Kousser Headshot

Thad Kousser

Professor of Political Science, University of California, San Diego
Co-Director, Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research
Chapter Member: San Diego SSN
Areas of Expertise:

About Thad

Kousser's research on American state and national politics focuses on electoral reforms, voting rights, trust in elections, direct democracy, and how politicians use social media. Kousser helps to support research-practice partnerships with policymakers, government officials, and civic groups and conducts research in partnership with election officials across the country. Kousser has worked as a staff assistant in the California, New Mexico, and the United States Senates and comments on American politics for venues such as NPR, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Politico, and the Los Angeles Times.

In the News

Opinion: "What Happens When Politicians Meet TikTok?," Thad Kousser, The Hill, October 27, 2022.
Opinion: "In Kansans’ Landslide Turnout for Abortion Rights, a Glimpse of Post-Dobbs Politics," Thad Kousser, The Los Angeles Times, August 3, 2022.
Opinion: "Single Parties Dominate State Legislatures; That’s Bad for Our Health," Thad Kousser (with Gerald Gamm), The Hill, November 19, 2021.
Opinion: "California, Let’s Make the Newsom Recall the Last One Run Like This," Thad Kousser, The Washington Post, April 28, 2021.


"Life, Literacy, and the Pursuit of Prosperity: Party Competition and Policy Outcomes in 50 States" (with Gerald Gamm). American Political Science Review 115, no. 4 (2021): 1442 - 1463.

Finds that states with competitive party systems spend more than other states—and specifically spend more on education, health, and transportation, areas identified as investments in human capital and infrastructure. Discovers that this spending leads to longer life expectancy, lower infant mortality, better educational outcomes, and higher incomes. Concludes that party competition is not just healthy for a political system, but for the life prospects of a state’s residents.

"America’s Electorate Is Increasingly Polarized Along Partisan Lines About Voting by Mail During the COVID-19 Crisis" (with Mackenzie Lockhart, Seth J. Hil, and Jennifer Merolla). PNAS 117, no. 40 (2020): 24640-24642.

Questions if voters were as polarized as political leaders when it came to their preferences about how to cast their ballots in November 2020 and their policy positions on how elections should be run in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Discovers prior research has shown little party divides on voting by mail, with nearly equal percentages of voters in both parties choosing to vote this way where it is an option. Finds support for national legislation requiring states to offer no-excuse absentee ballots has emerged as an increasingly polarized issue.

"Adapting to Term Limits: Recent Experiences and New Directions," (with Bruce E. Cain), Public Policy Institute of California, 2004.

Discusses that when political observers turn their attention to California’s systemic problems, they often place term limits near the top of the list—along with the initiative process, gerrymandering, and the two-thirds requirement to pass a budget in the Legislature. Discovers many critics argue that this restriction has harmed the legislative process. Finds in some ways, very little has changed and if term limit proponents hoped to curb or even banish political careerism, they have little to show for their efforts.