attitudes toward Immigration and Asylum Policy.”

The acceptance of newcomers as either immigrants or asylum seekers has been a recurring issue in Australian politics. Current debates about the size and composition of Australia’s intake of economic migrants and the resettlement of asylum seekers held offshore have been politically contentious, featuring sharp partisan divisions between the major Australian political parties. Existing research has identified a number of factors shaping Australian attitudes toward immigration and refugee policy. While research on immigration attitudes in other immigrant-receiving countries such as Canada and the United States has pointed to local demographic context (namely immigrant concentration) as an important factor influencing immigration and asylum policy attitudes, few studies of Australian public opinion have considered the effects of local context, or how local context moderates the effects of political factors on attitudes toward immigrants and asylum seekers. Drawing on survey data from the Australian Election Study (2010–2016) and local-level census data, this paper advances an explanation of Australians’ attitudes toward immigration and asylum policy that centring on the roles of party identification, local context, and their interaction.

Timothy B. Gravelle, “Trumping Foreign Policy: Public Diplomacy, Framing, and Public Opinion Abroad.”

Even as the world’s sole superpower, the United States requires the cooperation of other countries to achieve many of its foreign policy objectives. At the same time, foreign leaders must be responsive to public opinion in their respective countries. The President of the United States thus often serves as “Diplomat in Chief” in public diplomacy efforts to appeal directly to publics abroad. Given Donald Trump’s antagonistic approach to foreign relations and widespread lack of popularity, what are the implications for support for US policy among publics abroad? While previous research on foreign public opinion relying on observational data has found that confidence in the US President is linked to support for American foreign policy goals, the mechanism at work remains unclear. Using original data from survey experiments conducted in Canada and Australia, this paper seeks to clarify the effect of “presidential priming” (presenting a policy goal as endorsed or not endorsed by Trump) on attitudes toward key policy issues in the Canada–US and Australia–US relationships. It focuses on Canadian attitudes toward a renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the construction of the cross-border Keystone XL pipeline, and Australian attitudes toward the Australia–United States Free Trade Agreement (AUSFTA) and the Australia–United States refugee swap.

Erick Lachapelle, Timothy B. Gravelle, Christopher Borick and Éric Montpetit, “Fractured Politics: Ideological Polarization and Proximity to Hydraulic Fracturing in Canada and the United States.”

Across North America, new applications of hydraulic fracturing (‘fracking’) methods to release natural gas from shale have emerged as a hotly contested political issue. While proponents herald the promise of new jobs, lower energy prices, reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and greater energy security, opponents argue the benefits of fracking are much more limited, especially when compared to the risks to human health and environmental contamination. This set of risks and benefits at the local level, and the potentially global consequences of expanded drilling for unconventional natural gas makes the fracking issue an ideal case for examining the interplay of spatial and political factors in shaping policy attitudes. Drawing on original data from four representative surveys conducted in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Quebec, this paper examines public attitudes toward fracking in comparative perspective. We find that proximity to natural gas well sites conditions the relationship between ideology and support for fracking. These findings have implications for the roles of geographic and political in controversies over energy policies, as well as broader implications for ideological polarization as it relates to policy issues more broadly.

Timothy B. Gravelle, Thomas J. Scotto, and Jason Reifler, “Personality Traits and Foreign Policy Attitudes: A Cross-National Study.”

MThe study of public opinion toward foreign policy lies at the intersection of international relations and political behavior. Just as there has been renewed interest in effects of personality traits on mass public opinion and political behavior, current research in behavioral international relations has emphasized the role of individual personality differences in shaping foreign policy decision making. Still, research exploring the links between personality traits and foreign policy attitudes is scarce. This paper pursues two related questions. Do individual differences (namely, in the Big Five personality traits) influence attitudes toward foreign policy? Are the relationships between personality traits and foreign policy observed across different country contexts, or do they differ? In pursuing answers to these questions, the paper draws on new data from a series of large-scale public opinion surveys in the United States, United Kingdom, France, and Germany.

Timothy B. Gravelle, “The Cross-National Equivalence of Customer Experience and Customer Loyalty: The Case of Luxury Accommodation.”

In recent years, the survey methodology literature has paid increasing attention to the validity of cross-national comparisons. This has included increased focus on comparability in sampling procedures, translation of survey items to ensure comparability in meaning, and comparability in data collection procedures. Parallel to these developments, research on measurement equivalence (or measurement invariance) in cross-national survey research has been undertaken to evaluate statistically whether concepts are understood in the same way in different national, cultural, and linguistic contexts. This research has tended to focus on the measurement equivalence of concepts of interest to social and behavioral scientists – concepts such as attitudes toward democracy, national identity, the welfare state, attitudes toward immigration, or the structure of personality. To date, this literature has little engaged the concerns of researchers whose primary focus is customer survey data. This is a notable gap in the literature, especially considering that survey-based measures of customer experience and customer loyalty are an important source of information for decision-makers in large firms with global operations and global customer bases. As do many social scientists, managers with global firms typically assume the cross-national equivalence of survey measures rather than test them. In the absence of such tests, it is possible that inaccurate conclusions about the performance of business units or customer perceptions may be drawn. This paper undertakes such a test, examining the measurement equivalence of customer satisfaction and customer loyalty scores at a luxury hotel chain with a global presence. It uses the tools of multi-group confirmatory factor analysis (MGCFA) to determine whether such measures are invariant across locations.