Travis’ research interests are primarily in American campaigns and elections, especially non-federal campaigns. Within that family of research, he is specifically interested in voter behavior, political communication, the political consultancy, elite (candidate) behavior, elections policy and administration, the effects of campaigns, and campaign strategy.

Current Working Papers

If you are interested in reading any of the following papers and providing feedback on them, please feel free to contact Travis to request a current draft.

Elected (In)Justice? The Effect of Judicial Elections on Racial Disparity in State Incarceration Rates

ABSTRACT: Racial minorities in the United States, undeniably, experience the criminal justice system very differently than Whites. Blacks, in particular, receive longer sentences for committing the same crime as Whites. The long-term effect of sentencing disparity is that racial minorities make up a disproportionate share of the prison population, compared to their share of the general population. What role, if any, does the mechanism by which trial court judges are selected in the states play in creating these inequities? If judges must stand for election, I predict that they will behave in a way that will win them favor with more punitive and racially biased state electorates, leading to greater racial disparities in states with elected trial court judges. Using a dataset previously unused in the political science literature and a time-series linear regression analysis, this paper explores the relationship between judicial retention institutions and racial disparity in rates of incarceration in the American states and finds that states with trial court judges retained via partisan elections have lower racial disparities than states with appointed trial court judges, while states with uncontested retention elections or non-partisan elections have no discernable effects on the racial disparities observed. In short, the mechanism by which trial court judges are retained has an important and influential impact on criminal justice outcomes.

“How State Legislative Candidates Choose Their Political Consultants and Why It Matters”

ABSTRACT: The political consulting industry has transformed American democracy and redefined electioneering for the foreseeable future. More campaigns than ever before are using consultants, and more money is spent to pay retainers, commissions, and win bonuses than at any time in our history. Political consultants enjoy unfettered access to their clients, and because consultants enjoy such an intimate relationship with their clients, it is conceivable that political consultants can influence their clients-turned-elected-officials on matters of public policy. Thus, the consultancy and the process by which consultants are chosen by candidates should be subjected to close academic scrutiny. Through the use of qualitative and inductive research, this paper begins to provide that scrutiny. Semi-structured elite interviews begin to reveal themes that will help scholars understand the decision-making processes of candidates when hiring political consultants.

“Self-Deception and Voter Behavior in the 2015 Louisiana Gubernatorial Primary Election”

ABSTRACT: This article introduces the psychological concept of self-deception—i.e., simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs, being unaware of holding one of those beliefs, and suppressing the belief through a motivated act—to explain electoral behavior using a survey of Louisiana voters during the 2015 gubernatorial primary. I begin by examining the individual-level characteristics that predict self-deception among citizens. I then examine how self-deception influences likely voter turnout at the individual level. Finally, I evaluate how self-deception shapes individuals’ beliefs about the election. Although I find no significant relationship between self-deception and turnout, results indicate that individuals’ self-deception shapes their beliefs about the election. I conclude with a discussion of the implications of my research.