Justin de Benedictis-Kessner
Office: PLS 304
Spring 2020 Office Hours: Tuesdays, 1pm-3pm and by appointment
Education: Ph.D., Massachusetts Institute of Technology; B.A., College of William & Mary
Areas of Specialization: American Politics; Local Politics & Policy; Media & Political Communication; Surveys & Public Opinion; Quantitative & Experimental Methods
Justin de Benedictis-Kessner is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Boston University, having joined the department in Fall 2019. He teaches and does research in American politics, with a focus on political behavior, public policy, local politics, elections, and experimental and quantitative methodology.
His current research focuses on three areas: how citizens hold elected officials accountable, how representation translates their interests into policy via elections, and how people’s policy opinions are formed and swayed. To address questions in these areas, he gathers original data from local politics – a level of government that people interact with on a daily basis, and one that constitutes the vast majority of elected officials and elections in the United States. Importantly, it is also a level of government with vast institutional, demographic, and policy variation, facilitating tests of broad theories of political behavior and political institutions. Methodologically, his work blends several approaches. His evidence comes from original large-scale elections and communications data, surveys, and administrative data gathered through partnerships with governments and service providers, and he uses rigorous causal research designs to test his theories. The findings from his research overall indicate that psychological biases, election timing, and political communication can all frustrate voters’ ability to evaluate government and to hold politicians accountable. Individuals’ policy opinions may also be subject to influence from sources such as the media, suggesting further barriers to democratic representation. Despite these hurdles, voters’ interests can translate into different policies via partisan representation, even in low-information local elections.
His work has received the Norton Long Young Scholar Award from the APSA Urban Politics Section and has been supported by funding from Time-sharing Experiments for the Social Sciences (TESS), the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Boston Area Research Initiative. He was previously a postdoctoral researcher at the Boston Area Research Initiative and received his Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his B.A. in Government and Psychology from the College of William & Mary.