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Frank Baumgartner, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, 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


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 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 - Dr. Frank Baumgartner on the Death Penalty



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 Comparative Agendas Project (https://www.comparativeagendas.net/), 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 Comparative 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 (8)

Race and Profiling

Racial Disparities

Public Policy

Death Penalty

Interest groups in American politics



Criminal Justice

Accomplishments (7)

Lijphart/Przeworski/Verba Dataset Award (professional)

Awarded by the APSA Section on Comparative Politics, 2019, for the Comparative Agendas Project.

C. Herman Pritchett Best Book Award (professional)

Awarded by the Law and Courts Section of the American Political Science Association in 2019 for "Suspect Citizens."

Best book award from the International Public Policy Association (professional)

Recognizing the best book published in the English language in 2015 on any topic of public policy, 2017, for The Politics of Information.

Louis Brownlow Award for the best book in public administration (professional)

National Academy of Public Administration, 2016, for The Politics of Information

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 (22)

Data backs up ‘driving while black’ concept, UNC professor says

WNCN, CBS 17  tv


Coverage by CBS 17's Marius Payton.

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This city's police limited traffic stops. Crime went down. Could Louisville do the same?

Louisville Courier Journal  print


Fayetteville, North Carolina, has less than one-third the population of Louisville. But North Carolina’s sixth-largest city, the home of Fort Bragg and the 82nd Airborne Division, could offer Louisville some lessons on policing.

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LMPD handcuffed a black teen for a wide turn, then told him to 'quit with the attitude'

Louisville Courier Journal  print


1 million people have viewed a video of a Louisville traffic stop on YouTube. Many said it shows exactly why minorities distrust law enforcement.

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What we can learn from traffic stop data

CBS Saturday Morning  tv


In an effort to curb racially motivated traffic stops, North Carolina became the first state to demand the collection and release of traffic stop data. A University of North Carolina professor took a look at the stats to find out what it all means. Michelle Miller reports.

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Rethinking Traffic Stops

National Public Radio  radio


Scott Simon talks with Frank Baumgartner of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill about how police are rethinking traffic stops, which often disproportionately target African-Americans.

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WMBF INVESTIGATES: Statistics show stereotyping, targeting in traffic stops

WMBF  tv


An investigative report by Samantha Kummerer, WMBF-TV (Myrtle Beach, SC).

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Read This: Suspect Citizens

Criminal Injustice  online


Routine traffic stops are the most common interaction between police and citizens. A new book presents the most unambiguous evidence yet that race is a critical factor in who gets pulled over and why.

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Focus Carolina: Frank Baumgartner

WCHL  radio


An interview on Baumgartner's book, Suspect Citizens: What 20 Million Traffic Stops Tell Us about Policing and Race.

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A story about democracy, told through 20 million traffic stops

Democracy Works podcast  radio

October 1, 2018 (30 minute audio)

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UNC professor Frank Baumgartner on race, traffic stops and why you should care

The Daily Tar Heel  print


Q&A with The Daily Tar Heel staff writer Claire Willmschen.

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Do You Know Why You Pulled Me Over?

Washington Monthly  online

by Charles Epp, September/October 2018.

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An American Epidemic: Crimes of Wrongful Liberty

InjusticeWatch.org  online

by Jennifer E. Thompson and Frank R. Baumgartner, April 3, 2018

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Driving While Black, What’s In The Data?

WUNC-FM, "The State of Things"  radio

by Dana Terry & Frank Stasio, August 9, 2018

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What data on 20 million traffic stops can tell us about ‘driving while black,'

Washington Post  online

by John Sides. Washington Post, July 17, 2018

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When the Innocent Go to Prison, How Many Guilty Go Free? A husband and wife want to upend how we talk about wrongful convictions

The Marshall Project  online

by Maurice Chammah, 21 March 2018,

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Is Congress working as it should? Depends on who you are

Vox.com  online

by Frank R. Baumgartner and Lee Drutman, 15 September 2016.

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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.

Media Appearance Image

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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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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 (1)

Frank Baumgartner's most recent articles

Various publications

Event Dependence in U.S. Executions. PLoS ONE 13, 1 (2018): e0190244. (Frank R. Baumgartner, Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier, and Benjamin W. Campbell) Budgetary Change in Authoritarian and Democratic Regimes. Journal of European Public Policy 24, 6 (2017): 792–808. (Frank R. Baumgartner, Marcello Carammia, Derek A. Epp, Ben Noble, Beatriz Rey, and Tevfik Murat Yildirim) Complexity, Capacity, and Budget Punctuations. Policy Studies Journal 45, 2 (2017): 247–64. (Derek A. Epp and Frank R. Baumgartner) Endogenous Disjoint Change. Cognitive Systems Research 44 (2017): 69–73. Creating an Infrastructure for Comparative Policy Analysis. Governance 30, 1 (2017): 59–65. Targeting Young Men of Color for Search and Arrest during Traffic Stops: Evidence from North Carolina, 2002-2013. Politics, Groups, and Identities 5, 1 (2017): 107–31. (Frank R. Baumgartner, Derek A. Epp, Kelsey Shoub, and Bayard Love) Do the Media set the Parliamentary Agenda? A Comparative Study in Seven Countries. European Journal of Political Research 55 (2016): 283–301. (Rens Vliegenthart, Stefaan Walgrave, Frank R. Baumgartner, Shaun Bevan, Christian Breunig, Sylvain Brouard, Laura Chaqués Bonafont, Emiliano Grossman, Will Jennings, Peter B. Mortensen, Anna M. Palau, Pascal Sciarini, and Anke Tresch) Images of an Unbiased Interest System. Journal of European Public Policy 22, 8 (2015): 1212–31 (David Lowery, Frank R. Baumgartner, Joost Berkhout, Jeffrey M. Berry, Darren Halpin, Marie Hojnacki, Heike Klüver, Beate Kohler-Koch, Jeremy Richardson, and Kay Lehman Schlozman) The Mayhem of Wrongful Liberty: Documenting the Crimes of True Perpetrators in Cases of Wrongful Incarceration. Forthcoming Albany Law Review, 2018. (Frank R. Baumgartner, Amanda Grigg, Rachelle Ramìrez, and J. Sawyer Lucy). Racial Disparities in Traffic Stop Outcomes. Duke Forum for Law and Social Change 9 (2017): 21–53. (Frank R. Baumgartner, Leah Christiani, Derek A. Epp, Kevin Roach, and Kelsey Shoub) These Lives Matter, Those Ones Don’t: Comparing Execution Rates by the Race and Gender of the Victim in the US and in the Top Death Penalty States. Albany Law Review 79, 3 (2016): 797–860. (Frank R. Baumgartner, Emma Johnson, Colin Wilson, and Clarke Whitehead) The Geographic Distribution of US Executions. Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy 11, 1&2 (2016): 1–33. (Frank R. Baumgartner, Woody Gram, Kaneesha R. Johnson, Arvind Krishnamurthy, and Colin P. Wilson)