Lawrence R. Jacobs

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Member of SSN Steering Committee and Director of the Minneapolis-St. Paul SSN Regional Network; Walter F. and Joan Mondale Professor of Political Studies, and Director of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, Hubert Humphrey School and Department of Political Science, University of Minnesota

301 19th Avenue South
Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455
(612) 625-3384

Expertise & Civic Involvements

Jacobs’s research focuses on presidential and legislative politics; elections and voting behavior; public opinion and polling; Social Security and health care policy; political dynamics in midwestern swing states; and American political history. His center is one of the leading university-based bodies on politics and public policy in Minnesota and the upper Midwest. It regularly hosts high-profile public forums with senior government officials and experts, serves as a go-to resource for journalists, and brings together community and public officials to address pressing real-world problems.

SSN Briefs

Key Publications

  • Reaching for a New Deal: Ambitious Governance, Economic Meltdown, and Polarized Politics in Obama’s First Two Years (with Theda Skocpol) (Russell Sage Foundation, 2011).
    Analyzes the policy successes and failures of the early Obama presidency – and explains why, despite many reform accomplishments, Obama and the Democrats have faced uphill political battles, right-wing obstruction, and popular disillusionment.
  • Health Care Reform and American Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Theda Skocpol) (Oxford University Press, 2010).
    In a readable narrative, explains how health reform legislation finally passed in 2010, and assesses the equality-enhancing aspects of the Affordable Care Act. Looks ahead to what will unfold as the legislation is implemented nationally and in the states amidst partisan divisions and interest group maneuvers.
  • "Trusting What You Know: Information, Knowledge, and Confidence in Social Security" (with Fay Lomax Cook and Dukhong Kim). Journal of Politics 72, no. 2 (2010): 1-16.
    Shows how Social Security's personal statement increases knowledge and confidence in the program.
  • Class War? What Americans Really Think about Economic Inequality (with Benjamin Page) (University of Chicago Press, 2009).
    Political debates often pivot on whether government is portrayed in the abstract, which triggers conservative reactions among majorities (including many Democrats), or in terms of specific programs and needs, which activates pragmatic liberalism (including among many Republicans).
  • The Private Abuse of the Public Interest (with Lawrence Brown) (University of Chicago Press, 2008).
    Conservative efforts to expand markets and shrink government often have the paradoxical effect of expanding government’s reach by creating problems that force legislators to enact new rules and regulations. A comprehensive history of American economic and social welfare policy reveals that properly functioning markets require government to initiate, sustain, and repair them over time.
  • "Who Influences U.S. Foreign Policy?" (with Benjamin Page). American Political Science Review 99, no. 1 (2005): 107-124.
    Business leaders exert a disproportionate influence on U.S. diplomatic and economic policy making, with organized labor and public opinion generally having considerably less impact.

Media Contributions

Talks and Briefings

  • "Scholarly Balance: Engagement, Activism, and Rigor," (with Timothy Brennan, Douglass Hartmann, Joanne Miller, Kathryn Pearson, and Joe Soss), moderator for panel discussion, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, Center for the Study of Politics and Governance, Minneapolis, MN, February 26, 2014.
  • "Public Opinion, Elite Mobilization Strategies, and Government Policy," Leonard Davis Institute Lecture, University of Pennsylvania, January 1, 2011.
  • "From Situational to Structural Framing," Institution for Social and Policy Studies, Yale University, December 1, 2010.
  • "The Paradox of Representation: Health Care Reform and De-Democratization," “The Politics of Ideas and the Politics of Representation” Conference, Rothermere American Institute, Oxford University, November 1, 2010.
  • "The Politics of Inequality in America: A Political Economy Framework," Columbia University, November 1, 2010.
  • "Reaching for the New Deal: President Obama's Agenda and the Dynamics of U.S. Politics," (with Theda Skocpol), Russell Sage Foundation Board of Trustees, October 1, 2010.