Graduate Student Spotlight: Kenneth Mackie from the Department of Political Science

What is your name?

Kenneth Mackie.

What department are you a graduate student in?

I am a sixth-year political science PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at Florida State University.

Why did you decide to become an academic?

I decided to become an academic because I wanted to learn how to approach, understand, and ideally identify solutions to intractable issues facing our contemporary society. In particular, I am motivated to understand how the public forms opinions about climate change, how political institutions (e.g. political parties) can inhibit or promote the formation of accurate judgments in the public, and whether the public is willing to support candidates who propose solutions to climate change.  I chose Political Science as my field of study because many of these intractable issues have sufficient scientific justification for action, yet are stuck in the political process. And focusing on the process is where I believe the solutions to these problems can be found. 

What do you find most fulfilling about your job?

I find the most fulfilling part of the job is being able to communicate my own and others’ research to the public. This can be in teaching courses, casual discourse with friends and unsuspecting acquaintances, but also down the road, in more public forums like on YouTube or social media. I think most people don’t entirely understand what political scientists do, and I find that a shame! We have a lot of insights to give!

What are you working on or teaching right now that has you excited professionally?

The most exciting project I’m working on right now is a chapter of my dissertation, where I seek to understand the electoral incentives candidates face to stake out green positions on climate change. In it, I challenge the implicit assumption that Republican candidates have nothing to gain by being proactive on climate change. Rather, because a large majority of the public believe in climate change and desire action that align with many conservative market-based policy solutions, I argue Republicans have a unique opportunity to lead on climate change in the coming years. I hope that demonstrating this hidden electoral incentive may encourage political action by both parties, and enter a new era where the political divide over climate change is no longer over whether it is happening, but rather how do we want to go about dealing with it.

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