American Politics Placement Candidates
Todd entered graduate school after a successful career in politics working for several national organizations over a number of years. Although he filled various professional roles during this time, his primary focus was on policy activity, electoral campaigns, and court challenges at the state level.
Todd’s research is primarily focused on how public opinion is influenced by the political environment – media, political campaigns, institutions, public figures, and policy debates – at the local, state, and national levels. His dissertation project – Mercury Rising: How State Policy Diffusion Impacts National Opinion – examines the influence of state-level policy diffusion on related national opinion over time. Although largely undeveloped in the literature, Todd argues that this dynamic is critical to our understanding of public opinion formation because national policy advocates have increasingly turned to the states to advance their agenda. By using gun issues and related opinion as the lens of analysis, he finds that state gun policy activity has a significant impact on related attitudes in policy reform states and through policy diffusion and contagion, national opinion in the aggregate. He has co-authored an article in Politics and Religion on the influence of religious elite cueing on public opinion and has also co-authored an article (forthcoming) in Social Science Quarterly which analyzes the persuasive effects of popular movies on attitudes towards health care reform.
As a teacher of political science, it is the fundamental questions pertaining to democracy and our allegiance to democratic values which center Todd’s learning objectives for all students. He views the exploration of these central questions as the connective tissue which binds all his courses, whether introductory survey courses or more specialized upper-level offerings. At the same time, part of this process and a natural outgrowth of his teaching style is his commitment to helping students develop the critical thinking and problem solving skills that will help them throughout their academic and professional lives.
Over the past three years, Todd has served as instructor of record, with complete discretion over course design and implementation, for thirteen courses, including courses on American Government, Law, Interest Groups, Criminal Justice, Philosophy, and Sociology. His positive student evaluations at both the University of Notre Dame and Southwestern Michigan College reflect his commitment to students and their learning. Across a spectrum of courses, he consistently ranks in the upper quartiles of instructors in nearly all categories.
Jeremy Castle’s research examines how non-governmental institutions, such as religion and the media, influence public opinion. His dissertation, "Rock of Ages: Subcultural Religious Identity and Public Opinion Among Young Evangelicals," seeks to solve a puzzle: While political scientists typically find that evangelicals hold conservative attitudes, recent popular accounts suggest that this politically important group is becoming more liberal. Jeremy puts forth a subcultural theory of public opinion among young evangelicals and tests this theory using nationally representative survey data, 50 semi-structured interviews with college-age evangelicals at five universities, and an original panel survey of college-age evangelicals. He shows that the evangelical religious tradition possesses the ability to insulate members from trends in public opinion, provided that (a) the political issue in question is directly related to the core values of the evangelical tradition, and (b) individuals attend evangelical churches frequently and are otherwise "immersed" in the evangelical culture.
Jeremy's other research also examines the roots of public opinion. Jeremy and fellow graduate student Todd Adkins recently published their paper, "Moving Pictures?: Experimental Evidence of Cinematic Influence on Political Attitudes" in Social Science Quarterly.
Jeremy is committed to teaching excellence and has taught at both the University of Notre Dame (where he led a senior seminar on Campaigns and Elections) and Hanover College (where he directs the summer Pre-Law Institute for high school students). He regularly makes use of active learning strategies, including debates, mock trials, and presentations, in order to improve student participation and learning outcomes. He looks forward to teaching courses in the areas of American politics, research methodology, and public law.