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Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Raleigh-Durham, NC, US

Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D.

Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor, Department of Political Science, College of Arts and Sciences | UNC-Chapel Hill

Raleigh-Durham, NC, UNITED STATES

Research: public policy, agenda-setting, interest groups in American politics, the death penalty and racial profiling in traffic stops.



Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. Publication Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. Publication Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. Publication Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. Publication Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. Publication



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Punctuated Equilibrium: An Introduction Chuck Stone Symposium panel -



Frank R. Baumgartner is the Richard J. Richardson Distinguished Professor of Political Science in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences.

His work focuses on public policy, agenda-setting, interest groups in American and comparative politics, the death penalty and racial profiling in traffic stops.

With Bryan D. Jones, he created the Policy Agendas Project (www.policyagendas.org), and they continue to co-direct it, with John Wilkerson. The project collects and organizes data from various archived sources to trace changes in the national policy agenda and public policy outcomes since the Second World War.

In 2008, Baumgartner's book "The Decline of the Death Penalty and the Discovery of Innocence" (Cambridge University Press, 2008, with Suzanna De Boef and Amber E. Boydstun) was awarded the Gladys M. Kammerer Award by the American Political Science Association for the best book on U.S. national policy. He remains involved in various projects relating to the death penalty including its use in the state of North Carolina.

His current research projects include several items, one of which is the continued extension of the Policy Agendas Project. Comparative policy agendas projects are underway in Australia, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, the European Union, France, Greece, Hungary, Hong Kong, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and for the U.S. states of Pennsylvania and Florida.

Much of his current agenda has to do with studies of race, with particular focus on the death penalty and on traffic stops. With UNC colleagues Seth Kotch (American Studies) and Isaac Unah (Political Science), he is writing a book tentatively entitled "A Deadly Symbol: Race and Capital Punishment in North Carolina," focusing on the decline of the death penalty in the state, its low rate of use, but its potent racial symbolism throughout history. Other work related to the death penalty nationally focuses on rates of reversal, geographic concentration and issues of innocence. In 2011 he began a research project with graduate student Derek Epp focused on the analysis of all traffic stops in the state, based on official data collected since 2000, but never subjected to systematic analysis.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Public Policy Death Penalty Interest groups in American politics Agenda-setting Lobbying Criminal Justice

Accomplishments (3)

Samuel J. Eldersveld Career Achievement Award (2011) (professional)

The Samuel Eldersveld Career Achievement Award recognizes a scholar whose lifetime professional work has made an outstanding contribution to the field.

Leon D. Epstein Outstanding Book Award (2010) (personal)

The Leon Epstein Outstanding Book Award recognizes a book published in the last two calendar years that made an outstanding contribution to research and scholarship on political organizations and parties. Dr. Baumgartner won for his book "Lobbying and Political Change."

Gladys M. Kammerer Award, American Political Science Association, for the best publication in the field of US national policy (2008) (personal)

Dr. Baumgartner was granted this award for his book "The Decline of the Death Penalty."

Education (3)

The University of Michigan: Ph.D., Political Science 1986

The University of Michigan: M.A., Political Science 1983

The University of Michigan: B.A., Political Science 1980

Affiliations (3)

  • American Political Science Association : Vice-President 2015–16
  • Policy Agendas Project : Co-Director
  • The Scholars Strategy Network : Member

Media Appearances (8)

The great money-in-politics myth

Vox.com  online


Bernie Sanders has a simple explanation of why the US hasn't achieved universal health care yet: money.

"Do you know why we can’t do what every other country — major country — on Earth is doing?" he asked during the January 17 Democratic debate. "It’s because we have a campaign finance system that is corrupt, we have Super PACs, we have the pharmaceutical industry pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaign contributions and lobbying, and the private insurance companies as well."

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Why Florida loves the death penalty

Vice  online


On January 7, Florida carried out the first execution in America this year. But on Tuesday, the State Supreme Court postponed the next one as lawmakers try to appease justices in Washington. The conversation will likely not address the racial issues brought up in the 1970s Supreme Court cases, although the degree to which the death penalty is imposed along those lines remains startling. (A January report authored by a professor at University of North Carolina found that no white person has ever been sentenced to death for killing a black person in Florida.)

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Ohio and its death penalty disparities

The Akron Beacon-Journal  print


Seven states have abolished the death penalty during the past decade. Thirty states either do not have capital punishment or have not conducted an execution the past eight years. Will Ohio follow in their path? The state already has put off executions until November of next year. Officials are having difficulty securing the necessary drugs to conduct a lethal injection according to standards. Drug-makers have balked at participating.
Of late, the complications for the death penalty have deepened. Frank Baumgartner, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina, released an analysis reinforcing concerns about racial, gender and geographic disparities in applying capital punishment in Ohio. He looked at the 53 executions in the state from 1976 to 2014. Thirty four involved white men, and 19 involved black men.

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Americans are turning against the death penalty. Are politicians far behind?

The Washington Post  online


An article by Frank R. Baumgartner, Emily Williams and Kaneesha Johnson.

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DPS statistics showing no racial bias in stops are wrong, expert says

The Austin American-Statesman  print


For more than a decade, the Texas Department of Public Safety has published annual numbers on the race and ethnicity of the drivers it stops, warns, cites, searches and arrests. Those reports, the agency informed the public and lawmakers, demonstrated conclusively that DPS troopers treat motorists of different races equally.

But the agency’s reassuring conclusions appear to have been built on a shaky foundation. According to an analysis of DPS annual reports between 2003 and 2014 conducted by a team of racial profiling experts, the DPS consistently searches black drivers at higher rates than white drivers, who in turn are more likely to be released with only warnings than are minority motorists.

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The Disproportionate Risks of Driving While Black

The New York Times  print


Rufus Scales, 26 and black, was driving his younger brother Devin to his hair-cutting class in this genteel, leafy city when they heard the siren’s whoop and saw the blue light in the rearview mirror of their black pickup. Two police officers pulled them over for minor infractions that included expired plates and failing to hang a flag from a load of scrap metal in the pickup’s bed. But what happened next was nothing like a routine traffic stop.

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Low-Information Lawmakers: Why today’s Congress can no longer cope with complex problems

Washington Monthly  print

June/July/August 2015

We humans have a hard time with complexity; our brains are only capable of paying attention to one thing at a time. Once we start weighing different sides of a problem, trying to make trade-offs across multiple dimensions, keeping all kinds of facts straight, our heads start to hurt. We are quickly overwhelmed. When Herman Cain promised that, if elected president, he would not sign any bill longer than three pages, he was tapping into something deep in the human psyche. At three pages, we might feel in control.

We are what psychologists call “cognitive misers.” We naturally conserve our mental energy, and prefer the simple (less taxing) over the complex (more taxing). That’s why politics is easier when there are two parties, which can organize issues into simple binary choices: more government spending or less government spending; Wall Street or Main Street; good or evil.

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Why Congress Relies on Lobbyists Instead of Thinking for Itself

TheAtlantic.com  online


America’s political institutions are suffering from profound decay. The political parties—especially the Republicans—have become so constrained by their activists and addicted to short-term one-upmanship that they are incapable of governing together. At the same time, the political power of the very wealthy and organized business interests has reached levels that undermine our legitimate expectations that the political system should be able to solve big problems and generate shared prosperity.

These twin phenomena are part of the same basic pathology—the capture of our governing institutions by concentrated interests and the weakening of the structures that aggregate and balance public preferences and channel expertise toward workable consensus.

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Event Appearances (4)

Images of an Unbiased Interest System (2015)

The Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association  San Francisco, CA


Budgeting in Authoritarian and Democratic Regimes (2015)

The Annual Meetings of the Comparative Agendas Project  Lisbon

The Mayhem of Wrongful Liberty: Documenting the Crimes of True Perpetrators in Cases of Wrongful Incarceration (2014)

Innocence Network Conference  Portland, OR


The Hierarchy of Victims in Death Penalty Processing (2014)

The Annual Meeting of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists  Wilmington, DE


Articles (5)

All News is Bad News: Newspaper Coverage of Political Parties in Spain Political Communication

February 4, 2015

Spain has a highly partisan media system, with newspapers reaching self-selected partisan audiences and espousing explicitly partisan editorial preferences. Do the newspapers of the left and right differ in how they cover politics in ways that can be predicted by their partisan leanings? We review theories of issue ownership, journalistic standards, and information scarcity and test hypotheses derived from each. We find that the parties converge substantially in virtually every aspect of their coverage. Few differences emerge when we look at what topics are covered or in the dynamics of which topics gain attention over time. However, we confirm important differences across the papers when they make explicit reference to individual political parties. Journalistic norms result in a surprising focus on the faults of one’s enemies, however, rather than the virtues of one’s allies. Our assessment is based on a comprehensive database of all front-page stories in El País and El Mundo, Spain’s largest daily newspapers, from 1996 through 2011.

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Popular Presidents Can Affect Congressional Attention, for a Little While Policy Studies Journal

February 2015

Does the president have the ability to set the congressional agenda? Agenda setting is a prerequisite for influence, so this is an important element in understanding presidential–legislative relations. We focus on the State of the Union address and show that popular presidents can, indeed, cause Congress to shift attention to those topics most emphasized. The impact is tempered by divided government and time, however. No matter the state of divided government, however, popular presidents can direct congressional attention, at least for a little while. Unpopular presidents, by contrast, are irrelevant.

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Partners in Advocacy: Lobbyists and Government Officials in Washington The Journal of Politics

January 2015

One of the most important demonstrations of power in Washington is the ability to recruit sitting government officials to become active proponents of one’s position. Many have suggested money is the key: Campaign contributions buy friends, access, and perhaps even policy activism. We provide an alternative view based on a deceptively simple observation: Lobbyists rarely lobby alone. We show empirically that government policymakers respond to the overall structure of conflict, not the resources of individual lobbying groups. Our project is based on in-depth interviews with over 300 policy advocates and systematic information on each of more than 2,000 advocates playing a significant role in a random sample of 98 policy issues in the United States federal government from 1999 to 2002.

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Assessing business advantage in Washington lobbying Interest Groups and Advocacy


Popular accounts of business involvement in politics typically suggest that business interests enjoy relatively unfettered success in getting what they want from government. Scholarly work is more equivocal. In this article we use a random sample of 98 policy issues between 1998 and 2002 to examine whether business interests and other advocates get what they want from the policy process, and how their rate of success varies when they face different types of opponents.

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#BlackLivesDon'tMatter: Race-of-victim effects in US executions, 1976–2013 Politics, Groups, and Identities


This paper examines the role of racial bias in the implementation of capital punishment. First, our analysis of existing literature confirms higher rates of capital punishment for those who kill Whites, particularly for Blacks who kill Whites. Second, we compare homicide victim data with a newly collected data set including information on the victims of every inmate executed in the USA from 1976 through 2013, some 1369 executions.

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