Bonica’s research focuses on ideology, campaign finance and interest groups politics. His main dissertation project developed a new methodology for measuring the ideology of political actors using campaign finance records. He is currently examining the extent to which recent developments in campaign finance have contributed to partisan polarization. Before joining the Stanford faculty, he was a fellow at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University.
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Presents evidence showing how ideology affects the selection of judges across federal and state judiciaries. Documents that the higher the court, the more it deviates ideologically from the ideology of attorneys, suggesting ideology plays a strong role in judicial selection. Shows ideology plays stronger roles in jurisdictions where judges are selected via political appointments or partisan elections. Suggests that ideology is an important component of judicial selection primarily where using ideology leads to expected benefits to politicians, when the jurisdiction's selection process allows ideology to be used, and where it concerns the most important courts.
Presents a comprehensive mapping and analysis of American lawyers’ ideologies. Explores the questions of ideological leanings of the profession as a whole, as well as categorized by geographical area, educational background, across and within firms and practice area.
Discusses Senate gate-keeping, presidential staffing of "Inferior Offices," and the ideological composition of appointments to the public bureaucracy. Argues that the investigative procedures of Senate committees allow chairs to block ideologically disparate nominations, compelling presidents to nominate moderates to Senate-confirmed posts while placing extremists in Schedule C positions.
Introduces a new method to measure the ideology of state Supreme Court justices using campaign finance records, and finds that the ideological preferences of justices play an important role in explaining state Supreme Court decision-making.
Measures the ideology of candidates and contributors using campaign finance data. Recovers a unified set of ideological measures for members of Congress, the president and executive branch, state legislators, governors, and other state officials, as well as the interest groups and individuals who make political donations.
Argues that the Senate polarized in two distinct phases. Examines how member replacement accounts for nearly all of the increase from the early 1970s through the mid-1990s after which ideological adaptation emerges as the dominant force behind polarization. Argues that a few brief periods of intensified partisanship account for most of the increase in polarization since the mid-1990s, suggesting that these episodes have had significant and lasting effects.
Argues that between 1991 and 2012, the political alignment of U.S. physicians shifted from predominantly Republican toward the Democrats. Discusses how variables driving this change, including the increasing percentage of female physicians and the decreasing percentage of physicians in solo and small practices, are likely to drive further changes.
Argues that the FEC’s failure to enforce limits are due in part to inadequate disclosure practices, and in part to its flawed regulatory model and broken enforcement program. Proposes two solutions to this problem: an automated system for monitoring contribution records, and mandatory donor registration with the FEC.
Introduces a statistical method measuring ideology and political action committee contribution data.
Explores five possible reasons why the U.S. political system has failed to counterbalance rising inequality.