Adam Bonica

Assistant Professor of Political Science, Stanford University
Areas of Expertise:
  • Law & Courts
  • Public Sector Reforms
  • Revitalizing U.S. Democracy

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About Adam

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.




"Why Hasn’t Democracy Slowed Rising Inequality" (with Howard Rosenthal, Nolan McCarty, and Keith T. Poole). Journal of Economic Perspectives 27, no. 3 (2012): 103-124.

Explores five possible reasons why the U.S. political system has failed to counterbalance rising inequality.

"Breaching the Biennial Limit: Why the FEC Has Failed to Enforce Aggregate Hard-Money Limits and How Record Linkage Technology Can Help" (with Jenny Shen). Willamette Law Review 49 (2013): 563.

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. 

"Ideology and Interests in the Political Marketplace" American Journal of Political Science 57, no. 2 (2013): 294-311.

Introduces a statistical method measuring ideology and political action committee contribution data. 

"The Punctuated Origins of Senate Polarization" Legislative Studies Quarterly 39, no. 1 (2014): 5-26.

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.

"Mapping the Ideological Marketplace" American Journal of Political Science 58, no. 2 (2014): 367-387.

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. 

"The Political Polarization of Physicians in the United States: An Analysis of Campaign Contributions to Federal Elections, 1991-2012" (with Howard Rosenthal and David Rothman). JAMA Internal Medicine 174, no. 8 (2014): 1308-1317.

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.

"Institutions and Ideology in the Presidential Appointment of Public Bureaucrats" (with Jowei Chen and Timothy Johnson). Quarterly Journal of Political Science 10, no. 1 (2015): 5-40.

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.

"The Politcal Ideologies of American Lawyers" (with Adam Chilton and Maya Sen). Journal of Legal Analysis (2015).

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.

"A Common-Space Measure of State Supreme Court Ideology" (with Michael Woodruff). Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 31, no. 3 (2015): 472-498.

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.

In the News

Adam Bonica's research on Jake Miller. Adam Bonica (with Howard Rosenthal), "Party Lines," Harvard Medical School, April 11, 2018.
Adam Bonica quoted on donors and liberal candidates in Kevin Schaul and Kevin Uhrmacher, "First-Time, Liberal Candidates are Flooding the Democratic Primaries" The Washington Post, April 11, 2018.
Adam Bonica quoted in Jamie Carson and Ryan Williamson, "Why Taking Moderate Positions May Help the Democrats to Retake the House This Fall" London School of Economics American Politics and Policy, February 2, 2018.
"The Political Donations Made by Robert Mueller's Team are Not Evidence of Bias," Adam Bonica (with Adam Chilton and Maya Sen), July 28, 2017.
"Forum on Campaign Finance Reform: Responding to Governor Charles ‘Buddy’ Roemer," Adam Bonica, Boston Review, Boston Review, July 22, 2011.
"A History (and Future) of Congressional Polarization," Adam Bonica (with Howard Rosenthal), Reuters, February 4, 2013.
"The Rich are Dominating Campaigns. Here’s Why That’s about to Get Worse," Adam Bonica (with Jenny Shen), Washington Post, April 23, 2016.
"How Wealthy Campaign Donors May Reduce Political Polarization and Weaken the Tea Party," Adam Bonica (with Jenny Shen), Washington Post, April 24, 2014.
Adam Bonica quoted on selection of conservative courts in Adam Liptak, "Why Judges Tilt to the Right" New York Times, January 31, 2015.
Adam Bonica quoted on political contributions of wealthy Democrats in Thomas B. Edsall, "How Did the Democrats Become Favorites of the Rich?" New York Times, October 7, 2015.
Adam Bonica quoted on political giving of the Forbes 400 in Gregory Ferenstein, "A Lot of Billionaires Are Giving To Democrats. Here's A Data-Driven Look At Their Agenda" Forbes, February 26, 2016.
"New Data Show How liberal Merrick Garland Really Is," Adam Bonica (with Adam Chilton, Jacob Goldin, Kyle Rozema, and Maya Sen), Washington Post, March 30, 2016.
Adam Bonica's research on political donations discussed in Margot Sanger-Katz. Adam Bonica, "Your Surgeon Is Probably a Republican, Your Psychiatrist Probably a Democrat," New York Times, October 6, 2016.