Eric Merkley

Eric Merkley
University of Toronto | U of T · Department of Political Science

Doctor of Philosophy

About

57
Publications
17,058
Reads
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657
Citations
Introduction
I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Toronto. I received my PhD in political science from the University of British Columbia. I study political communication, public opinion, and U.S. and Canadian politics. I specialize in text analysis, time series, and experimental methods.
Additional affiliations
May 2018 - present
University of British Columbia - Vancouver
Position
  • Instructor
Description
  • Courses: Government and Politics in the United States of America (POLI 320A, Scheduled: Summer 2019); Introduction to Scientific Political Analysis (POLI 110, Summer 2018)
Education
September 2013 - April 2019
University of British Columbia - Vancouver
Field of study
  • Political Science
September 2011 - April 2013
McGill University
Field of study
  • Political Science and Social Statistics
September 2006 - April 2011
Wilfrid Laurier University
Field of study
  • Political Science and History

Publications

Publications (57)
Article
Full-text available
Overlooked in analyses of why the public often rejects expert consensus is the role of the news media. News coverage of expert consensus on general matters of policy is likely limited as a result of journalists' emphasis in news production on novelty and drama at the expense of thematic context. News content is also biased towards balance and confl...
Article
Full-text available
Scholars have maintained that public attitudes often diverge from expert consensus due to ideology-driven motivated reasoning. However, this is not a sufficient explanation for less salient and politically charged questions. More attention needs to be given to anti-intellectualism—the generalized mistrust of intellectuals and experts. Using data fr...
Article
Full-text available
Supporters of the Republican Party have become much more skeptical of the science of climate change since the 1990s. We argue that backlash to out-group cues from Democratic elites played an important role in this process. We construct aggregate measures of climate skepticism from nearly 200 public opinion polls at the quarterly level from 2001 to...
Article
Full-text available
There is substantial evidence that voters’ choices are shaped by assessments of the state of the economy and that these assessments, in turn, are influenced by the news. But how does the economic news track the welfare of different income groups in an era of rising inequality? Whose economy does the news cover? Drawing on a large new dataset of US...
Article
Full-text available
Anti-intellectualism (the generalized distrust of experts and intellectuals) is an important concept in explaining the public’s engagement with advice from scientists and experts. We ask whether it has shaped the mass public’s response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We provide evidence of a consistent connection between anti-intellectualis...
Article
Does information about how other people feel about COVID-19 vaccination affect immunization intentions? We conducted preregistered survey experiments in Great Britain (5,456 respondents across 3 survey waves from September 2020 to February 2021), Canada (1,315 respondents in February 2021), and the state of New Hampshire in the United States (1,315...
Article
Full-text available
Scholars have linked cost and life stress to lower voter turnout with clear implications for voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. We ask whether COVID-19 reduces turnout intention and how election agencies can mitigate this effect. We use a series of six survey and conjoint experiments implemented in samples totalling over 28,000 Canadian responden...
Article
Full-text available
Widespread misperceptions about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus threaten to exacerbate the severity of the pandemic. We conducted preregistered survey experiments in the United States, Great Britain and Canada examining the effectiveness of fact-checks that seek to correct these false or unsupported beliefs. Across three countries with differing...
Article
Full-text available
Most work on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy has focused on its attitudinal and demographic correlates among individuals, but the characteristics of vaccines themselves also appear to be important. People are more willing to take vaccines with higher reported levels of efficacy and safety. Has this dynamic sparked comparative hesitancy towards specific...
Preprint
Most work on COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy has focused on its attitudinal and demographic correlates of individuals, but the characteristics of vaccines themselves also appear to be important. People are more willing to take vaccines with higher reported levels of efficacy and safety. Has this dynamic sparked hesitancy towards specific vaccines? We co...
Preprint
Scholars have linked cost and life stress to lower voter turnout with clear implications for voting during the COVID-19 pandemic. We ask whether COVID-19 reduces turnout intention and how election agencies can mitigate this effect. We use a series of six survey and conjoint experiments implemented in samples totalling over 28,000 Canadian responden...
Article
Full-text available
Background A variety of public health measures have been implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada to reduce contact between individuals. The objective of this study was to provide empirical contact pattern data to evaluate the impact of public health measures, the degree to which social contacts rebounded to normal levels, as well as dire...
Article
Full-text available
Importance Ensuring widespread uptake of available COVID-19 vaccinations, each with different safety and efficacy profiles, is essential to combating the unfolding pandemic. Objective To test communication interventions that may encourage the uptake of less-preferred vaccines. Design, Setting, and Participants This online survey was conducted fro...
Article
Environmental disasters generate uncertainty, which is a crucial element of post-disaster political dynamics. Does communication of uncertainty affect public willingness to participate in political activism? This article first provides a content analysis of news coverage to show that uncertainty framing is prevalent in the aftermath of environmenta...
Preprint
Widespread misperceptions about COVID-19 and the novel coronavirus threaten to exacerbate the severity of the pandemic. We conducted preregistered survey experiments in the United States, Great Britain, and Canada examining the effectiveness of fact-checks that seek to correct these false or unsupported misperceptions. Across three countries with d...
Article
Full-text available
According to recent scholarship, citizens in various Western democracies show a growing sense of dislike and distrust toward members of opposing political parties. While political communication processes have been shown to influence inter-party hostility, the literature has so far focused mainly on mass-mediated communication. We argue here that af...
Preprint
Full-text available
According to recent scholarship, citizens in various Western democracies show a growing sense of dislike and distrust toward members of opposing political parties. While political communication processes have been shown to influence inter-party hostility, the literature has so far focused mainly on mass-mediated communication. We argue here that af...
Article
Supply management is a long-standing agricultural policy in Canada that applies to dairy, poultry and eggs. To date, there exists no academic research on the correlates or dynamics of public support for supply management. We use data collected from the Digital Democracy Project's study of the 2019 Canadian election, including results from a between...
Article
Full-text available
Partisan and affective polarization should have observable consequences in Canada, such as bias in political information search and processing. This article presents the results of three studies that test for partisan and ideological bias using the Digital Democracy Project's study of the 2019 Canadian election. Study 1 uses a conjoint experiment w...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed unprecedented pressure on governments to engage in widespread cash transfers directly to citizens to help mitigate economic losses. Major and near-universal redistribution efforts have been deployed, but there is remarkably little understanding of where the mass public believes financial support is warranted. Using...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has occurred alongside a worldwide infodemic where unprecedented levels of misinformation have contributed to widespread misconceptions about the novel coronavirus. Conspiracy theories, poorly sourced medical advice, and information trivializing the virus have ignored national borders and spread quickly. This information sprea...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives The effectiveness of public health interventions for mitigation of the COVID-19 pandemic depends on individual attitudes, compliance, and the level of support available to allow for compliance with these measures. The aim of this study was to describe attitudes and behaviours towards the Canadian COVID-19 public health response, and iden...
Preprint
Full-text available
**Conditionally Accepted at Nature Human Behaviour** Anti-intellectualism – the generalized distrust of experts and intellectuals – is an important concept in explaining the public’s engagement with advice from scientists and experts. We ask whether it has shaped the mass public’s response to COVID-19. We provide evidence of a consistent connectio...
Preprint
Full-text available
Background: A variety of public health measures have been implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada to reduce contact between individuals. Objective: The objective of this study was to construct contact patterns to evaluate the degree to which social contacts rebounded to normal levels, as well as direct public health efforts toward age- a...
Preprint
Full-text available
There is substantial evidence that voters’ choices are shaped by assessments of the state of the economy and that these assessments, in turn, are influenced by the news. But how does the economic news track the welfare of different income groups in an era of rising inequality? Whose economy does the news cover? Drawing on a large new dataset of U.S...
Preprint
Full-text available
**Forthcoming at the Canadian Journal of Political Science** Partisan and affective polarization should have observable consequences in Canada, such as bias in political information search and processing. This paper presents the results of three studies that test for partisan and ideological bias using the Digital Democracy Project’s 2019 Canadian...
Preprint
There has be increasing concern among commentators and scholars about a possible polarization of the Canadian public that resembles what we have seen in the United States. There are, however, multiple competing conceptual definitions and perspectives on polarization, and we do not yet have a full and complete picture on which dimensions Canadians h...
Preprint
Full-text available
The effectiveness of public health interventions for mitigation of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic depends on individual attitudes and the level of compliance toward these measures. We surveyed a representative sample of the Canadian population about risk perceptions, attitudes, and behaviours towards the Canadian COVID-19 public health respons...
Article
Full-text available
We investigate the relationship between media consumption, misinformation, and important attitudes and behaviours during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We find that comparatively more misinformation circulates on Twitter, while news media tends to reinforce public health recommendations like social distancing. We find that exposu...
Preprint
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an extraordinary burden on governments and citizens alike. In order to contain the spread of the pandemic and limit its effect on health care systems, citizens have been asked to forego social and economic activity to protect others at a tremendous cost to themselves. We argue that participation in social distancing...
Preprint
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic necessitates widespread voluntary and sustained public compliance with expert-guided public health directives, like social or physical distancing. Understanding which citizens seek out and engage with expert messages regarding COVID-19 is thus of central importance. Anti-intellectualism-the generalized distrust of experts and...
Preprint
Full-text available
We investigate the relationship between media consumption, misinformation, and important attitudes and behaviours during the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada. We find that comparatively more misinformation circulates on social media platforms, while traditional news media tend to reinforce public health recommendations like social distancing. We find th...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic requires an effort to coordinate the actions of government and society in a way unmatched in recent history. Individual citizens need to voluntarily sacrifice economic and social activity for an indefinite period of time to protect others. At the same time, we know that public opinion tends to become polarized on highly salien...
Preprint
Full-text available
*Forthcoming in the Canadian Journal of Political Science* The COVID-19 pandemic has placed nearly unprecedented pressure on policymakers and citizens alike. Effectively containing the pandemic requires a societal consensus. However, a long line of research in political science has told us that polarization tends to occur on highly salient topics...
Preprint
Full-text available
**Forthcoming British Journal of Political Science** Supporters of the Republican Party have become much more skeptical of the science of climate change since the 1990s. We argue that backlash to out-group cues from Democratic elites played an important role in this process. We construct aggregate measures of climate skepticism from nearly 200 pub...
Preprint
There is substantial evidence that voters’ choices are shaped by assessments of the state of the economy and that these assessments, in turn, are influenced by the news. But how does the economic news track the welfare of different income groups in an era of rising inequality? Whose economy does the news cover? Drawing on a large new dataset of U.S...
Preprint
Full-text available
****Forthcoming in Political Communication**** Overlooked in analyses of why the public often rejects expert consensus is the role of the news media. News coverage of expert consensus on general matters of policy is likely limited as a result of journalists’ emphasis in news production on novelty and drama at the expense of thematic context. News...
Preprint
Full-text available
**Forthcoming in Public Opinion Quarterly** Scholars have maintained that public attitudes often diverge from expert consensus due to ideology-driven motivated reasoning. However, this is not a sufficient explanation on less salient and politically-charged questions. I argue that more attention needs to be given to anti-intellectualism – the gener...
Article
Full-text available
Research on the responsiveness of policy to public opinion has infrequently confronted the possibility that re-election seeking politicians’ policy choices may reflect their expectations about future public opinion. This article reports observational and experimental findings from a survey of senior Canadian policy-makers. Results from vignette-bas...
Article
Full-text available
As studies using macrolevel evidence have shown, citizens are more satisfied with democracy when they feel that their instrumental preferences are represented in government, and this feeling is more likely in nonmajoritarian institutional contexts. Scholars have given less attention to whether such institutions also increase satisfaction by providi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Research on the responsiveness of policy to public opinion has infrequently confronted the possibility that re-election seeking politicians' policy choices may reflect their expectations about future public opinion. This paper reports observational and experimental findings from a survey of senior Canadian policy makers. Results from vignette-based...
Article
Full-text available
The news media play a influential role in shaping public attitudes on a wide range of issues—climate change included. As climate change has risen in salience, the average American is much more likely to be exposed to news coverage now than in the past. Yet, we don't have a clear understanding of how the content of this news coverage has changed ove...
Article
Full-text available
Scholars have generally seen united parties as normatively desirable. However, little work has explored the implications of divided parties for public opinion. This article examines whether legislator dissent reduces public support for the policy positions of divided parties. Dissent can do this in two ways: by undermining the consistency of party...
Article
Full-text available
Claims that the mainstream media are biased in favor of the Democratic Party are commonplace. However, empirical research has yielded mixed results and neglected potential bias in the dynamics of media behavior. This article contributes to this literature by using time series analyses of the dynamics in media tone based on more than 400,000 stories...
Preprint
Full-text available
Scholars have generally seen united parties as normatively desirable. However, little work has explored the implications of divided parties for public opinion. This paper examines whether legislator dissent reduces public support for the policy positions of divided parties. Dissent can do this two ways: by undermining the consistency of party cues...
Preprint
Full-text available
Claims that the mainstream media are biased in favor of the Democratic Party are commonplace. However, empirical research has yielded mixed results and neglected potential bias in the dynamics of media behavior and the exploration of observable implications of a biased media environment. This paper contributes to this literature by using time serie...
Preprint
Full-text available
As studies using macro-level evidence have shown, citizens are more satisfied with democracy when they feel that their instrumental preferences are represented in government, and this feeling is more likely in non-majoritarian institutional contexts. Scholars have given less attention to whether such institutions also increase satisfaction by provi...
Article
Full-text available
Americans polarized on climate change despite decreasing uncertainty in climate science. Explanations focused on organized climate skeptics and ideologically driven motivated reasoning are likely insufficient. Instead, Americans may have formed their attitudes by using party elite cues. We analyze the content of over 8,000 print, broadcast, and cab...
Article
Full-text available
Americans polarized on climate change despite decreasing uncertainty in climate science. Explanations focused on organized climate skeptics and ideologically driven motivated reasoning are likely insufficient. Instead, Americans may have formed their attitudes by using party elite cues. We conduct analyses on over 8,000 print, broadcast, and cable...
Preprint
Full-text available
Americans polarized on climate change despite decreasing uncertainty in climate science. Explanations focused on organized climate skeptics and ideologically driven motivated reasoning are likely insufficient. Instead, Americans may have formed their attitudes by using party elite cues. We conduct analyses on over 8,000 print, broadcast, and cable...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Commentators are often perplexed about why American attitudes are polarized on issues where there is a near scientific consensus. To varying degrees, in terms of both attitudes and levels of scientific consensus, three of such issues are climate change, vaccinations and genetically modified food (GMO) safety. Scientific literature shows that climat...

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