Research

Kristen is a social movement and institutions scholar, specializing in the congressional effects of gender-based social movements. The work provided below demonstrates her commitment to understanding the political impact and legislative effects of 21st century social movements. Her future work will analyze how future social movements influence other actors within the policy cycle.

Dissertation

In subsequent elections, the 2017 #MeToo movement resulted in historic increases for women’s representation in the US Congress. Based on previous electoral exchange theories, we would expect #MeToo to be too weak to incentivize legislators to champion legislation that addresses the movement’s policy goals of ending sexual assault, harassment, and workplace inequality. Yet, the 2018 and 2020 elections demonstrated the movement’s political strength. In this dissertation, I ask whether political elites in Congress, especially women, represented the policy goals of the #MeToo movement within their legislative agendas and professional profiles. I create an entrepreneurial exchange model, where political elites incur risk to appeal to a movement. This risk is mitigated by several personal factors for the politician, including gender and other intersecting identities. I additionally contribute a novel typology for classifying how a movement’s policy goals are represented within the text of legislation. I utilize multiple methods to test my theory, including a survey experiment, large-n regressions, and text analysis. I find that the sponsorship and introduction of movement legislation increased from 2015-2020. Women and legislators of color were most likely to support #MeToo legislation but had to contend with partisanship within Congress and their districts to make the legislation into law.

Published Work

  • Rouse, Stella, Charles Hunt, and Kristen Essel. 2021.“Growing Tea at the Grassroots: Predicting Tea Party Affiliation in State Legislatures.” American Politics Review.

  • Shenk, Marie, Kristen Essel, and Cory Manento. (R & R). “Running on Rage: Feminist Messaging and Voter Response in Primary Campaigns.” Politics, Groups, and Identities.

  • Essel, Kristen. (Under Review). “The Effect of Dobbs on Women’s Voting Behavior in the 2022 Midterm Election.”

  • Essel, Kristen. (Under Review). “Representing a Movement: Congressional Sponsorship of #MeToo Legislation from 2015 to 2020."

  • Schenk, Marie, Paul Testa, and Kristen Essel. (Under Review). “The Personal is Political: Assessing the Effects of Personal Narratives on Public Opinion.”

Conference Work

  • American Political Science Association 2022 Annual Meeting:
    • “Voters’ Responses to #MeToo Movement Congressional Representation”
      • New England Political Science Association 2022 Annual Meeting:
    • “Spilt Tea: The Impact of the Tea Party on Economic Policy”
    • Midwest Political Science Association 2022 Annual Meeting:
      • “The Legislative Connection: Voter’s Responses to Congressional Representation of the #MeToo Movement”
      • “Partisan Responsiveness to Climate Change Protest (with David Herrera)”
      • “Spilt Tea: The Impact of the Tea Party on Economic Policy”
  • American Political Science Association 2021 Annual Meeting:
    • “Representing a Movement: Congresswomen’s Issue Uptake of the 2017 #MeToo Movement”
  • New England Political Science Association 2021 Annual Meeting:
    • “Representing a Movement: Congresswomen’s Issue Uptake of the 2017 #MeToo Movement”
  • Midwest Political Science Association 2021 Annual Meeting:
    • “Representing a Movement: Congress Women’s Issue Uptake of the 2017 #MeToo Movement”
    • “From Enraged to Engaged? Negative Political Events and Women Officeholders”
  • New England Political Science Association 2019 Annual Meeting:
    • “Denied Again: The Failed Political Assimilation of the Alt Right.”
  • Southern Political Science Association 2019 Annual Meeting:
    • “Growing Tea at the Grassroots: Predicting Tea Party Affiliation in State Legislatures”