Florida State University

College of Social Sciences & Public Policy

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Institute of Politics awards grants for research on civic engagement

Top: Atalay, Doan, Ou, Driscoll; Bottom: Shields, Fendler, Merle, Wendorf Muhamad

The newly established Institute of Politics (IOP) at the Florida State University College of Social Sciences and Public Policy (COSSPP) has awarded its initial round of five research grants to FSU faculty.

The grants, each totaling at or near $20,000, went to three faculty members and one doctoral candidate within COSSPP and four faculty from other FSU colleges. The funded projects all have a strong connection to the IOP mission.

“The Institute of Politics was given the mission by the legislature to, among other things, create and promote research and awareness regarding politics, citizen involvement and public service,” said IOP Director Hans Hassell. “These grants are important to completing that mission and fulfilling the charge given to the institute. We are excited to support projects that will help strengthen democratic institutions and encourage civic engagement and political participation.”

The awarded projects are:

Understanding Barriers to Full Civic Participation by the LGBTQ Community: The Case of Atlanta

Ph.D. candidate Ozlem Atalay and Professor Petra Doan, both in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, were awarded research on the role of the LGBTQ+ community in city government. The study focuses on the role of the LGBTQ+ Advisory Boards in city decision-making and their role in helping to create a more equal and inclusive city. 

In particular, this project explores the motives and operations of Atlanta’s LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, established in 2018. The project uses semi-structured interviews with board members, Atlanta city officials including city planners, and the local LGBTQ+ community on issues about civic engagement, political involvement, politics of urban services, LGBTQ+ inclusion, city rights, representative power of the board and (sexual) citizenship. Read more about this research here.

Preference Change in Competitive Environments

Assistant Professor of Political Science Kai Ou’s research interests are in political economy, experimental methodology and behavioral economics. A faculty affiliate of COSSPP’s XS/FS Experimental Social Science Research Group, Ou uses game theory and experimental methods to study the impacts of political inequality and social mobility on political and economic outcomes.

The study examines how competition for higher social, economic and political status – a natural human desire – may affect individuals’ values and political preferences. Ou will use a novel research design to explore such questions as: How does competition for status influence individual preferences? To what extent do altered preferences affect political behavior and policy outcomes? In what ways does competition for social status impact political behavior? The research will also examine the economic efficiency of different policy outcomes across institutions.

The President, a Pandemic, and Public Support for the Rule of Law: The First (and Second) Hundred Days of American Democracy in 2021

Associate Professor of Political Science Amanda Driscoll and colleagues from West Virginia State University and Penn State have been conducting extensive research under a National Science Foundation grant they received in April 2020 to study the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on public support for the rule of law. The IOP grant will help them continue to examine the challenge that the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus presents to long-standing norms that support democratic order. 

Faced with health, economic and political stressors, a person’s support for the rule of law is put to the test as their own welfare concerns are pitted against an abstract belief that the government “checks all the boxes” before providing much-needed assistance to those in need. The IOP-funded research seeks to understand how, if and when the public’s commitment to the rule of law might buttress the institutions of American democracy in the face of such profound challenges. The grant will support two nationally representative public opinion surveys in March and June 2021.

Developing Civically Engaged Art Education: New Practices, New Voices, New Civics

Associate Professor of Art Education Sara Scott Shields, Chair of the Art Education Department within the College of Fine Arts, and Assistant Professor of Art Education Rachel Fendler, director of the department’s BA/MS Pathway Program, made a proposal to IOP to reimagine what civics education should look like in communities often excluded from the official narrative of what it means to participate in American civic life. More specifically, their study is focused on how the art classroom might become a central locale for teaching towards civic participation.

This research reports on an effort to examine the coupling of art and civics education to develop curriculum focused on civic engagement and political participation in secondary school students. The study builds on previous research to create new curricular resources that provide practical, user-friendly and up-to-date resources for secondary art and civics teachers. This project will recruit four pairs of art and social studies secondary teachers to participate in an extended curriculum workshop to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum to teach students about authentic civic engagement, political participation, and public service.  

Examining the Impact of Communicative Processes of Civic Engagement Among College Students

This research is being conducted by Associate Professor of Communication Patrick Merle, director of the School of Communication within the FSU College of Communication and Information, and Assistant Professor of Communication Jessica Wendorf Muhamad, associate director of the Center for Hispanic Communication. Muhamad is also the director of the school’s PEAKS laboratory, which is focused on developing evidence-based interventions for complex social issues.

Their study seeks to provide insight into the impact of communicative efforts on civic engagement among university students and how that communication occurs during times of crisis, specifically mask-wearing as an act of civic involvement given its potential impact on the health and well-being of community members. The research seeks to understand how public health messages and calls to action are received and accepted based on their characteristics and channels of communication in order to allow for the development of more effective health crisis messages that mitigate harm and increase pro-social attitudes and behaviors in the FSU student community.