Rosenthal's research focuses at the intersection of public policy, state and local politics, and political behavior, with a specific interest in the ways criminal justice policy and social welfare policy structure the political attitudes and participatory habits of the American electorate. An overarching theme in Rosenthal's writings is inequality, particularly as this occurs along dimensions of race, ethnicity and class. In bringing this theme into combination with his research topics, Rosenthal aims to clarify how public policies may create, perpetuate, or help to overcome political relations that run counter to the normative ideals of a just and democratic society. Finally, Rosenthal serves as the Vice Chair of the Devin Smith Scholarship Foundation, providing scholarships and community support to students that demonstrate financial need and a creative vision for their lives. Rosenthal has also previously served as the co-chair of a research committee advocating for equitable banking practices in the state of Minnesota, and is in the process of making connections to individuals and organizations working on criminal justice reform in Massachusetts.
Shows that where distrust of government among white Americans is attached to concerns about taxation, it is rooted in a fear of the criminal justice system among people of color. Finds distrust is a politically mobilizing force among white Americans, while it drives people of color away from the political process.
Utilizes a new approach to measuring racial inequality. Analyzes its trajectory at the state level from 1940 to 2010. Shows that while progress has been made in certain areas and ways, certain parts of the country and certain aspects of racial inequality have remained largely stagnant over the last 70 years.
Examines how public policy trends have created a racial split in the way government manifests itself in the lives of the American public. Contrasts the conventional wisdom of a "submerged" state that has grown less visible in the lives of Americans, with research that government has grown more conspicuous in the lives of people of color, particularly in the form of the criminal justice system.
Examines the debate over online sales taxation as a way of illuminating rhetorical pathways for advocates seeking to advance the ACA among conservative elites.
Uses electronic commerce taxation politics as a way of highlighting the potential for state policies to influence the federal policymaking process.