Author: Braunstein, Ruth

Coming Soon: “Taxpayer-Funded” Abortion?

During Fall 2021, our Research Team analyzed the debate surrounding the use of “taxpayer money” to fund abortion. From debates about whether the Hyde Amendment should be repealed to whether Planned Parenthood should be defunded, Americans across the political spectrum have turned their attention to this question. While Americans’ opinions on the matter map closely onto their more general positions on whether abortion should be legal, they often think differently about the question of whether it should also be publicly funded, or as some think of it, funded using “their tax dollars.”

Most Americans do not give much thought to the myriad ways in which their tax dollars are spent, yet the question of how to spend public money is at the heart of what it means to live in a pluralistic democracy. Our dollars are an extension of our moral selves, and do work in the world that we feel at least some moral responsibility for — think about calls for ethical consumption or divestment campaigns. This is no less true of our tax dollars.  But in a society that is both diverse and deeply divided on many moral issues, this creates a conundrum. Put plainly, should people who have grave moral concerns about something be required to contribute to it with their tax dollars; or inversely, should public services reflect the moral values of only some citizens?

In the coming months, we will be posting short research briefs produced by members of the Research Team, in which they explore how Americans think and write about this issue. They explore this question from multiple angles, by analyzing social media hashtag campaigns, newspaper opinion articles, and the newsletters of advocacy organizations. Follow along to see what we found!

Meanings of “America” Contest Winners

The Meanings of Democracy Lab is thrilled to announce the winners of the 2021 Meanings of “America” Multimedia Contest. We received a large number of high-quality submissions, but these finalists distinguished themselves with their originality, creativity, and the overall quality of their work. We invite all members of the UConn community to join us in congratulating them, and to stay in touch with us on Twitter and Instagram for updates on future events where we will be sharing their wonderful submissions. 

First Place Prize Nicholas Xenophontos, “Meanings of America” Honorable Mentions Srivani Agnihotram, “America” Emma Kathryn Parente, “A Student in America” Lisbeth Peguero, “Everything but Apple Pie” Rianka Roy, “Coming to America” Jenna Trott, “Because of the Brave” Exhibition Finalists Kyra Arena, “Fly Away” Cassandra Barrow, “Envy” Matthew S. Dentice, “American Hope”

First Place Prize

Nicholas Xenophontos, “Meanings of America”

Honorable Mentions

Srivani Agnihotram, “America”

Emma Kathryn Parente, “A Student in America” 

Lisbeth Peguero, “Everything but Apple Pie”

Rianka Roy, “Coming to America”

Jenna Trott, “Because of the Brave”

Exhibition Finalists

Kyra Arena, “Fly Away”

Cassandra Barrow, “Envy”

Matthew S. Dentice, “American Hope”

Work with us (Spring 2022 Opportunities)!

[DEADLINE: Friday, December 10, 2021]

The Meanings of Democracy Lab, directed by Professor Ruth Braunstein of the Sociology Department, is offering five research assistantships for interested, high-achieving undergraduate students in Spring 2022. Research Assistants will work with Dr. Braunstein on research related to the contested moral and cultural foundations of American democratic life, including on ongoing projects on the moral meanings of taxpaying and on battles over American history and identity.

Students’ activities could include collecting and analyzing data and reviewing existing research, as well as disseminating information through social media and podcasts. No specialized research skills are required, but extra consideration will be given to students with the following skills/interests:

  • web data collection/scraping
  • digital storytelling

We will meet virtually on Mondays from 11:00am-12:30pm during Spring 2022.

Students will receive three units of 3000-level independent study credit.

The positions are open to rising sophomores and juniors. Preferred GPA is 3.6 or higher. Students from any campus are welcome to apply.

To apply, please fill out this application: https://forms.gle/xEWpXxAbaZscRRKw7.

Introducing our Fall 2021 Team

This Fall, the Meanings of Democracy Lab welcomes its first class of Graduate Research Fellows and Undergraduate Research Assistants!

Sociology PhD candidates Amy Lawton and Nabil Tueme join the Lab as Graduate Research Fellows.

Six Undergraduate Research Assistants — Gvantsa Ambokadze (Major: Political Science); ; David de Siqueira Campos McLaughlin (Major: Computer Science); Colin Sullivan (Major: Applied Mathematics and Statistics); Owen Silverman (Major: Philosophy/Human Rights); Rebekah Wesler (Major: Political Science); and Mary Wirpel (Major: Political Science) — comprise our inaugural Research Team.

The team brings a diverse mix of research skills and interests, and will be sharing the results of their work together throughout the semester through the Lab’s website, so stay tuned!

Work with us!

The newly formed Meanings of Democracy Lab, directed by Professor Ruth Braunstein of the Sociology Department, is offering five research assistantships for interested, high-achieving undergraduate students. Research Assistants will work with Dr. Braunstein on research related to the contested moral and cultural foundations of American democratic life, including on ongoing projects on the moral meanings of taxpaying and on battles over American history and identity.

Students’ activities could include collecting and analyzing data and reviewing existing research, as well as disseminating information through social media and podcasts. No specialized research skills are required, but extra consideration will be given to students with the following skills/interests:

  • web data collection/scraping
  • digital storytelling

We will meet virtually on Mondays from 11:00am-12:30pm during Fall 2021.

Students will receive three units of 3000-level independent study credit.

The positions are open to rising sophomores and juniors. Preferred GPA is 3.6 or higher. Students from any campus are welcome to apply.

To apply, please fill out this application: https://forms.gle/dw8JfT8w5pEXotmq5

Meanings of Democracy Lab Launched

We are excited to announce the launch of the Meanings of Democracy Lab, founded and directed by UConn sociologist Dr. Ruth Braunstein. Several big questions animate how Americans engage in civic and political life: Who counts as a “real” American? What is required of a “good” citizen? Is American democracy flourishing or floundering? In today’s deeply polarized America, the answers to these questions depend on who you ask, but the ways that different people answer them matter for us all.

The newly launched Meanings of Democracy Lab engages students and partners in collaborative research on and discussion about the contested moral and cultural foundations of American democratic life. Current projects focus on the moral meanings of taxpaying and on battles over the roles of race and religion in American identity and history.

If you are interested in participating in or collaborating with the Meanings of Democracy Lab, email Dr. Ruth Braunstein at ruth.braunstein@uconn.edu.