Daniel Galvin

Associate Professor of Political Science


Daniel Galvin’s research focuses on the American presidency, party politics, and American political development. His first book, Presidential Party Building (Princeton University Press, 2010), challenges the prevailing view of how presidents relate to their political parties and helps to explain how the Democratic and Republican parties followed such different organizational trajectories over the second half of the 20th century. His current book project, Rust Belt Democrats (under contract, Oxford University Press), is a comparative-historical examination of party adaptation in the Rust Belt since the 1970s.

Galvin has won the “Emerging Scholar Award” from the American Political Science Association’s Political Organizations and Parties section, the R. Barry Farrell Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and was twice elected by the Northwestern student body to the Faculty Honor Roll. Before coming to Northwestern, Galvin was a Miller Center Fellow and an NSF graduate research fellow. Galvin currently serves as the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Political Science department and is affiliated with the Comparative-Historical Social Science program. He is a co-coordinator of the interdisciplinary Political Parties Working Group and the American Politics Workshop. He is also the Book Review Editor for The Forum.

Current Research

Rust Belt Democrats. Since the 1970s, labor-allied parties around the world have been under pressure to adapt to changing economic and political conditions. As global economic integration and changes in industrial production models shrank the membership base of organized labor and undermined the credibility of social democratic policy agendas, labor-allied parties have faced incentives to develop innovative policy initiatives and court new electoral constituencies. The Democratic Party in the United States is usually thought to have responded to these incentives slowly, poorly, or not at all, and this is presumed to help explain their electoral difficulties since the Reagan presidency. But is this narrative correct? And if Democrats did have trouble adapting, then why?

To investigate the question, Galvin turns to the Rust Belt—the region hit hardest by globalization-related trends—and finds surprising variation in the adaptive capacities of Democratic parties in the four heaviest manufacturing states of Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Wisconsin. Drawing upon extensive primary-source research, 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. A party’s organizational legacies and broader network arrangements, Galvin argues, can strongly influence its capacities to undertake programmatic and coalitional change. Challenging standard characterizations of the Democratic Party's recent and current problems, Galvin contends that the party’s development has not been all of a piece: different sub-national units have adapted in different ways, at different rates, and with different degrees of success.

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, entitled “Presidents as Agents of Change”, 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.

Institutional Change. Galvin’s research on institutional change examines how investments in institutional resources can transform institutional forms and functions. Unlike path-dependent processes, which are relatively open at the front end and relatively closed at the back end, resource investments made in one period can serve to widen an institution’s path and enhance its capacity to undertake a broader range of activities in subsequent periods. Drawn out over time, these investments can gradually transform institutional operations and purposes. Other work on institutional development examines the linkages between parties and interest groups. In this work, Galvin investigates whether the nature of party-group linkages and the timing of their formation influence policymaking and electoral activities. Current research in this area examines party-union linkages in the United States.

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

Galvin, D. 2014. Political parties in American politics. In the Oxford Handbook of Historical Institutionalism, ed. O. Fioretos, T. Falleti, and A. Sheingate. New York and London: Oxford University Press.

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.