Senior Seminar Research Projects

Senior Projects: Fall 2018

Power and “The Pill”: Women’s Political Representation and Contraceptive Prevalence in the Middle East and North Africa
Miranda Mullings

Contraceptive use has been on the rise in Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries for a couple decades. Coinciding with this trend has been the ascension of women into positions within these countries’ national legislatures. The aim of this study is to discern whether these two trends are related: in other words, to determine whether women legislators in the MENA region provide substantive representation by promoting women’s issues such as contraceptive access. Data from the World Bank was used for the proportion of national legislature seats held by women in each country and analyzed in a linear regression model with contraceptive prevalence data obtained from the United Nations Estimates and Projections of Family Planning Indicators 2018 database. I found that the relationship was insignificant in 1990 but significant in 2017. For every 1% increase in women’s representation in the national legislature, there is a 0.63% increase in contraceptive prevalence. The existence of a gender quota system is not a statistically significant control variable unless it is a legislated quota, suggesting that legislative quotas are not meaningful unless they are legislated. This study concludes that women legislators in the MENA region enact positive change for the women in their state. MENA women legislators prioritize women’s issues like reproductive health rights, and thus contribute to the easy accessibility of contraception.

When Constitutions Fail: The Role of Religious Parties in Upholding Constitutional Women's Rights in the Middle East
Bellamy Duncan  

The Middle East has long been seen as a region that fails to uphold the rights guaranteed in written constitutions. Although there have been recent trends toward liberalism, there still remains doubt as to how sincere these attempts have been. One of the most striking areas is that of women’s social rights. This brings forth an important question, what explains the gap in de jure and de facto rights? This paper looks at the ways in which Middle Eastern countries have failed to uphold constitutional women’s rights by analyzing a potential cause for the breakdown between word and practice. Although religion is a major part of life in the Middle East, I argue that it is rather religious political parties that lead to higher chances of women’s rights not being upheld. By adhering to strict conservative ideals that rarely change over time; the religious political parties enter the arena of politics to give legitimacy to their voice while working within the institutions to strengthen the system as a whole.

"Disappointing” Supreme Court Justices: When Presidents Get it Wrong (and Right)
Ben Niemeyer

The selection of Supreme Court Justices is one of the most enduring ways in which a sitting President can leave their mark on the state of government in the United States. For the most part, Supreme Court Justices behave in much the way they are expected to by the administrations that appoint them, perhaps only straying on a few cases or one area of case law over the course of their career. These Justices influence the ideology of the Court in the manner that their appointing President would prefer. However, sometimes it does not work out that way. Some Justices set out on their own, not sticking to a given administration’s ideology or exhibiting jurisprudence in keeping with what was expected upon their appointment to the Court. This paper seeks to put forth several hypotheses as possible explanations for these cases, exceptions to the rule. Due to the small number of Justices that have sat on the Court, and the even relatively miniscule percentage of Justices that were disappointing to the administrations that appointed them, quantitative analysis of these hypotheses is not possible at this time. However, my hope is that over time, as the pool of Justices to study grows ever larger, this paper may serve as a heuristic to guide research on this topic.

From Memes to Movements: The Impact of Social Media on Citizen Perceptions of Government
Airieanna Bates

Millions and millions of users continue to use social networking sites (Pew Research 2018). The impact of social media on culture is undeniable. It generates a platform that permits individuals to communicate a variety of information quickly and for the fraction of the price of traditional forms of communication. The now unavoidable question arises, how does that impact translate to political world? This study seeks to explore the potential relationship between social media and perception of government. The initial simple bi-variate comparison between the independent and dependent variable confirmed a statistically significant relationship. However, with the introduction of the control variable, type of government, a shift occurs that deems the relationship insignificant. This study is in many ways limited, yet it still points to an interesting development. These results conclude that social media may influence perception of government to a certain point; however, are there are other factors that potentially contribute to perception of government to a greater degree.

Treaties and Mobilization - A Case Study on the Unions of Canada after the Ratification of NAFTA
Oliver Huestis

This case study is an analysis of the Canadian labor union and how the Union politically mobilized in order to block the successful passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement. This mobilization is rooted in the concepts of economic nationalism and the perceived adverse relationship between free-trade and the labor unions. This case study will strive to create a framework for union mobilization and will apply the framework to the unions of the United States to see if this framework could be applied elsewhere.

Radicals and How We Elect Them
Carmen Hynds

It is often said that America today is more polarized than ever. Although many scholars believe that the proposition that the country had never been as polarized as it is now is debatable, U.S. Congress certainly is the most polarized it has been in our nation’s history. In this paper, I examine intra-party insurgencies, and specifically the underlying causes that lead “radical” or insurgent politicians to win primaries. I will focus, in particular, on two dissident campaigns: the insurgencies of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez against Democratic representative Joe Crowley in 2018, and that of Dave Brat against Republican incumbent Eric Cantor in 2014. My findings indicate that some theories about insurgency hold up in the case of these two insurgent candidates, while others do not.

The Great American Melting Pot: US Immigration and its Impacts on Society
Collin Ladd

The purpose of this research paper is to show the controversial issues of immigration in the United States. The research focuses on the impacts that illegal immigration has on the border states economy. With an even deeper focus on the average hourly wages in the construction, manufacturing, and agriculture industries, and looking at the unemployment rate for each state. The paper talks about past and present immigration, southern immigration flows and the border states that are affected, immigration policies that are negatively hurting immigration today, and policies that could potentially create a positive impact for immigration overall. The results that were found after analyzing the data, when illegal immigration increases, were that wages do depress in 2/3 industries when California is included, and unemployment rate is negative but insignificant. On the other hand, when excluding California from the data analysis, nothing is significant. The wages in all industries and the unemployment rate were not affected by the illegal immigration population. A key aspect to fixing the negative impacts that legal and illegal immigrants have on the United States is the lack of education. Giving more opportunities and tools to the migrants to build their educational background will help them progress in life and further benefit the economy in the long-run.

What Explains the Variations in Women Political Participation in Sub-Saharan Africa?
Ann Njoki

Substantial literature on women and politics shows that the proportion of women in parliament has increased tremendously. This is particularly true in sub-Saharan Africa, where women now occupy about 11.8 percent of legislative seats in the world. However, despite much progress, some countries show impressive representation of women in   parliament than others. For example, women make up for more than 22 percent of parliamentary seats in South Africa and Tanzania, but account for less 5 percent of legislative seats in Djibouti and Nigeria. To date, the overwhelming bulk of research fixated on the relationship between women and politics focuses on the patterns occurring in Western industrialized democracies and neglects African countries, which raises questions about their validity and applicability. On this study, my goal is to fill the extant gap in literature and to explain the cross-national variations in women’s political representation in Africa. I used data from World Bank and IDEA to operationalize key variables including; electoral systems, labor force, gross national income (GNI), and optimal primary, secondary, tertiary education. However, due to lack of cross-national

Presidential Personalities: Do you Approve?
Jayne Roller 

Previous research has explored the ways to categorize the American presidents, taking into account numerous variables including biographical works, biological factors, leadership styles, personality and more. This research chose to narrow in on the overarching and formative concept of personality and the influence it has on presidential initiative. This study continues the analytical framework of a previous scholar, aiming to find a relationship between the variables of presidential personality and presidential approval ratings. The study uses presidential inaugural addresses as a point of reference in measuring presidential character and personality. The data collected was explorative in nature, with only general results obtained. However, with additional research statistically significant relationships could be found.