Job Market Materials

In my research agenda, I employ advanced computational methods to answer important questions about American political institutions, with a particular interest in Congress, political parties, and primary elections. More specifically, I focus on how institutions: (1) influence political discourse and (2) impact electoral success. I am eager and able to teach classes on quantitative methods and American politics. Please find application materials, including a research statement, CV, teaching statement, and complete student evaluations via the links below. If you have any questions, please contact me at rachsur@live.unc.edu

Research Statement

My research employs advanced quantitative methods and original data collections to offer new perspectives on established theories about American political institutions. In single-authored and collaborative work, I explore candidate emergence, success, and campaign behavior in congressional elections. My dissertation extends this research agenda by assessing whether candidates still run on locally-oriented issues in today’s “nationalized” campaign environment. Most recently, I have taken an interest in understanding how shifts in electoral trends impact legislative outcomes.

Teaching Portfolio

In my approach to teaching, I challenge students to evaluate the way they think about the world around them. My teaching style couples active learning with discussions anchored in current events. This teaching methodology encourages critical thinking on the causes and effects of day-to-day political phenomena, producing students who can tackle challenging questions and provide thoughtful solutions. Inside and outside the classroom, I also prioritize experiential learning. I encourage students to “learn by doing” through the semester-long quantitative projects I assign in my courses and by pursuing collaborations with students in my own research. In the following links, please find my full teaching portfolio, a summary of students’ evaluations of my teaching, and full student evaluations for all of my courses taught. For more information on my courses, please click here.

Curriculum Vitae

Diversity Statement

Writing Sample: Estiming the Ideology of Primary Electorates (single-authored)

In my first dissertation chapter, I investigate how increasingly safe congressional districts impact elite behavior. In 1970, over 40 percent of districts were considered competitive; in 2018, a paltry 10 percent fell into this category. Today, for those many politicians who run in districts safe for their own party, winning the primary may be the only obstacle to attaining office. Pleasing ideologically-extreme primary voters, then, becomes of the highest importance. Consequently, I posit that increasingly safe districts are partially to blame for our state of nationalized politics. To test this theory, I couple a technique called multilevel regression with synthetic poststratification (MrsP) with the validated voter information for 2.7 million primary election voters to create a direct measure for partisan primary constituency ideology at the congressional district-level. Using my new measure, I show that incumbents are less representative of same-party primary voter preferences when the general election is competitive for both parties. These results emphasize the important role that primaries play in motivating candidate behavior in modern elections. An earlier draft of this chapter was presented at several conferences, including the Society for Political Methodology’s annual meeting, and is currently under review.

Writing Sample: Descriptive Candidacies & Position Taking in Congressional Elections (co-authored)

In this collaborative paper, I extend my dissertation thesis by futher evaluating the ways in which electoral conditions impact campaign position taking. We find a strong relationship between the emergence of candidates with a unique identity (i.e. veterans, women, and Black candidates) and their same-party primary opponents’ issue adoption. We find that Democratic male, Democratic white, and Republican civilian candidates are significantly more likely to take up women, veteran, and Black-associated issues when a candidates who possess this identity runs in their primary. In a content analysis using text-as-data, we show that identity-holders and candidates who do not share this identity are remarkably consistent in how they talk about issues of interest. Our findings suggest that identity-holders and candidates who do not share this identity are remarkably consistent in how they talk about issues of interest. Finally, in our comparison of primary and general election platform text, we demonstrate that this website content remains largely unchanged over the course of elections. Our findings indicate that position-taking in the primary will have long-term consequences on campaign strategy. This paper was presented in an extended virtual poster session at the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Society for Political Methodology as well as the American Politial Science Association’s 2020 virtual meeting.