Commonwealth Review of Political Science

the official journal of the Kentucky Political Science Association

Editor-in-Chief: James Clinger, Murray State University

Volume 9, No. 1, 2021
For Manuscript Submissions, please visit our Submission Page.

Current Issue

Volume 9, No 1, 2021

“Informal Executive Actions and Agency Guidance: Legal and Political Implications for Immigration and Other Policy Areas. “ Ihsan Alkhatib and James C. Clinger, Murray State University


This paper is a study of the use of various forms of informal executive actions used by presidents and cabinet officials to guide the policy implementation of federal agencies. Among these are policy manuals, guidance statements, statements of administration policy, and announcements of executive priorities. The recent executive action regarding immigration announced by President Obama is also an example of this kind of behavior. The paper will rely upon the analysis of legal scholars who have examined the causes and consequences of informal executive actions. We will examine the implications that these actions have for public participation, transparency, consistency in decision-making, and inter-branch comity. The analysis will be applied to President Obama’s recent action regarding immigration enforcement.

“Fictional Foreign Policy: How Madam Secretary and House of Cards Depict United States Foreign Policy.” John Heyrmann, Berea College


This paper analyzes the ways that United States foreign policy is depicted in two prominent current television programs: House of Cards and Madam Secretary.  Both of these programs have had frequent plots in which the fictional foreign policy of the U.S. deals with issues very similar to those that the United States has actually confronted in recent years.  Examples include nuclear proliferation negotiations with Iran and U.S. concern over anti-gay legislation in Russia.  Several of these fictional stories are analyzed here to consider how processes and policies of the U.S. are portrayed.  Madam Secretary does much more to demonstrate the give and take among executive and legislative branch actors that result in foreign policy, while House of Cards shows the president as dominant.  Neither program fits very well into the realist paradigm of international relations; Madam Secretary fits the liberal idealist model well in most regards.  Both shows include commentary on specific U.S. foreign policy issues, such as the House of Cards’ criticism of the Russian legislation and Madam Secretary’s endorsement of negotiation with Iran.

“Party Registration Deadlines and Hidden Partisanship: An Individual Analysis.” Matthew Thornburg, University of South Carolina at Aiken


Many voters in states with party affiliation identify with or lean towards one political party but are not registered with it. This sort of “hidden partisanship” may be intentional be it may also result from a combination of changes in a voter’s party identification and the electoral institutions in place. In many states it is difficult to change party registration due to early deadlines intended to prevent crossover voting. Using individual-level survey data, I find that hidden partisanship in a state increases, the further in advance of the primary the deadline to change party affiliation is. This deadline affects primary turnout, with deadlines further in advance of primary elections leading to lower turnout by partisans in their own party’s primary and greater rates of abstention and crossover voting. A difference-in-difference design at the county level shows that moving the deadline to change party registration closer to the primary increases primary turnout.

“The Nature and Extent of Presidential Pardon Power: An Analysis in Light of Recent Political Developments.” Max Guirguis, Ph.D., Shepherd University


Long recognized as the most sweeping and least checked power vested in the Chief Executive, the pardon power received renewed scholarly attention with the federal investigation of the Trump White House.  President Trump’s assertion via a Twitter post that “the U.S. President has the complete power to pardon” provoked a heated national debate on the reach of his pardoning authority.  This paper is an attempt to elucidate the nature of the pardon power by examining its historical contours and the constitutional principles governing its exercise.

“Perceptions of Discrimination in the Legal Profession.” Sabrina Collins, University of Louisville


Historically, the legal profession has been dominated by white men (García-López 2008). Over time, the barriers hindering diverse participation have been somewhat lifted. In recent years, law schools enrolled equal percentages of men and women, and the number of minority students has also increased. So, how has the legal profession adapted to these changes? The hiring of women and minorities in the field of law does not reflect the increasing diversity seen in law school. Today, only 36% of lawyers are women. While existing research shows discrimination present in the field of law, few studies have examined the relationship between an attorney’s practice area and experiences of discrimination. It is expected that masculine-typed areas of law create less inclusive work environments; therefore, I expect that women working in masculine-associated areas would report more gender discrimination as well as lower job satisfaction relative to attorneys in feminine-associated areas. Using an existing data set of practicing attorneys in North Carolina, we explored the degree to which reported levels of job satisfaction and perceived gender discrimination varied across gendered areas of law.

“Politics at the Pulpit: Elite Religious Cues and Immigration Attitudes .” Benjamin Knoll and Matthew Baker, Centre College


Previous scholarship has demonstrated a link between religiosity and immigration attitudes, often inferring the effect of cues from religious leaders as the motivating source. This study directly examines the “elite cues” linking mechanism with an experiment embedded in a nationally representative public opinion survey. We improve on previous research designs by introducing a pretest that measures immigration policy attitudes among respondents which can then be directly compared to posttest measures after the introduction of the elite cue stimulus. Multivariate analysis of the survey results reveal no support for the elite cues explanation. We discuss the implications of these findings for elite religious cues as an influential factor on immigration policy attitudes in the United States as well as assess the appropriateness of survey experiments to test the elite cues mechanism in driving immigration attitudes.