Mary McGrath

Assistant Professor of Political Science | IPR Fellow


Political scientist Mary McGrath broadly looks into the balance of reason and reflex underpinning our actions and beliefs: What commonalities are we able to uncover in how we evaluate and respond to the world around us? This has translated into a research agenda that covers American politics, political psychology and behavior, and political economy. She uses a range of quantitative methods to investigate processes of political and economic decision-making, opinion formation, and belief.

McGrath’s research has been published in The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, the Quarterly Journal of Political Science, and the Election Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy. Her doctoral dissertation examined how collaboration shapes political behavior, looking at collaborative rhetoric and the relationship between perceptions of group identity and collaboration.

McGrath received her PhD in political science in 2016 from Yale University, where she was a graduate student fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies. 

Current Projects

How Does Collaboration Affect Political Interactions and Framing Effects? Drawing on research in political science and anthropology, McGrath seeks to understand how collaboration shapes political interactions and engagement, asking the following key questions: Does collaboration increase tolerance toward the collaborator? Does it increase trust? Are collaborators more persuasive? In a related project where she partners with a nonprofit that provides support to the working poor, McGrath has designed a large-scale field experiment around its fundraising efforts. She is testing collaborative-effort frames by assigning a donation appeal highlighting the contributions the working poor make to the collective economy to the treatment group.

The Public Discourse Around Redistribution. What do we talk about when we talk about redistribution? Social and political inequalities have drawn much attention in recent years, both in public discourse and in the social sciences. Little has been studied of the public discourse around a broad range of redistributive policies aimed to reduce inequality. Along with IPR research assistant professor Tabitha Bonilla and IPR political scientist James Druckman, McGrath is conducting an extensive over-time study that identifies redistributive policies and analyzes the language used in the news media coverage and commentary on these policies. 

Selected Publications

McGrath, M. 2017. Economic behavior and the partisan perceptual screenQuarterly Journal of Political Science 11(4): 363–83. 

Cohen, M., M. McGrath, P. Aronow, and J. Zaller. 2016. Ideologically extreme candidates in U.S. presidential elections, 1948–2012The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 667: 12642.

Ashok, V., D. Feder, M. McGrath, and E. Hersh. 2016. The dynamic election: Patterns of early voting across time, state, party, and ageElection Law Journal: Rules, Politics, and Policy 15(2):11528.

Green, D., M. McGrath, and P. Aronow. 2013. Field experiments and the study of voter turnoutJournal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties 23(1): 2748.