Meet 2021 Carnegie Fellow Shana Kushner Gadarian, Syracuse University

The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program recognizes an exceptional group of both established and emerging scholars, journalists, and authors with the goal of strengthening U.S. democracy, driving technological and cultural creativity, exploring global connections and global ruptures, and improving both natural and human environments. 

How will the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program impact your research and overall career?

It is hard to overstate the impact of the Carnegie Fellows on my research and career. This funding will allow me to study how a major political event – the COVID 19 pandemic – affects American political life in the long term. The funding means that I will be able to survey Americans for the next few years about their experiences and devote a significant amount of time to studying the impact of this pandemic with fewer teaching obligations. The grant will also help me gather scholars in political science and other disciplines together for a conference about the pandemic as well as fund graduate students for the next two years.

What research topics do you primarily focus on? How can people access your work?

As the coronavirus pandemic reshapes all facets of the American economy and public life, my Carnegie project investigates how the public perceives of the crisis and how those perceptions–and ensuing behaviors– continue to matter more than a year after the initial crisis. Political polarization makes governance more difficult and has proven to be deadly in this pandemic. Partisans differentially trust government to be able to respond effectively to disease outbreaks.   In less polarized times, health scares can lead individuals to favor policy measures, like vaccines and quarantines that can protect the public from illness and death, particularly when messaging helps them to feel able to take the necessary steps. By following the same set of Americans from the onset of the pandemic to more than a year later, this project explores how the partisan nature of the crisis affected the health and wellbeing of the American public as well as public trust in government and evaluations of government functioning. The Carnegie project will expand the surveys on health behaviors, attitudes and policy positions that my co-authors Sara Wallace Goodman, Tom Pepinsky, and I have done of the American public since March 2020, focusing on the long-term impacts of the pandemic on health behaviors and evaluations of government performance. First, I will be surveying the same panel respondents in early fall 2021 that my coauthors and I have followed since March 2020. Second, I will run a set of survey experiments with a fresh sample of respondents to test health policy messaging that may overcome the partisan polarization around COVID-19 and increase vaccine uptake.  This project will be part of the forthcoming book Pandemic Politics: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Revealed the Depths of American Polarization from Princeton University Press along with articles in PLOS-One and the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties.

Do you have any advice for students in political science, including tips on how to find funding and support for research projects?

Study the things that scare you and that you think are important. My projects always come from a place of trying to systematically understand the world that I’m experiencing – 9/11, immigration reform, the COVID-19 pandemic, etc. What are other analyses missing? What do you think needs more attention? If you can articulate why what you are studying is important to the world as well as important to the field and specifically, what you need funding for, you will be in a better position to get grants. Working with professors on their research is a great start to see what the process is that they go through to come up with research questions, where they look for funding, and how research is an iterative process.

Shana Kushner Gadarian is associate professor and department chair in the Department of Political Science at the Maxwell School, Syracuse University. She received a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University and was previously a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Scholar in Health Policy Research. Her book Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World, coauthored with Bethany Albertson, won the 2016 Robert E. Lane Award from the American Political Science Association for best book in political psychology.