Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Education, Professor
Dr. Michelle Taylor-Robinson is a scholar of Comparative Politics focused on representation and the consequences for consolidating democracy globally.
Her most recent book The Image of Gender and Political Leadership: A Multinational View of Women and Leadership (co-edited with Nehemia Geva, 2023 Oxford University Press) is based on parallel experiments conducted with resident country experts in 8 countries with over 6,000 young adult participants from highly diverse socio-economic backgrounds. The study, funded by National Science Foundation, was conducted in person in hundreds of classrooms. The experimental design was adapted to the language and current politics of each case, using a lengthy speech to enable effect size comparisons for candidate sex relative to party. We found that candidate party had far greater weight than gender on scores given to candidates by participants, regardless of the history of women in government. Women candidates generally were trusted by young adult participants as leaders able to hold diverse posts, win votes, and manage stereotypically masculine policy areas. A notable exception was discovered in governments where defense and security dominated the policy agenda, where women were favored in feminine and men in masculine policy domains. The message is that young adults are ready for women leaders, whether older adults and party elites are or not.
Current research investigates the work that men and women appointed to presidential cabinets do once they are in office and the extent to which women represent women’s interests and interests of other historically marginalized groups. This project builds on previous research presented in her book with Maria Escobar-Lemmon, Women in Presidential Cabinets: Power Players or Abundant Tokens? (2016 Oxford University Press). That book examined credentials and group linkages, as well as treatment, of men and women in cabinets of 5 countries.
Her earlier research revealed how the design of democratic institutions can create or depress incentives for legislators to represent poor people in Do the Poor Count? Representation and Accountability in a Context of Poverty (2010 Penn State University Press). Current work examines career aspirations of women and men who have succeeded in winning election to the national legislature in 18 Latin American countries to evaluate how ambition is affected by gender and institutional rules. Other current research includes collaboration with anthropologists about relationship-building across diverse groups of legislators and its manifestation in bill co-sponsorship.
Professor Taylor-Robinson has conducted fieldwork in Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, England, Honduras, Mexico, the US, and Uruguay, often including graduate students. She received a Fulbright Specialist Grant in 2019 for work at the Universidad de Salamanca in Spain. In 2022 she received the Outstanding Professional Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus of the Midwest Political Science Association. She also was the comparative politics editor at Legislative Studies Quarterly.
In addition to 5 books and edited volumes her research has appeared in American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Comparative Political Studies, Electoral Studies, Party Politics, Politics & Gender, Politics Groups & Identities, and Political Research Quarterly.