Constitutional Studies Placement Candidates
Christopher Weaver is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science, specializing in the study of American politics and constitutional studies.
His research and teaching interests encompass a range of topics within these fields, including the study of political behavior, constitutional law and jurisprudence, religion and politics, and identity politics. His dissertation examines the role of moral psychology in political decision-making, and his broader work examines the role of religion in the political lives of marginalized groups (including elites such as judges and party activists), exploring the ways in which religion both mitigates and exacerbates inequality across multiple dimensions, including race and ethnicity, class, and gender. His work has been published or is forthcoming in Politics and Religion and Law & Society Review.
In his dissertation, entitled " 'Knowing' Right from Wrong: The Role of Moral Confidence in Political Decision-Making," he examines individuals' moral judgments and legal opinions on the issues of abortion, homosexuality, capital punishment, and physician-assisted suicide. Using preexisting and original survey data, he contends that moral judgments and legal opinions on moral issues are distinct but related, and that variation in moral confidence, or an individual’s perceived level of moral knowledge, helps explain this morality-legality gap in opinion. Moreover, he argues that many individuals are morally overconfident, which drives them to more readily apply their moral judgments to policy issues and take more extreme legal stances on these moral issues. Leveraging data collected in an original survey experiment, however, he shows that this moral overconfidence can be reduced, resulting in greater support for legalization of these issues.
A first-generation college student born and raised in Arkansas, Chris earned his B.A. in Politics in 2011 from Hendrix College in Conway, Arkansas prior to coming to Notre Dame.
Graduation anticipated Spring 2016.
Andre Audette is a Ph.D. candidate in American Politics and Constitutional Studies. His research focuses broadly on the impact of social identity on political inequality among individuals, groups, and in governmental institutions and public policy. His dissertation, entitled “The Religious Bases of Latino Political Participation,” examines how churches mobilize Latinos for political participation. Political scientists have found that religiosity generates higher rates of political participation, but Latinos (a highly religious social group) often participate in politics at lower rates than other racial and ethnic groups, even when controlling for socioeconomic status. This has led some scholars to suggest that Latinos’ historic affiliation with the Catholic Church reduces their participation rates, due to Catholics having fewer opportunities than Protestants to develop civic skills. Utilizing national survey data and qualitative fieldwork in Latino-serving churches, Andre’s dissertation argues that, while some denominational differences exist, churches as a whole are a highly effective way to incorporate new and marginalized groups into the political system through civic skill acquisition, political recruitment, and the mobilization of religious beliefs. As the number of Latinos in the United States continues to grow, his dissertation suggests that religious and other voluntary organizations will play a vital role in giving Latinos political voice in American elections and policymaking.
Andre has also conducted research on social identity and inequality in political institutions and public policy. In a piece co-authored with Christopher Weaver, forthcoming in Law & Society Review, they show that judges from societal out-groups generate lower levels of legitimacy than those from societal in-groups. Andre’s other research examines the social effects of state welfare policies.
In addition to his research, Andre has taught courses on research methods at Indiana University-South Bend and discussion sections of introductory American politics at Notre Dame. He is also a graduate associate at the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning, where he trains graduate teaching assistants, leads workshops on teaching and learning pedagogy, and works with faculty and graduate student teachers in developing evidence-based active learning techniques. Prior to his graduate work, Andre earned degrees in political science and Justice and Peace Studies at the University of St. Thomas. He is expected to graduate from Notre Dame in the spring of 2016.
Christopher P. McMillion is a Ph.D. Candidate in Constitutional Studies and Political Theory. His research addresses the development of Supreme Court doctrine and the justices’ decision-making processes, particularly in the area of federalism, as well as constitutionalism in American political thought. His dissertation, Federalism and Freedom: The Precedential and Normative Roots of the Rehnquist Court’s Federalism Revolution, examines theand theoretical groundwork for the Supreme Court’s federalism jurisprudence during William Rehnquist’s tenure as Chief Justice This project project establishes that the jurisprudence is not novel but is, instead, consistent with earlier conceptions of liberty and the relationship between different spheres of government. Importantly, he shows that it is a mistake to associate American federalism exclusively with a conservative ideology. local decision-making and deference to individual choices . The project examines marijuana regulations and “sanctuary cities” for undocumented immigrants to provide concrete examples of this parity under the principles of federalism.
Chris also conducts empirical research in judicial politics. He is the lead author of a project that examines when and under what circumstances the Supreme Court chooses to revisit earlier decisions. This project opens a new field of inquiry in judicial politics, looking at the revisiting behavior of the Court, and it contributes insights into the hierarchical interactions found in the judiciary.
Chris’s teaching interests include a range of topics in constitutional law, judicial politics, and political theory. He is currently teaching the introductory constitutional law course at Notre Dame. He is expected to graduate in the spring of 2016.