Katie Clayton is a first-year PhD student in Stanford’s Department of Political Science. She grew up in Sleepy Hollow, NY, and she graduated as a valedictorian of Dartmouth College in 2018 with a BA in Government and French. Her research interests include American democracy, identity politics, and the politics of immigration, and her research has been published in Political Behavior and Politics, Groups, and Identities, among others. Her book, Campus Diversity: The Hidden Consensus (co-authored with John Carey and Yusaku Horiuchi), was published in 2020 at Cambridge University Press. Her current research project is a randomized panel survey experiment that examines whether voters have been progressively desensitized to violations of American democratic norms by President Trump.
Research suggests that violations of behavioral expectations can become normalized when people are desensitized to such violations. However, little is known about whether or how such processes operate for public judgments involving the behavior of political elites. We consider this question in the context of the contemporary United States, where Donald Trump has repeatedly challenged norms of presidential behavior without substantial change in how he is viewed by the public. Why have these actions not had more of an effect on his public reputation? One possibility is that ongoing exposure to Trump's norm violations has normalized his behavior and desensitized Americans to actions that would have been condemned in past eras. To evaluate these claims, which have been widely proposed but not tested systematically, we will conduct a multi-wave panel survey experiment testing whether randomized over-time exposure to information about Trump's norm violations causes Americans to perceive them as more acceptable or typical of past presidents and/or reduces their willingness to sanction novel violations of norms by Trump or other politicians. We are currently modifying our research design due to COVID-19 and plan to launch the survey at the end of the summer.