Hopkins Wins Awards for Work on Urban Politics

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We are living in an era of big data, where the habits and preferences of millions of people can fit on a single hard drive. In the realm of political science, Associate Professor Dan Hopkins is using those mind-bogglingly large quantities of data to ask big questions about urban America:

What is the public policy effect of having a Democratic mayor versus a Republican one? How did the influx of domestic refugees from Hurricane Katrina impact surrounding cities and their resident’s attitudes about the newcomers? What makes a city’s mayor more or less likely to win re-election?

Tonight at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in San Francisco, Hopkins’s work will be honored with two awards: Clarence Stone Award, given by the Urban Politics Section of the American Political Science Association, as well as the 2015 Warren Miller Prize for the best article published in the journal Political Analysis.

The Clarence Stone Award is given to a scholar who is “making a significant impact on the field of urban politics.”

“One of the main things I’ve been trying to do in my work is to study not just a single city,” says Hopkins,“but many cities simultaneously.” By collecting data on election results, local laws, and how cities spend money and raise revenue, Hopkins can explore behavior patterns that cut across all of urban America.

The second award, the 2015 Miller Prize, will be awarded to Hopkins and co-authors Jens Hainmueller and Teppei Yamamoto for the article, “Casual Interference in Conjoint Analysis.”

In it, they offer a new statistical model for exploring some of the most fundamental questions in political science while learning more from each individual study.

Traditionally, Hopkins explains, survey experiments explore one variable while holding all others constant. For example, study participants might be asked to rate a hypothetical political candidate, with one group believing he is a man and another thinking she is a woman. While varying gender, everything else is the same.

But how would a person’s attitudes change if those candidates were wealthy versus middle class? Or one race versus another? The method outlined by Hopkins and his co-authors allows for online surveys that explore many factors simultaneously, multiplying the volume of insight researchers can gain.

Hopkins is one of the University of Pennsylvania’s newest faculty members, having joined the Political Science Department this fall as an Associate Professor. He also has a secondary appointment at the Annenberg School for Communication.