Daniel Galvin

Assistant Professor of Political Science


Daniel Galvin’s research focuses on the American presidency, political parties, and American political development. His first book, Presidential Party Building: Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush (Princeton University Press, 2010), shows that Republican presidents since Eisenhower worked to build a stronger and more durable GOP party organization while Democratic presidents refused to do the same, with important consequences for each party’s organizational development. Galvin’s current book project, Rust Belt Democrats: Party Legacies and Adaptive Capacities in Postindustrial America (under contract, Oxford University Press), examines how Democrats have tried to adapt to socioeconomic upheaval in the Rust Belt region since the 1970s. He is also the author of several journal articles and is co-editor of Rethinking Political Institutions: The Art of the State (NYU Press, 2006).

In 2012, Galvin received the Emerging Scholar Award from theAmerican Political Science Association’s Political Organizations and Parties section. In 2010, he received the R. Barry Farrell Teaching Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and in 2010 and 2011 he was elected by the Northwestern student body to the Faculty Honor Roll. Galvin has been awarded fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Miller Center of Public Affairs, the Institute for Policy Research, the Center for the Study of the Presidency, and Weinberg College. At Northwestern, Galvin is affiliated with the Institute for Policy Research, Comparative-Historical Social Science, and is a co-founder and co-coordinator of the interdisciplinary Political Parties Working Group.

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 as in decline, 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 PoliticsGalvin 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, titled “Presidential Partisanship Reconsidered: Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford and the Rise of Polarized Politics,” develops a new theoretical framework for anticipating when different varieties of “presidential partisanship” will emerge, uses it to uncover partisan activities in Republican presidencies predating Ronald Reagan that have long gone undetected, and examines their long-term effects. Another paper 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 institutional 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. 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. 2011. Presidential partisanship reconsidered: Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford and the rise of polarized politics. Political Research Quarterly.

Galvin, D. 2009. Presidential practices after 9/11: Changes and continuities. In Change and Continuity: The United States after 9/11, ed. M. Renyi and F. Meirong. Beijing: Beijing World Affairs 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.