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Welcome! I’m Mike, a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the Graduate School of North American Studies of the Freie Universität Berlin. My research interests include Congress, political parties, elections, intra-party factions, and candidate nomination systems. My thesis examines intra-party factions in recent congressional primary competitions and considers their contribution to trends of partisan polarization in Congress.

Research

Party Factions and Partisan Polarization in U.S. Congressional Primaries: How Ideological and Factional Primaries Influence Candidate Positions

Dissertation in Political Science

Committee: Christian Lammert, Sean M. Theriault, Max Steinhardt, Rachel M. Blum, and David Bosold

The thesis demonstrates changes in the dynamics of competition, offering evidence that between 2006 and 2020 ideological differences between candidates proximate to competing factions became the dominant narrative in congressional primary contests, first in the Republican and then in the Democratic Party. I consider causal mechanisms of this development and implications in terms of the selective and adaptative polarizing effects, empirically testing if primaries reward ideologically extreme candidates in the period. Taking a contest-centered approach, the thesis foregrounds the dynamics of and reasons for primary competitions to better understand the implications for candidate positioning. In doing so, the thesis demonstrates that trends of intra-party factionalism and ideological narratives during the congressional nomination process influence partisan polarization.

Publications

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Cowburn, Mike and Michael T. Oswald. 2020. ‘Legislator Adoption of the Fake News Label: Ideological Differences in Republican Representative Use on Twitter’. The Forum 18(3): 389–413.

Book Chapters

Cowburn, Mike. Forthcoming. “Experience Narratives and Populist Rhetoric in U.S. House Primaries” in Michael T. Oswald (ed.) The Palgrave Handbook of Populism. Palgrave Macmillan.

Cowburn, Mike. 2020. “The Transformation of the Congressional Primary” in Michael T. Oswald (ed.) Mobilization, Representation and Responsiveness in The American Democracy. Palgrave Macmillan.

Other Publications

Cowburn, Mike. 2020. “Not Just the Presidency: Congressional Primaries 2020.” Atlantische Akademie

Cowburn, Mike. 2020. “Fostering Engagement in Primaries and Caucuses.” PolticalScienceNow

Conference Papers



09/2021
117th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA), Seattle, WA
Paper: “The Effects of Primaries on Intra-Campaign Positions in Congressional Elections
Paper: “Intra-Party Division and News Media Engagement Among Republican Legislators
06/2021 11th Annual Meeting of the European Political Science Association (EPSA)1
Paper: “Primary Roots of Partisan Polarization: The Effects of Primaries on Intra-Campaign Positional Shifts in Congressional Elections
06/2021Annual Conference of the German Association for American Studies (DGfA)1
Paper: “Congressional Primaries in the 21st Century: Participation, Inequality, and Intra-Party Division
04/202179th Annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA)*
Paper: “Partisan Communication in Two-Stage Elections: The Effect of Primaries on Intra-Campaign Positional Shifts in Congressional Elections”
03/2021Political Studies Association Annual Conference*
Paper: “Inclusivity and Centralisation of Candidate Selectorates: Factional Consequences for Centre-Left Parties in Germany, England, and the United States”
01/202149th Annual Conference of the American Politics Group of the UK Political Studies Association*
Paper: “Legislator Adoption of the Fake News Label: Ideological Differences in Republican Representative Use on Twitter”
11/2020Annual Meeting of the Political Science Section of the German Association for American Studies*
Paper: “Republican Legislator Adoption of the Fake News Label”
09/2020116th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association*
Paper: “Ideological Difference & Party Destabilization in Congressional Primary Contests”
08/2020European Consortium for Political Research General Conference*
Paper: “Intra-Party Ideological Disagreement in Congressional Nomination Processes”
07/2020Early Career Network Annual Conference of the Political Studies Association*
Paper: “The Rise of Ideology in U.S. Congressional Primaries”
06/2020Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association*
Paper: “Ideological Competition in U.S. Congressional Primaries”
06/2020Annual Conference of the German Association for American Studies~
Paper: “Polarizing Primaries? Income Inequality & Congressional Candidate Selection”
04/202078thAnnual Midwest Political Science Association Conference~
Paper: “From Personal to Ideological: The Transformation of the Congressional Primary”
Paper: “The Evolution of the Fake News Label: Ideology & Time in Congress as Determinants of Republican Representative Use on Twitter”
12/2019British Association for American Studies Postgraduate Conference, British Library
Paper: “Communication in Congressional Primaries: The Rise of Ideology in Intra-Party Contests”
11/2019Annual Meeting of the Political Science Section of the German Association for American Studies, Heidelberg University
Paper: “Democratic Re-Engagement? The Ideological Foundations of Growing Primary Participation”
06/2019Threatened Democracies: Interdisciplinary Conference in North American Studies, University of Göttingen
Paper: “Fractured Parties and Factional Nominations”
06/2019Intra-Party Politics in Times of Crisis: Party Congress Research Group Annual Meeting, University of Strathclyde
Paper: “Intra-Party Factionalism and Ideological Competition in US Congressional Primaries”
11/2018Annual Meeting of the Political Science Section of the German Association for American Studies, Passau University
Paper: “Mediators of Faction: The Transformation of the Congressional Primary”
* virtual conference due to COVID-19, proposal accepted, conference paper written and shared with participants, presentation delivered virtually.
~ conference cancelled due to COVID-19, proposal accepted, conference paper written and shared with panelists

Teaching

2021MA Seminar – U.S. Political Parties in a Partisan Era
2019BA Seminar – Polarization in US Politics
2018 & 2019 Teaching Assistant – Understanding North America (Political Science)

Education

2017-2019MA North American Studies
John-F-Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie Universität Berlin – 1.0 Master Thesis: Mediators of Faction: Ideological Competition in Congressional Primaries
2005-2008BA Politics
University of Exeter – 2:1 Hons

CV

Download CV as pdf ↓

Cowburn-CV