Justin Buchler

Associate Professor


Mather House 9
MW 1:00-2:00pm

Other Information

Degree: Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 2004
M.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1999
B.A., Pomona College, 1998.

Research: Congress, congressional redistricting, research methods, political strategy, parties and elections

Research Interests

Congress, elections, representation and democracy

Justin Buchler studies elections, political parties and Congress.  His second book, Incremental Polarization: A Unified Spatial Theory of Legislative Elections, Parties and Roll Call Voting (Oxford University Press, 2018) connects spatial models of legislative roll call voting to spatial models of legislative elections, and shows how political parties in Congress make it rational for legislators to adopt ideologically extreme positions that conventional models of elections would deem irrational.  The key is that these positions are adopted incrementally, one roll call vote at a time rather than as a single action, and political parties cancel out the electoral pressure that legislators face to vote “insincerely.”

His 2011 book, Hiring and Firing Public Officials: Rethinking the Purpose of Elections (also from Oxford University Press), argues that competitive elections are paradoxically unhealthy for democracy because they are not analogous to competitive markets.  Rather, they are poor ways of hiring and firing people.  Tossing a coin to decide whether or not to fire an employee is a bad way to operate, for a business or a country.

Professor Buchler’s articles on electoral competition include “The Social Sub-optimality of Competitive Elections,” in Public Choice, which won the Gordon Tullock Prize for 2007.

Currently, Professor Buchler’s research also addresses asymmetric polarization, ethical and strategic dilemmas in modern journalism, and the relationship between social choice theory and democracy.

Professor Buchler organizes The Open Discourse Lecture & Discussion Series to facilitate discussion and dialog about challenging issues and reduce polarization.

Professor Buchler currently blogs at intenureveritas.blogspot.com.


Students who wish to write a Senior Capstone with Professor Buchler

Capstone projects for Professor Buchler must present and test a “falsifiable hypothesis.” The hypothesis must be derived from existing Political Science literature. Students can conduct the project in one of two manners. Students may either propose to test the hypothesis in a manner that is at least somewhat different from existing research in order to add to existing scholarly understanding, or students may propose a “replication” study of a specific, existing article published in a peer-reviewed journal. In either case, students must have a proposal consisting of the hypothesis, why the hypothesis is substantively interesting, and a plan to gather and test the data.

Projects need not be quantitative, although given Professor Buchler’s expertise, that has been the norm. Exceptions to these rules, such as a game theory project, may be considered, but only if Professor Buchler is contacted well in advance of the start of the semester.

Students should be able to demonstrate that their projects will meet these requirements prior to the beginning of the semester during which they intend to write the capstone, and should contact Professor Buchler prior to the beginning of the semester. Do not wait until after the semester starts, and certainly do not wait until the second week of the semester to contact Professor Buchler about a capstone project. Proposals that do not meet guidelines will not be approved, and if students do not contact Professor Buchler with sufficient warning time, there may not be enough time to revise the proposal before the end of the add/drop period.


Recent Conference Papers

A Spatial Theory of Media Polarization – Delivered at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL

Asymmetric Polarization and Asymmetric Models: Democratic and Republican Interpretations of Electoral Dynamics – Delivered at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL.

The Journalist’s Dilemma: Asymmetric Politics and Journalistic Norms – Earlier Version delivered at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association

Divisions Between Congressional Republicans and the Politics of Ideologically Extreme Reversion Points – Delivered at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association


Some Sample Publications

Buchler, Justin, Going off the Rails on a Crazy Train: The Causes and Consequences of Congressional InfamyThe Forum, Volume 9, Issue 2, 2011.

Buchler, Justin, The proximity paradox: the legislative agenda and the electoral success of ideological extremistsPublic Choice, Volume 133, April 2010.

Buchler, Justin, The Statistical Properties of Competitive Districts: What the Central Limit Theorem Can Teach Us about Election ReformPS: Political Science and Politics, Vol. 40, No. 2, April 2007, pp.333-337.

Buchler, Justin, Competition, Representation, and Redistricting: The Case Against Competitive Congressional Districts,Journal of Theoretical Politics, 17(4): 431-463.

Buchler, Justin, The Social Sub-Optimality of Competitive ElectionsPublic Choice, Volume 133, December 2007.

Download / View CV