Anna Weissman

Job title: 
Class of 2026
2024 Synar Graduate Research Fellowship

I am a PhD candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley. My research agenda is broadly focused on representation in American Politics, with specific interests in descriptive representation and the local politics of small-town America. Prior to coming to Berkeley, I received a B.A. in Political Science, Philosophy, and German from Tufts University. Subsequently, I spent three years as a research associate in the Political Science department at MIT, working with scholars in both American and Comparative politics.

Research interests: 

What shapes democratic accountability in American local politics? Local governments wield extensive power in several domains, such as policing, land use, and infrastructure, leading to tangible and often immediate impacts on residents. My dissertation focuses on understanding three features that shape or are perceived to shape local governance: partisanship, community ties, and municipality size. While partisanship has garnered increasing attention in the local politics literature, its actual impact on decision-making by local leaders remains largely unexplored. Despite its emphasis in the literature, few candidates reference party affiliations in local elections, and few local officials have party labels. I first explore the limits to partisan influence in local governance and then turn my attention to something that virtually every candidate emphasizes in their campaigns, and yet no local politics scholarship has studied: candidates’ and officials’ roots in their municipality, duration of residence, and connection to the community. Additionally, almost all existing studies center on large cities, overlooking small towns and rural places. The urban-rural divide is salient in studies of national politics, but there is no research demonstrating the quality of local representation experienced by rural and small-town residents. I propose that partisanship is far less influential in these places, where the scope of governance is more limited. Instead, other factors, such as community ties, shape democratic accountability. Leveraging diverse datasets and surveys of local officials, my research assesses the extent of partisan influence and impact of community ties on electoral and policy outcomes, making comparisons across rural and urban America.