Graduate Highlight: Benjamin Noble

Get to know Ben Noble, one of our newest PhD graduates. This fall, he joins the Department of Political Science at UC San Diego as an Assistant Professor. Congratulations Ben!

Where did you grow up?

I was born in St. Louis, MO but grew up in St. Louis and in Louisville, KY.


Where did you complete your undergrad?

I completed undergrad at WUSTL in 2013. I received a BA in History and a minor in Political Science.


What made you choose WashU?
I was attracted to WashU’s Political Science program because of its reputation for excellent methods training.


What is your area of concentration (IR, Comparative, Methods, American, etc.)?

My research in American institutions focuses on the U.S. presidency and executive-legislative separation of powers using text-as-data methods.


What are you currently working on?

I am working on a project about how presidents use factual and emotional language to persuade different audiences and build support. The project starts from the idea that presidents need outside support to achieve their goals. To build support, presidents can try to bring new people into their coalition or mobilize their existing supporters. I argue presidents will use factual language to convince people to support them when institutionally weak (e.g., divided government) and emotional language to set the agenda for, and inspire, their current supporters when institutionally strong (e.g., unified government). To provide support for this theory, I collect a database of 18,000 presidential speeches and use cutting-edge text-as-data methods to measure the relative use of factual and emotional language in this text.


What is one piece of advice you would give a prospective PhD student?

Just one!? Well, in that case, I’ll say that relationships are very important. Get to know your advisors, your faculty, your peers—at your institution and in the wider world of academia. Reach out to people. Don’t just sit at your computer all day. Be generous with your time, your resources, and your expertise. Be nice. Also, I have a lot more advice on my website.


What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

In my pre-teen years, I was cast in a kids’ movie starring Wilford Brimley (from the movie Cocoon and the “Diabetes” commercials). We filmed the whole thing, but it was never released. I was never able to find the post-production VHS in my parents’ basement, but I’m sure it would be very entertaining (and very embarrassing) to see now.


Favorite travel destination and why?

My most memorable trip was to Joshua Tree National Park in 2021. We stayed in a very modern but secluded AirBnB in the desert and hiked every day. I feel very calm when I’m in the desert and around mountains—Joshua Tree has plenty of both. Fortunately, it’s just a 2.5 hour drive from San Diego!


Favorite pastime or hobby?

Playing board games! I love learning new rules and systems and trying out different strategies. Although my favorite part of playing new games is teaching others the rules. It’s very satisfying to structure these little lessons and see it all come to life when people play. Either that or I just like the sound of my own voice?


Keep up with Ben Noble on Twitter or his website.