Gregory Saxton

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  • Ph.D. Candidate
  • Teaching Assistant
  • Political Science
1607 Patterson Office Tower
  • Other Affiliations:
Research Interests:
Office Hours (Spring 2019): By appointment

PhD in Political Science, University of Kentucky (degree expected May 2019)
Master of Arts in Political Science, University of Kentucky (2018)
Master of Arts in Political Science, University of Cincinnati (2014)
Bachelor of Arts in Political Science (Honors), University of Cincinnati (2012)


I am a Ph.D. candidate and research/teaching assistant in the political science department.  My research and teaching interests are in the field of comparative politics with a focus on Latin America, political behavior, economic inequality, and the politics of developing countries.  My dissertation research is supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, as well as a College of Arts & Sciences Dean's Competitive Fellowship, and I have conducted extensive fieldwork in Argentina.  I teach PS210: Introduction to Comparative Politics and PS372: Introduction to Political Analysis.  My current research agenda focuses on three interrelated topics: economic inequality, the representation of traditionally underrepresented groups, and perceptions of corruption.

My central research agenda, including my NSF-funded dissertation work, examines perceptions of fairness, political support, and representation in the face of economic inequality.  High levels of inequality challenge a fundamental principle of democracy and erode citizens' support for the political system.  This raises two important questions: How does economic inequality shape citizens' perceptions of democracy; and Who gets meaningful representation in a context of inequality?  Drawing on extensive fieldwork in Argentina, as well as social justice and equity theories, I argue that citizens' political support is likely to suffer when they view inequality as an unfair distributive outcome (i.e., distributive unfairness) resulting from the inaction of democratic governments.  To test this theory, I leverage a mixed-methods approach that combines large-N survey analysis and original survey experiments conducted in Argentina, Mexico, and the U.S.

Building on my dissertation research, I have a series of projects in which I examine how the descriptive representation of the working class, a group that is traditionally underrepresented in democracies around the world, shapes citizens evaluations of representative political institutions.  In the first paper from this project, "Working-Class Legislators and Perceptions of Representation in Latin America (forthcoming at Political Research Quarterly), Tiffany D. Barnes (University of Kentucky) and I argue that representation of the working class improves citizens' perceptions of representation by signaling the inclusiveness of political institutions and by providing policy responsiveness that improves the lives of large segments of the population.  We leverage elite survey data and public opinion data to test our expectations, and we find that citizens are generally more satisfied with political representation when a greater number of legislators come from working class backgrounds.  In a second paper, we unpack the mechanisms linking descriptive representation of the working class to citizens' evaluations of political parties. 

I also use survey experiments to examine how perceptions of corruption shape individuals' political evaluations.  In the first article from this project, recently published at Governance, "Restoring Trust in the Police: Why Female Officers Reduce Suspicions of Corruption" (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu), we show that people believe hiring more female police officers will be a successful policy for reducing corruption, and that gender stereotypes about women's perceived outsider status and risk aversion drive these beliefs.  In the second article from this project, recently published at Politics, Groups, and Identities (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu), "Sex and Corruption: How Sexism Shapes Voters' Responses to Scandal", we challenge the conventional wisdom about political scandals and show that not all voters respond to sex and corruption scandals in the same manner.  In a third paper from this project (with Tiffany D. Barnes), we investigate how political ideology shapes voters' reactions to scandal.  Although most voters care less about sex scandals than corruption, on average, we find that politically conservative voters are just as likely to punish politicians for sex scandals as they are for corruption.

Before coming to the University of Kentucky, I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Cincinnati.  My M.A. research focused on the political and social consequences of austerity policies in the European Union.  For more information about my research and teaching interests, please visit my personal webpage.

Selected Publications: 

Peer-Reviewed Publications

"Working-Class Legislators and Perceptions of Representation in Latin America." Political Research Quarterly, Forthcoming (with Tiffany D. Barnes).

Abstract: How does the near-exclusion of working-class citizens from legislatures affect citizens’ perceptions of representation? We argue that when groups of people are continually denied access to representation, citizens are less likely to believe that their interests are represented by the legislature.  By contrast, more inclusive institutions that incorporate members of the working class foster support for representative bodies.  Using a multilevel analysis of 18 Latin American countries—a region plagued by disapproval of and disenchantment with representation—we find that greater inclusion of the working class is associated with better evaluations of legislative performance.  These findings have important implications for strengthening democracy in Latin America, as they indicate that more diverse political institutions may be key to deepening citizens’ attachments to representative bodies.

"Restoring Trust in the Police: Why Female Officers Reduce Suspicions of Corruption." Governance  31 (1): 143-161, 2018 (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu).

Abstract: Recent studies have shown a clear link between women in government and reduced concerns about corruption. Until now, it has remained unclear what underlying attitudes about women explain the perception that they will reduce corruption. Using a survey question about adding women to a police force, with an embedded experimental treatment, we examine three distinct stereotypes that might explain the power of women to reduce concerns about corruption: gender stereotypes of women as more ethical and honest; the perception of women as political outsiders; and beliefs that women are generally more risk-averse. We find that people do perceive women as more effective at combating corruption, and these perceptions are greatly enhanced when information about women’s outsider status and risk aversion is provided.


"Sex and Corruption: How Sexism Shapes Voters' Responses to Scandal." Poilitics, Groups, and Identities. Forthcoming (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu).

Abstract: Conventional wisdom suggests that voters rarely punish politicians for involvement in sex scandals. Yet, we argue that some voters are likely to hold politicians accountable for their moral transgressions. We theorize that both hostile and benevolent sexists are more likely than non-sexists to punish women for involvement in a sex scandal—but each for different reasons. We posit that women politicians involved in sex scandals activate traditional gender norms and challenge men’s dominant position in society, thus provoking hostile sexists to punish female politicians more severely than men. Benevolent sexists are likely to punish women who fail to comply with stereotypical expectations of being pure and moral, and the men who fail to safeguard those virtues. To test our theory, we rely on a survey experiment that manipulates politician sex and scandal type. We find strong support for our expectations, indicating that sexism continues to structure evaluations of female politicians and shapes voter reactions to political scandals.


Working Papers

"Inequality, Fairness Perceptions, and Political Support in the Americas"

  • Best paper by a graduate student in Political Science, Ohio Association of Economists and Political Scientists (2016)
  • S. Sidney & Margaret Ulmer Award for Best Graduate Student Paper (2016)

Abstract: Economic inequality challenges a fundamental principal of democracy and undermines citizens' support for the political system.  My research contributes to a growing body of literature on inequality and political support by examining the causal mechanisms that link inequality to trust in government and satisfaction with democracy, as well as the specific circumstances under which inequality erodes political support.  Drawing from social justice and equity theories, as well as extensive fieldwork in Argentina, I argue that perceptions of distributive unfairness (i.e., unfair outcomes) are a key mechanism linking inequality to political dissatisfaction.  Using a cross-national analysis of data from 18 Latin American countries, I first demonstrate that trust in government and satisfaction with  democracy are negatively correlated with perceptions of distributive unfairness.  Additionally, this relationship is strongest for citizens on the left of the left-right ideological continuum, and for people living in countries with low levels of procedural fairness. Second, to test the causal relationship between perceived distributive unfairness and political support, I turn to an original survey experiment I piloted in Mexico and the United States.  The results from my survey experiments show that information about distributive unfairness depresses trust in government, particularly for left-learning participants.  Given the promising results  from my pilot data, I will next use funding I was awarded from an NSF Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant to field survey experiments on nationally representative samples in Argentina and Mexico.

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