UC Berkeley Political Science Professor David Broockman Awarded 2024 Carnegie Fellowship

May 7, 2024
By: Berkeley Social Sciences Staff
headshot of UC Berkeley Political Science Professor David Broockman

UC Berkeley Political Science Professor David Broockman was awarded the prestigious 2024 Andrew Carnegie Fellowship, the Carnegie Corporation of New York announced today.  Broockman, a Berkeley alumnus who returned to his alma mater to teach and conduct research on political persuasion and polarization in American politics, is also the director Berkeley's Center for American Democracy.

His research challenges common beliefs about political polarization, showing new ways it affects American politics, and it offers strategies for political campaigns to persuade voters. His work also explores how to have meaningful conversations that can bridge differences and lessen prejudice. Broockman has published over three dozen peer-reviewed articles on American politics and his research has been covered in major publications such as The New York Times and Washington Post, and featured on NPR’s This American Life.

Broockman previously received the Emerging Scholar Award from the American Political Science Association, which recognized him as the top scholar of elections, public opinion and voting behavior within 10 years of earning his Ph.D. He also received the UC Berkeley Chancellor’s Award for Research in the Public Interest and the Bernd Award for the best paper in the Journal of Politics in 2018.

He is one of 28 scholars, who were selected to join the 2024 class of Andrew Carnegie Fellows. Broockman will recieve a $200,000 stipend to work on his Carnegie project to uncover the causes of political polarization and its impact on the American public.

"We are proud of David Broockman's outstanding accomplishment, and more importantly, can think of no better scholar to invest in the important questions identified by Carnegie," Berkeley Political Science Chair Susan Hyde said.  

Broockman spoke recently to Berkeley Social Sciences about this prestigious fellowship and his research. The interview is edited for clarity.

Tell us more about your background and work at UC Berkeley?

David Broockman: I joined the faculty at UC Berkeley's Travers Department of Political Science in 2020 after four-and-a-half years on the faculty at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. I’ve served as the director of Berkeley's Center for American Democracy since 2022. Coming back to UC Berkeley in 2020 was a homecoming for me, as I received my Ph.D. in political science from Berkeley in 2015.

My research focuses broadly on political persuasion and polarization in American politics. A major theme of my career has been to question the conventional wisdom of prior scholarship. When it comes to political polarization, the focus of my Carnegie Fellowship project is my argument that conventional wisdom misunderstands polarization in a few ways. Conventional wisdom argues that voters are largely moderate but politicians of both parties support increasingly extreme policies.

My research has argued that politicians actually reflect public opinion much better than prior research suggests, and that errors in how prior research has measured voters' and politicians' policy views spuriously led to previous conclusions. I've also questioned whether the much-discussed notion of "affective polarization" — how much Democrats and Republicans say they dislike the other party — really underpins the challenges facing American democracy that existing research assumes it is.

As part of my Carnegie Fellowship project, I'll be writing a book on how polarization should be understood instead, grounded in a rewriting of the history of polarization since the Civil War. Berkeley's Political Science Department has always prioritized asking big questions of deep importance about American democracy, and there's no better place for me to be undertaking this project.

What is your reaction to being selected as a Carnegie Fellow?

David Broockman: I was incredibly honored to learn that I was selected as a Carnegie Fellow. The Fellowship will provide generous funding for research and allow me to focus on conducting my research over the next two years. I'm also looking forward to meeting the fellows from other institutions. There is near-universal recognition that political polarization is a major problem, but I think scholarly understanding of political polarization is still in its infancy. We have much left to understand about what the problem actually is, its sources, and what might be done to address it. It's fantastic that Carnegie chose to focus(link is external) on political polarization for the fellowship this year. I can't wait to meet the other fellows and learn about how they are thinking about this urgent problem.

What do you think helped with your selection?

David Broockman: There are dozens of scholars doing excellent research on political polarization, so I suspect some of it was luck! I also hope that Carnegie appreciated the ambition of the project I proposed, which will involve a massive new data collection effort about the history of polarization. The Carnegie Fellowship's generous research funding support and the time that the Fellowship will afford me to focus on this project will be extremely helpful.

Can you elaborate further on your Carnegie project?

David Broockman: My research on polarization to date has largely focused on painting a different portrait of the relationship between politicians and voters than prior research: in particular, arguing that, on most issues, politicians' positions are not much more extreme than typical voters' views.

However, the most influential finding in polarization research is more basic: the argument that politicians' positions have gotten steadily more extreme over the last several decades. Although I suspect this is true in some cases, I think this view obscures more than it reveals on most issues.

For example, on LGBTQ issues, it seems obvious politicians of both parties have gotten more liberal — and yet our existing measures of polarization do not show this. I'm planning to undertake an ambitious data collection effort to reveal how polarization has (and has not) increased on specific issues, as well as to help understand what this means for the causes of polarization and the potential for reforms to address the problem.