January 05, 2018

I’ve signed on to a letter in support of Tom Brunell’s appointment to be Deputy Director of the U.S. Census, along with other political scientists. 


While I don’t agree with all of Tom’s conclusions, his research is methodologically sound and rigorous. Social science, indeed all science, is moved forward when people challenge the status quo.  It forces us to think about conventional wisdom, either discarding it as wrong or making it stronger by refuting those challenges with better data and reasoning.  Tom’s work is certainly provocative, but by provoking us, he had forced us to confront important questions and issues about redistricting and has made all of our work stronger. 

Tom’s work, which has appeared in leading political science journals, often relies heavily on Census data, so he understands the importance of having good, quality Census data.  As such, those of us who have signed the letter support Tom’s appointment based on our professional assessment of his qualifications and work.

Statement from Academic Colleagues Regarding Professor Thomas L. Brunell

January 5 2018

Professor Thomas L. Brunell at the University of Texas at Dallas is being considered for Deputy Director of the US Census.  Professor Brunell is a prominent and highly qualified political scientist.  He is an exceptional scholar who in the last twenty years has produced over 60 publications, many of which appear as peer reviewed articles in some of the leading journals in the discipline. His applied and scholarly research often relies on US Census data and when he was a Congressional Fellow he worked on the committee that oversaw the US Census.  He also has experience as an administrator as a Senior Associate Dean and Director of Graduate Studies.

His book, Redistricting and Representation: Why Competitive Elections are Bad for America, has a provocative title and provocative conclusions, but, in fact, asks and answers a rather simple and mainstream question about the relationship between more homogeneous districts and citizen satisfaction with their member of Congress and the institution of Congress.  He finds that citizens are much more satisfied with their representation when they live in more homogenous districts than when they live in more heterogeneous ones.  While most American political scholars believe and argue that electoral competition is critical to a healthy society, Professor Brunell’s book raises important questions that challenge conventional assumptions and expand our understanding about how institutional design (electoral districts) shapes political attitudes.  Some of us have even assigned his book to our students to read even though we do not agree with all of its conclusions.

In response to criticism regarding Professor Brunell’s academic rigor and politics, we the undersigned, fellow academics who are familiar with the work of, who have worked with, and in some cases co-authored with Professor Brunell, want to acknowledge the overall high quality of his academic record and his experiences working with institutional data.  Together we represent different political, ideological, and party preferences, but nevertheless agree that our personal and professional knowledge of Professor Brunell indicates he is a man of high standards, hard work, and strong ethics.

Lonna Atkeson, University of New Mexico

Chris W. Bonneau, University of Pittsburgh

Shaun Bowler, University of California Riverside

Charles Bullock, University of Georgia

Barry Burden, University of Wisconsin

Russell Dalton, University of California Irvine

Todd Donovan, Western Washington University

Keith Gaddie, University of Oklahoma

James Garand, Louisiana State University

Jeff Gill, American University

Bernie Grofman, University of California Irvine

M.V. (Trey) Hood III, University of Georgia

Shannon Jenkins, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Jeffrey Karp, Brunel University London

Michael D. McDonald, SUNY Binghamton

Eric McGhee

Seth Masket, University of Denver

Wendy Martinek, SUNY Binghamton

Doug Roscoe, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Kyle Saunders, Colorado State University

Jonathan Winburn, University of Mississippi

Tom Brunell, Census

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