John Hibbing

John Hibbing

Fellow: Awarded 2013

Field of Study: Political Science

Competition: US & Canada

Website: http://www.unl.edu/polphyslab/

John R. Hibbing is the Foundation Regents University Professor of Political Science (with a courtesy appointment in Psychology) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he has taught since 1981.  He has been a NATO Fellow in Science, a Senior Fulbright Fellow, recipient of the Fenno Prize, principal investigator for nine National Science Foundation grants, and was recently elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

For the first two decades of his career, he studied legislatures, elections, and public opinion, authoring or co-authoring books such as Congressional Careers (UNC Press 1991), Congress as Public Enemy (Cambridge UP, 1995), and Stealth Democracy (Cambridge UP, 2002).  Since then, his interests have shifted to the role of biology in explaining individual-level political variation.  Some of this variation entails different ideological beliefs and leads to the question of whether liberals and conservatives have distinct biological characteristics and tendencies.  The somewhat surprising answer is that they do. 

The project for which he will be using the Guggenheim Fellowship, however, deals with variation not in political ideology but in political participation.  Preliminary indications are that chronic non-voters tend to have high levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly associated with stress, a reasonable finding given that politics, particularly as it is practices in the United States, tends to be stressful.  Further understanding of the situations under which high stress levels discourage political participation and turnout could make it possible to derive strategies that will be more effective at encouraging high-cortisol individuals to enter the political arena, thus strengthening democracy and inclusiveness.