New Research on the Shifting U.S. Political Terrain

Theda Skocpol, Harvard University, Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Columbia University


A major new research project at Harvard University documents transformations in advocacy groups, constituency organizations, think tanks, and donor organizations operating around the Democratic and Republican parties – and asks how these shifts contribute to GOP extremism, government gridlock, and public policies that spur economic inequality.

Click here for an overview of the Shifting Terrain research project and a list of its principal participants.

Preliminary results from the project document startling resource reallocations on the U.S. right and major imbalances between organized right and left networks operating at both the national and cross-state levels in U.S. politics. Here are some highlights, each followed by links to SSN briefs, publications, and new research papers that provide underlying data and arguments:


Theda Skocpol is the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology at Harvard University and the Director of the Scholars Strategy Network.  Her current work focuses on recent transformations in U.S. civic life, politics and public policies.

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez is a PhD candidate in Government and Social Policy at Harvard University, whose dissertation explores the development of cross-state policy networks on the right and left. In addition, he has published research on the politics of U.S. tax policy, unemployment insurance, and health insurance; and he is currently exploring efforts by U.S. employers to mobilize their employees into politics.  

April 2016