Hello! I'm Sarah


I am an Associate Professor in the political science department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I received my Ph.D from the University of Minnesota (2009). My primary research interests are American political institutions, specifically the U.S. Congress. My current research agenda focuses on congressional primary elections and decision making in the U.S. Senate.


Primary Elections:

1. “Assessing Strategic Voting in the 2008 US Presidential Primaries: The Role of Electoral Context, Institutional Rules, and Negative Votes.” Public Choice, 161(December 2014): 517-536. With D. Sunshine Hillygus.

2. “Competitive Primaries and Party Division in Congressional Elections.” Electoral Studies, 35(September 2014): 140-149. With Caitlin E. Jewitt.

3. “Ideological Primaries and their Influence in Congress.” 2018. In Routledge Handbook of Primary Elections. ed. Robert Boatright. Routledge. With Caitlin E. Jewitt.

4. "Ideological Primary Competition and Congressional Behavior. Forthcoming. Congress and the Presidency. With Caitlin E. Jewitt

5. "The Primary Decision: Success in Congressional Primaries." (with Rachel Porter)

6. "Turning Legislative Effectiveness into Electoral Success." (with Danielle Thomsen, Craig Volden, and Alan Wiseman)

7. "Running as a Woman?: Candidate Presentation in the 2018 Midterms." Forthcoming. Political Research Quarterly. With Maura McDonald and Rachel Porter.

Institutional Design:

1. Book: Agenda Crossover: The Influence of State Delegations in Congress (Cambridge University Press)

2. “Assessing Strategic Voting in the 2008 US Presidential Primaries: The Role of Electoral Context, Institutional Rules, and Negative Votes.” Public Choice, 161(December 2014): 517-536. With D. Sunshine Hillygus. 

3. “Party Committee Targeting and the Evolution of Competition in U.S. House Elections.” Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, 26(January 2016): 96-114. With Jacob F.H. Smith and Jason M. Roberts.

4. "Minority Views: Minority Party Strategies in the U.S. House of Representatives" (with Austin Bussing)

Representation in Congress

1. Book: Agenda Crossover: The Influence of State Delegations in Congress (Cambridge University Press)

2. “The Symbolic and Substantive Representation of LGB Americans in the U.S. House.” Journal of Politics, 77(October 2015): 955-967. With Eric R. Hansen.

3. “Indirect Presidential Influence, State-level Approval, and Voting in the U.S. Senate.” American Politics Research, 40(March 2012): 355-379. With Caitlin E. Dwyer.

4. “Ambition and Party Loyalty in the U.S. Senate.” American Politics Research. 37(May 2009): 449-464.

5. "The Electoral Consequences of Roll Call Voting: Health Care and the 2018 Election." (With Austin Bussing, Will Patton, Jason M. Roberts)

6. "Porus Boundaries: Legislation for a Mobile Constituency." (With Santiago Olivella and Nathan Pinnell)

Supreme Court

1. “Emotions, Oral Arguments, and Supreme Court Decision Making.” Journal of Politics, 73(April 2011): 572-581. With Ryan Black, Timothy R. Johnson and Jerry Goldman.


2. “Predicting the Outcome of Supreme Court Cases at Oral Arguments: A Linguistic Analysis.” Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, 29 (Spring 2009): 241-261. With Timothy R. Johnson, Ryan Black and Jerry Goldman.

 3. “Congress and the Court: Resolving Campaign Finance Legislation.” 2012. In New Directions in Congressional Politics. ed. Jamie L. Carson. Routledge.


POLI 100

POLI 420


This course is intended as a detailed examination of the legislative branch of the United States' government. The course focuses on the origins and developments for the U.S. Congress, congressional campaigns and elections, representation, the committee system, the role of political parties, and the separation of powers system. This class does not specifically focus on legislative procedure (please consider taking 424 if that is your area of interest). However, procedure will be tangentially covered throughout the semester.

Sample Syllabus

POLI 424


This course is intended to educate students in the workings of the U.S. Congress by first introducing them to the relevant literature in the field and then allowing them to actively participate in the democratic process. In this course we will discuss rules and procedures for the U.S. Congress, the influence of party on members, how the legislative agenda is determined, and the pressing issues of the day. The culminating event of the course will be a Model Congress. In the Model Congress each student will compose a detailed bill, introduce his/her bill, markup legislation in committee, and debate and amend legislation on the floor. This course requires your active participation, research, and creative thinking.

Sample Syllabus

POLI 89 (First Year Seminar)


An entrepreneur has been defined as one who identifies an opportunity, gathers the necessary resources, creates a project or venture, and takes ultimate responsibility for its success. Political entrepreneurship is the idea of creatively crafting political leadership for the remainder of this century. Political entrepreneurship puts service to the community or country above service to a political party, and challenges us to think beyond the partisan framework of today in order to be an effective leader. The course will address a series of topics that encourage all of us to hang up our partisan hats to tackle real issues, and develop qualities of political leaders. It will also provide you with an opportunity to apply the knowledge you gain to a project of venture you will develop as a part of a final project.



This course is an introduction to American politics. In this course we will discuss the origins of the current governmental system in America, political institutions, political behavior, and how theories of American government apply to current events and problems the government and citizens face today.

Sample Syllabus