Daniel Galvin

Associate Professor of Political Science


Daniel Galvin’s research focuses on the development of political institutions, political organizations, and public policy in the United States. He is the author of Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush (Princeton University Press, 2010), numerous scholarly articles and book chapters, and co-editor of Rethinking Political Institutions: The Art of the State (NYU Press, 2006). His current research examines the effects of organized labor's decline on public policy, party politics, and the working poor.

Galvin has won the “Emerging Scholar Award” from the American Political Science Association’s Political Organizations and Parties section, the E. LeRoy Hall Award for Excellence in Teaching from Northwestern's Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern, the R. Barry Farrell Teaching Award from the Department of Political Science, and was twice elected by the Northwestern student body to the Faculty Honor Roll.

Current Research

Wage Theft, Public Policy, and the Politics of Workers' Rights. Is “wage theft” exclusively an economic phenomenon or is there a political dimension to it as well? A long tradition of scholarship holds that the employer’s incentive to underpay employees rises with expected economic benefits, while the government-imposed costs are so low as to be effectively irrelevant. But this literature has narrowly focused on the federal-level regulatory regime, ignoring the rich variety of penalty schemes that operate in tandem at the state level. Using an original dataset of state-level wage-and-hour laws, new estimates of minimum wage violations, and a variety of statistical tests, Galvin finds that stronger penalties can serve as an effective deterrent against wage theft, but the structure of the policy matters a great deal, as does its enforcement. Wage theft must therefore be seen as the result of policy choices—which are shaped by advocacy group pressures and political alignments—and not solely economic forces. Additional research in this area examines the effects of organized labor’s decline on public policy, workers’ rights, and party politics. 

Rust Belt Democrats. Since the 1970s, left-leaning parties around the world have been under pressure to adapt to changing economic and political conditions. With globalization and deindustrialization shrinking organized labor’s membership base and undermining the credibility of traditional social-democratic policy agendas, these parties have faced incentives to develop new policy initiatives and court new electoral constituencies. The U.S. Democratic Party is usually thought to have responded to these incentives slowly, poorly, or not at all, and this is presumed to help explain its electoral difficulties since the Reagan presidency. To investigate this, Galvin turns to the Rust Belt, the region hit hardest by globalization-related trends. He uncovers surprising variation in the adaptive capacities of Democratic parties in four of the heaviest manufacturing states—Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Drawing upon quantitative analysis and extensive primary source research including interviews with participants and difficult-to-find state party platforms, Galvin finds that these parties’ historical ties to organized labor, urban machines, and liberal interest groups (in different proportions in each state) had important consequences for their downstream activities.

This project has already turned up some surprising findings. In an IPR working paper, Galvin demonstrates that the relationship between the Michigan Democratic Party and the United Auto Workers union remained unusually strong between 1970 and 2010, yet Democratic politicians frequently promoted “third-way” policies that clashed with labor’s longstanding priorities. This odd coincidence—party adaptation despite strong party-union linkages—can be explained by the simple fact that union leaders deliberately supported adaptation by Democratic politicians in statewide and swing-district offices. Contrary to the expectation that interest groups will always push party politicians to take more extreme positions, UAW leaders adopted a highly strategic approach to party politics as they sought to build a broader Democratic coalition.

Methods in American Political Development. What explains the decline of organized labor in the United States? What factors can account for the rise of modern interest group politics? Questions such as these can be answered by American Political Development (APD) scholarship, a subfield dedicated to explaining substantial changes in the American political system over time. But, as Galvin points out in a forthcoming article in the Oxford Handbook of American Political Development, this type of scholarship often does not fully discuss analytical choices and methodological decisions, making it difficult for subsequent researchers to expand or challenge research. Galvin examines the varied ways APD researchers explore historical data, including historical narrative studies, causal narratives, and process tracing. While all of these methods have their benefits and drawbacks, as Galvin notes, researchers should be more upfront about the contributions their works make and the limitations inherent in each type of analysis. With more discussion of what such studies do and do not accomplish, future APD researchers will be able to develop more cumulative, constructive research agendas. 

Presidential Politics. Galvin is engaged in several ongoing research projects examining the conditions under which presidents adopt different strategies and the effects those strategies have on their political parties and the policymaking process. One study interrogates the extent to which presidents are constrained by existing institutional and organizational arrangements and specifies the conditions under which their actions are likely to be more or less “formative” within discrete spheres of American politics. Still other work examines the challenges and opportunities in conducting historically oriented research on the presidency.

Selected Publications


Galvin, D. 2010. Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Galvin, D., with Ian Shapiro and Stephen Skowronek, eds. 2006. Rethinking Political Institutions: The Art of the State. New York: NYU Press.

Articles and Book Chapters

Galvin, D. Forthcoming. Political parties in American politics. In The Oxford Handbook of Historical Institutionalism, ed. Orfeo Fioretos, Tulia Falleti, and Adam Sheingate. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Galvin, D. 2015. Qualitative methods and American political development. In The Oxford Handbook of American Political Development, ed. Robert Lieberman, Suzanne Mettler, and Richard M. Valelly. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Galvin, D. 2015. Taking the long view: Presidents in a system stacked against them. In Recapturing the Oval Office: New Historical Approaches to the American Presidency, ed. Brian Balogh and Bruce J. Schulman. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Galvin, D. 2014. The transformation of the national party committees. In CO Guide to US Political Parties, ed. Barry Burden, Marjorie Hershey, and Christina Wolbrecht. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Galvin, D. 2014. Presidents as agents of change. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 44 (1): 95–119.

Galvin, D. 2013. Presidential partisanship reconsidered: Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford and the rise of polarized politics. Political Research Quarterly 66(1): 46–60.

Galvin, D. 2012. The transformation of political institutions: Investments in institutional resources and gradual change in the national party committees. Studies in American Political Development. 26(1): 50–70.

Galvin, D. 2012. The dynamics of presidential policy choice and promotion. In Getting Past No in an Age of Partisan Noise: Making Policy to Build Party Coalitions in the 21st Century, ed. M. Levin, D. DiSalvo, and M. Shapiro. Baltimore, Md.: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Galvin, D. 2008. Changing course: Reversing the organizational trajectory of the Democratic Party from Bill Clinton to Barack Obama. The Forum 6(2). 

Galvin, D., with C. Shogan. 2004. Presidential politicization and centralization across the modern-traditional divide. Polity 36:477–504.