Brian F. Crisp

Professor of Political Science
PhD, University of Michigan
research interests:
  • Representation
  • Democratic Institutions
  • Electoral Systems
  • Legislative Politics
  • Interbranch Relations
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    contact info:

    office hours:

    • on leave

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • MSC 1063-228-207
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Professor Crisp engages in the comparative study of electoral systems, legislative politics, and interbranch relations.

    Brian F. Crisp received his PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan. His work on the electoral systems, legislative politics, and interbranch relations has been published in The American Journal of Political Science, The American Political Science Review, The British Journal of Political Science, The Journal of Politics, and elsewhere. His most recent book (with Olivella and Rosas), The Chain of Representation: Preferences, Institutions, and Policy in Presidential Systems, is published by Cambridge University Press. He is currently collaborating on several projects related to electoral systems, democratic institutions, and representation, including one on the possibility that roll call vote results often generate a biased view of legislative politics, another on the question of whether electoral rules are responsible for the under-representation of minorities in U.S. local governments, and one that attempts to give an overview of how electoral systems provide incentives for both interparty and intraparty politics.

    He is currently on leave while serving as the Director of the Accountable Institutions and Behavior Program at the National Science Foundation.

    Selected Publications


    • Crisp, Brian F., Santiago Olivella, and Guillermos Rosas. 2020. The Chain of Representation: Preferences, Institutions, and Policy in Presidential Systems. New York:  Cambridge University Press.


    • Crisp, Brian F., Benjamin Schneider, Amy Catalinac, and Taishi Muroka. Forthcoming. "Capturing Vote-Seeking Incentives and the Cultivation of a Personal and Party Vote." Electoral Studies.
    • Cunha Silva, Patrick and Brian F. Crisp. Forthcoming. "Unintended Institutional Interactions: Presidential Coattails and Gender Party Quotas." Political Research Quarterly.
    • Cunha Silva, Patrick and Brian F. Crisp. Forthcoming. “Ballot Spoilage as a Response to Limitations on Choice and Influence.” Party Politics.
    • Ainsley, Caitlin, Clifford J. Carrubba, Brian F. Crisp, Betül Demirkaya, Matthew J. Gabel, and Dino Hadzic. 2020. “Roll Call Vote Selection: Implications for the Study of Legislative Politics. American Political Science Review. 114(3): 691-706.
    • Cunha Silva, Patrick, and Brian F. Crisp. 2020. “The Impact of Cuing Candidate Quality on Female Candidates.” Electoral Studies. 64: 1-10.
    • Crisp, Brian F. and Betül Demirkaya. 2020. "Strategic Entry and Strategic Voting in Majoritarian Systems. The Journal of Politics. 82(1): 57-71.
    • Patty, John W., Constanza Schibber, Elizabeth Penn, and Brian F. Crisp. Forthcoming. “Valence, Elections, & Legislative Institutions.” American Journal of Political Science.     
    • Crisp, Brian F., Betul Demirkaya, Leslie Schwindt-Bayer, and Courtney Millian. 2018. “The Role of Rules in Representation: Group Membership and Electoral Incentives.” British Journal of Political Science. 48: 47-67.
    • Olivella, Santiago, Kristin Kanthak, and Brian F. Crisp. 2017. “. . . And Keep Your Enemies Closer: Building Reputations for Facing Electoral Challenges.” Electoral Studies. 46: 75-86. 
    • Montgomery, Jacob M., Santiago Olivella, Joshua D. Potter, and Brian F. Crisp. 2015. “An Informed Forensics Approach to Detecting Vote Irregularities.” Political Analysis 23(4): 488-505.
    • Crisp, Brian F., Joshua D. Potter, Santiago Olivella, and William Mishler. 2014. “Elections as Instruments for Punishing Bad Representatives and Selecting Good Ones.” Electoral Studies 34: 1-15.
    • Crisp, Brian F., Santiago Olivella, Michael Malecki, and Mindy Sher. 2013. “Vote-Earning Strategies in Flexible List Systems: Seats at the Price of Unity.” Electoral Studies 32(4): 658-669.
    • Brian F. Crisp, Santiago Olivella, and Joshua D. Potter. 2013. “Party-System Nationalization and the Scope of Public Policy: The Importance of Cross-District Constituencies.” Comparative Political Studies 46(4): 431-456.
    • Crisp, Brian F., Joshua D. Potter, and John J.W. Lee. 2012. “Entry and Coordination in Mixed-Member Systems: A Controlled Comparison Testing the Contamination Hypothesis.” The Journal of Politics 74(2): 571-583.
    • Crisp, Brian F., Santiago Olivella, and Joshua D. Potter. 2012. “Electoral Contexts that Impede Voter Coordination.” Electoral Studies 31(1): 143-158.
    • Crisp, Brian F., and Amanda Driscoll. 2012. “The Strategic Use of Legislative Voting Procedures.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 37(1): 67-97.
    • Desposato, Scott W., Matt Kearney, and Brian F. Crisp. 2011. “Using Cosponsorship to Estimate Ideal Points.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 36(4): 531-565.
    • Crisp, Brian F., Scott W. Desposato, and Kristin Kanthak. 2011. “Legislative Pivots, Presidential Powers, and Policy Stability.” The Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization 27(2): 426-452.
    • Schwindt-Bayer, Leslie, Michael Malecki,  Brian F. Crisp. 2010. "Candidate Gender and Electoral Success in Single Transferable Vote Systems." British Journal of Political Science 40(3): 693-709.
    • Crisp, Brian F., Nathan M. Jensen, Guillermo Rosas, and Thomas Zeitzoff. 2010. “Vote-Seeking Incentives and Investment Environments: The Need for Credit Claiming and the Provision of Protectionism.” Electoral Studies 29(2): 221-226.


    • Political Science 102B: Introduction to Comparative Politics
    • Political Science 495: Research Design and Methods
    The Chain of Representation: Preferences, Institutions, and Policy in Presidential Systems

    The Chain of Representation: Preferences, Institutions, and Policy in Presidential Systems

    How do formal institutions affect the extent to which democracies adopt policies that reflect the preferences of their citizens? Based on a chain of representation model in which electoral rules and policy-making powers link citizens, politicians, and policies, this book reveals the conditions under which citizen preferences and implemented policies diverge. Comparative quantitative analyses encompassing eighteen Latin American countries show that presidential democracies vary greatly in the degree to which they demonstrate responsiveness to their electorates. Often, individual presidents with strong legislative powers have prompted policy changes that are unrepresentative of voter preferences. Other times, their interactions with legislatures result in more representative policies. Grounded in clear theory and thorough empirics, this study shows how rules can introduce dissonance between voters and politicians, but also how they can potentially reduce it. This is an excellent resource for scholars and graduate students interested in comparative politics, institutional design, economic policy, and Latin American studies.

     Democratic Institutional Design: The Powers and Incentives of Venezuelan Politicians and Interest Groups

    Democratic Institutional Design: The Powers and Incentives of Venezuelan Politicians and Interest Groups

    Based on the policy-making structures of Venezuelan government, this book examines the constitutionally allocated powers of the executive and legislature and shows how the powers of each branch are exercised given the incentives established by the electoral system and changing partisan strengths. Several institutional characteristics have led to a passive legislature and an activist chief executive. The advantages presidents enjoy as a result of their constitutional and partisan powers are demonstrated by a wealth of empirical evidence, including records of votes of censure, initiation of legislation, and the use of decree authority.

    Because of its dominance, the Venezuelan executive branch is the focus of interest-group pressure, which is institutionalized through consultative commissions and a decentralized public administration. The author analyzes memberships of more than 300 advisory commissions and governing boards, revealing the preponderance of posts filled by umbrella agencies for business and labor. The interaction of this limited version of civil society with policy makers in the executive branch has led to a highly protectionist development strategy and excessive government subsidies. The strategy and the political process that made it possible were both exhausted by the end of the 1980s. Venezuela was in political and economic crisis.

    The author places Venezuela in a comparative context with other Latin American states on three issues: the likelihood that executives will receive disciplined, majority support in the legislature; the constitutional powers of presidents; and the degree to which business and labor are formally incorporated through single peak associations. Participation and policy-making processes vary significantly across Latin American democracies, with few others reaching the level of centralization that has characterized Venezuela. At the other end of the spectrum, some Latin American institutional designs are characterized by diffusion and fragmentation. In conclusion, the author offers a blueprint to modify some of the counterproductive patterns associated with Venezuela, one of the longest-lived but now troubled democracies in Latin America.