Frank R. Baumgartner
Areas of Expertise & Civic InvolvementsBaumgartner’s work focuses on why some issues and not others reach the front pages of the newspapers and the desks of national political leaders. He also works on the roles of interest groups and lobbyists in national policymaking. His work centers on the efforts of people in and around government to frame complicated issues to their own advantage. This has led him to general studies of the policy process as well as to detailed studies of such policy issues as nuclear power, capital punishment, and poverty. While most of his work as focused on the United States, he also has significant experience in France and several other western countries. One of his books was about framing the death penalty, and that work led him to become involved in various studies focusing on the statistical patterns of use of the death penalty in North Carolina and nationally. This, in turn, has led him also to be involved in some related analyses of racial bias in criminal justice outcomes more generally.
Examines the record established through 40 years of experience with the “new and improved” death penalty since, in 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated all existing death penalty laws in its landmark Furman v. Georgia decision. Asks if the modern system has worked as intended, and have the states successfully targeted only a narrow class of particularly heinous crimes and the most deserving criminals for the ultimate punishment, or do various elements of caprice, bias, and arbitrariness continue to make the application of the death penalty akin to “being struck by lightning” as the Court noted in Furman?
Shows dramatic disparities in the rates at which black drivers, particularly young males, are searched and arrested as compared to similarly situated whites, women, or older drivers. Presents findings that are robust to a variety of statistical specifications and consistent with findings in other jurisdictions.