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UC Davis Media Sources for the 2018 Election

By Karen Nikos-Rose on October 8, 2018 in Society, Arts & Culture

The following University of California, Davis, researchers are available to comment to media on topics presenting in the upcoming elections. From the history of the political process, to trade and economic issues, UC Davis can provide expertise on a variety of issues facing voters. Check the UC Davis News and Information website for updates to this list.

Leadership and inconsistency

Kim Elsbach, associate dean and professor in the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, studies how organizations, their leaders and individuals acquire and maintain images, identities and reputations. She is the author of the book, Organizational Perception Management. Elsbach says, “People in Western society do not like inconsistency in their leaders. It’s what gets a lot of leaders tripped up. There is so much pressure on leaders to be consistent that it outweighs the need to make the right decision or to be accurate.” Contact:, 530-752-0910.

History of electoral politics

Eric Rauchway, professor of history, can discuss presidential politics, primaries and the Electoral College; congressional politics, constitutional rules and party structure; and the role of international economics, globalization and wars in American history. He can also talk about economic and monetary policies, specifically comparisons to historical policies, especially the New Deal.

He has contributed to The New York Times and The Washington Post and appeared on BBC Radio 4 and NPR. His books include Winter War: Hoover, Roosevelt, and the First Clash Over the New Deal (2018) and The Money Makers: How Roosevelt and Keynes Ended the Depression, Defeated Fascism, and Secured a Prosperous Peace (2015). Contact: 530-754-1646,

Economics and poverty

UC Davis has experts on various poverty issues, including work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and other safety net programs. Professors Marianne Bitler (safety net), Ann Stevens (general poverty) and Marianne Page (poverty and impacts on children) are economists associated with the UC Davis Center for Poverty Research. Their bios and contact information, and those of other experts in the field, can be found on our poverty expert list

Conspiracy theories; roots of modern conservatism

Professor of history Kathryn S. Olmsted has long investigated conspiracy theories, from the Kennedy assassination to 9/11, and many that have cropped up since, even during the primary elections. She authored Real Enemies: Conspiracy Theories and American Democracy, World War I to 9/11 (2009).

In her recent research, she also has re-examined the labor disputes in Depression-era California that led California’s businessmen and media to create a new style of politics with corporate funding, intelligence gathering, professional campaign consultants and alliances between religious and economic conservatives. Her 2015 book is Right Out of California: The 1930s and the Big Business Roots of Modern Conservatism. Contact: 530-752-7764,

Tariffs and trade

UC Davis has experts on agricultural and corporate tariffs, and their effects on consumers, on a tariffs and trade expert list.

Racial and ethnic politics, immigration, Latino voting behavior

Bradford Jones is a professor of political science whose research focuses on racial and ethnic politics including Latino voting behavior and Latino public opinion as well as voting behavior more generally. His research focuses on immigration policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels as well as public opinion regarding immigration policy and immigrants more generally. Jones is also an expert on the issue of migrant deaths on the U.S.-Mexico border. Apart from teaching and researching issues related to immigration and Latina/o politics, Jones is an authorized driver for Humane Borders, a Tucson-based humanitarian organization. Contact:

Immigration detention, undocumented youth

Caitlin Patler, assistant professor of sociology, can discuss immigration detention policy, executive action on deferred action programs (DACA and DAPA), and the situation of undocumented youth and families, including solitary confinement issues in immigration facilities. Her research is informed by over 15 years of work in immigrants’ rights organizations focused on immigration detention, access to education for undocumented youth, and low-wage labor markets. She can also comment on such topics as the social costs of revoking temporary legal status, and the general social costs of noncitizenship. Contact:

Additional immigration experts are available on this list.

What influences voting? The effects of opinion polls, lawn signs and issue framing

Research by Alison Ledgerwood, a professor of psychology and the principal investigator for the Attitudes and Group Identity Lab, suggests that neighbors’ lawn signs, public opinion polls and bumper stickers can all affect how people vote in an election — but timing matters. For instance, poll results will be most influential when an election is still far away, whereas a neighbor’s bumper sticker will have a bigger impact as an election draws closer. In other research, she finds that certain ways of talking about an issue or candidate have greater sticking power, so that even small choices in wording (like focusing on the success rate versus failure rate of a political policy) can have a lasting effect on voter opinions. Contact:

How do people evaluate the credibility of news images in social networks?

Research by Cuihua (Cindy) Shen, a professor of communication and co-founder of the Computational Communication Research Lab, suggests that in general, people are not very good at identifying manipulated images on the web. In one of her research projects funded by the National Science Foundation, her team showed participants a wide range of substantively photoshopped images, and participants generally thought these images were authentic. In a follow-up study, her research team tested a wide range of cues that might influence image credibility, such as the source of image, the media platform, and the number of likes and shares, trying to pinpoint exactly how people make credibility judgments online. Their main finding was totally unexpected: None of the well-established credibility cues mattered. When it comes to the credibility of an image, New York Times was just as credible as Buzzfeed or a generic Twitter user. News images with tens of thousands of likes or shares are just as credible as those with none. What made a difference were people’s digital media literacy, their photoshop experiences, and prior attitudes toward the political issue depicted in the news images. Contact:

Health care policy

Michelle Ko, assistant professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, looks at how policy, health care, and our social structure are interconnected, and their impacts on disadvantaged communities. She has conducted research on a variety of topics, including the health care safety net, Medicaid, long-term care, access to health care for minority populations, diversity in medical education, and the health care workforce. Contact:

The environment and climate change

Many experts on climate, natural resources, water availability and other issues are available on this list.

Media contact(s)

Karen Nikos-Rose, News and Media Relations, 530-219-5472,