Research

Current Research Projects


Timothy B. Gravelle, “Trumping Foreign Policy: Public Diplomacy, Framing, and Public Opinion among Middle Power Publics.”

Even as the world’s sole superpower, the United States requires the cooperation of other states to achieve many of its foreign policy objectives. 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 – particularly among middle power states allied to the US? While previous research on public opinion relying on observational data has found that confidence in the US President is linked to support for American foreign policy goals, the mechanisms at work remains unclear. Using original data from survey-based experiments conducted in Canada and Australia, this article seeks to clarify the effect of ‘presidential framing’ (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.


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

The 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 and Andrea Carson. “Explaining the Australian Marriage Equality Vote: A Contextual Analysis.”

The Australian public voted in November 2017 in favour of changing the law to allow for same-sex marriage. Though 61.6 percent of the Australian public voting in the Marriage Law Postal Survey voted Yes in support of marriage equality, this support was not uniformly distributed across the country, with support at the electoral division level varying between 26.1 and 83.7 percent. What, then, explains such variation in support for same-sex marriage among the Australian public? In this article, we advance an aggregate, electoral division-level explanation of the Yes vote that links support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage to a set of local-level political and socio-demographic factors.


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, Mike Medeiros, and Alessandro Nai. “In the Shadow of the Tower: Spatial Proximity to Mosques and Political Behaviour.”

Immigration has in recent decades brought important transformations to Western societies. The ever-growing number of residents with different racial and/or cultural backgrounds forces Westerners to confront changes to their society. These demographic shifts coincide in several countries with a rise in nativist political rhetoric as well as the growing success of nativist parties and candidates. One of the leading targets for nativist politicians has been Islamic religious symbols. Several Western countries have recently debated the place of such symbols in their society, confronting an inclusive/pluralist vision of society to an exclusive/assimilationist one. Mosques, and their place in society, have featured significantly in these debates. While churches are shuttering in most Western countries, Mosques are opening up; this trend symbolizes for some an “Islamization” of the West. Several countries, regions and cities have in recent years attempted to limit the construction of mosques, or to limit their visual presence through bans on minarets. The most prominent of these cases is arguably the 2009 Swiss referendum to ban minarets. Supporters of the (successful) ban argued that minarets symbolized an ‘invasion’ of Islamic culture and an affront to Western values.

Unquestionably, the presence of mosques represent changes to Western society and to its culture. But does the presence of a mosque within the everyday life of voters actually have an effect on their political behaviour?

We explore this question by investigating the influence of spatial proximity to mosques and a district’s support for banning minarets during the 2009 Swiss referendum. We also study the influence of individual spatial proximity to mosques on vote choice in the 2015 Swiss federal election and 2017 Dutch general elections to test whether it impacts or not citizens’ support for nativist parties (respectively SVP for Switzerland and PVV for the Netherlands, both having explicitely advocated for a reduction of immigration from Muslim-majority countries and overall against a presumed increased Islamic influence in their country).


Aaron Martin, Erik Baekkeskov, and Timothy B. Gravelle. “Enlisting the Support of Trusted Sources to Tackle Policy Problems: The Case of Public Demand for Antibiotics.”

Antimicrobial resistance represents one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. Governments around the world have—and will continue to—develop policy proposals to deal with this problem. However, the capacity of government will be constrained by very low levels of trust in government. This stands in contrast to ‘medical scientists’ who are highly trusted by the public. This article tests to what extent trusted sources can alter attitudes towards a policy proposal to regulate the use of antibiotics.


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, “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.

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