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Sarah A. Treul, Ph.D. - UNC-Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill, NC, US

Sarah A. Treul, Ph.D. Sarah A. Treul, Ph.D.

Bowman and Gordon Gray Distinguished Term Professor, Department of Political Science; Faculty Director, Program for Public Discourse; College of Arts and Sciences | UNC-Chapel Hill


Sarah Treul specializes in American political institutions, with an emphasis on the U.S. Congress and courts.







Experts at Carolina | Sarah Treul on the 2012 Elections Are We a More Moderate Country Than We Thought Consider this... 2016 Election




Sarah Treul is Bowman and Gordon Gray Term Professor of political science in UNC's College of Arts and Sciences. She specializes in American political institutions, with an emphasis on the U.S. Congress and courts. She earner her B.A. in Political Science and Psychology from Wellesley College and her M.A and Ph.D. (both in Political Science) from the University of Minnesota. Her research interests include the voting behavior of U.S. senators, bicameralism, and state delegations in Congress. She is currently working on a project analyzing how a decline in state economic interests has contributed to polarization in Congress. She also is a faculty affiliate of the Center for Effective Lawmaking at Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia.

Areas of Expertise (6)

American Political Institutions

U.S. Congress


Voting behavior of U.S. senators


State delegations in Congress

Accomplishments (5)

Chapman Family Teaching Award (professional)


Carolina Women’s Center Faculty Scholar (professional)


Bowman and Gordon Gray Term Professorship (professional)

The highest teaching honor in the College of Arts and Sciences (2019-2024)

Honors Carolina’s Manekin Family Teaching Award (professional)


Tanner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (professional)


Education (3)

University of Minnesota: Ph.D., Political Science and Government 2009

University of Minnesota: M.A., Political Science 2008

Wellesley College: B.A., Political Science and Psychology 2003

Media Appearances (5)

Grand Divisions Episode 14: Why voters like, or don't like, political outsiders

Nashville Tennessean (part of the USA Today network)  online


Sarah Treul, an associate professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, joined the podcast to discuss the history of the political outsider. Treul explains how outsiders elsewhere have fared and what factors to consider as the Lee and Dean race heats up.

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Can Science Save Politics? Or Will Politics Ruin Science?

FiveThirtyEight  online


Incumbency is still the primary factor that determines whether a candidate will win an election, said Sarah Treul, a professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Inexperienced candidates are becoming more common, but only in one party

Vox  online


Republicans are electing more inexperienced candidates than they used to, and more than Democrats.

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The Tea Party’s presence in primaries benefits the general election result in the Republican Party’s favor.

LSA US Centre  online


With the rise in prominence and influence of conservative politicians such as Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul in recent years, the role of the Tea Party in U.S. politics has become more and more important. In new research, Caitlin E. Jewitt and Sarah A. Treul examine how the presence of a Tea Party candidate – a divisive election – affects general election results compared to elections that are simply competitive. They find that competitive primaries increase turnout rates, but do little for a party’s election result. They also find that while the presence of a Tea Party candidate in the general election means that the Republican Party performs 1.7 percent better than expected, when there had been a competitive primary, there is no additional effect...

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A 5-4 Vote Against? Or 6-3 in Favor?

Slate.com  online

March 29, 2012 The Supreme Court heard oral arguments this week on the constitutionality of the 2010 health care reform law. ... A state-of-the-art model created by professors Ryan Black of Michigan State, Sarah Treul of the University of North Carolina, Timothy Johnson of the University of Minnesota, and Jerry Goldman of Chicago-Kent College of Law suggests that the court will declare the individual mandate unconstitutional by a 5-4 vote

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Event Appearances (1)

"Consider This ... The 2016 Elections"

Sponsored by the UNC General Alumni Association  UNC-Chapel Hill campus


Articles (10)

Ideological Primary Competition and Congressional Behavior

Congress and the Presidency

Sarah A. Treul, Caitlin E. Jewitt


Agenda Crossover: The Influence of State Delegations in Congress

Cambridge University Press


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Party Committee Targeting and the Evolution of Competition in U.S. House Elections

Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties

With Jacob F.H. Smith, Jason M. Roberts

January 2016

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The Symbolic and Substantive Representation of LGB Americans in the U.S. House

Journal of Politics

With Eric R. Hansen


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Assessing Strategic Voting in the 2008 US Presidential Primaries: The Role of Electoral Context, Institutional Rules, and Negative Votes

Public Choice

With D. Sunshine Hillygus


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Competitive primaries and party division in congressional elections

Electoral Studies

2014 ABSTRACT: We examine the effects of competitiveness and divisiveness in the 2010 congressional election, as the emergence of the Tea Party resulted in many competitive Republican primaries and highlighted significant divisions within the party. We find that ...

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Indirect presidential influence, state-level approval, and voting in the US Senate

American Politics Research

2012 ABSTRACT: In the current era of polarization, bipartisanship between a president and senators of the opposite party seems unlikely. Yet, we expect that given a senator's desire to please his constituents and ensure reelection, if a president is popular with constituents in a ...

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Emotions, oral arguments, and Supreme Court decision making

The Journal of Politics

2011 ABSTRACTS: Students of linguistics and psychology demonstrate that word choices people make convey information about their emotions and thereby their intentions. Focusing on theory from these related fields we test whether the emotional content of Supreme Court justices' ...

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Inquiring Minds Want to Know: Do Justices Tip Their Hands with Questions at Oral Argument in the US Supreme Court?

Washington University School of Law

2009 ABSTRACT: This paper tests whether Supreme Court justices tip their hands at oral arguments. Specifically, we test whether, when justices ask more questions of one side, that side is more likely to lose their case. The findings support the theory; namely, when justices ask more ...

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Ambition and party loyalty in the US senate

American Politics Research

2008 ABSTRACT: This article examines the role progressive ambition plays in the US Senate. I analyze the effect ambition has on party loyalty in the upper chamber. The theoretical argument is that senators with ambition for higher office are more loyal to the party than ...

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