My work has investigated cultural shifts and their effects on political attitudes of mass publics and elites in developed and developing countries. Recently I have done research on two projects:
1) economic voting in South Korea;
2) social capital and democratic participation in East Asia.
For the former, I investigated characteristics of voters’ perceptions of the economy, and then I evaluated the influence of the economy on vote choice among Korean voters. For the latter, I examined the development of social capital and its political consequences in East Asia. Meanwhile, I took an empirically grounded first step toward tracing the impact of social capital on the levels and modes of political participation. Most important, my study explored if the quality of social group interactions matter more in facilitating democratic participation than mere membership in South Korea .
I am now doing research on Women’s Movement and Democratization in South Korea. Using unique survey data collected in 2000 and 2010, my study examines the extent to which the women’s movement has persisted and/or changed over the past decade in South Korea.
One area of research I am interested in concerns judicial behavior in election regulation. I am seeking to understand how and when partisan favoritism influences judicial decision making in election cases. In my forthcoming article in Political Research Quarterly and in a book manuscript I am working on, I use redistricting cases in three-judge federal trial courts to gain leverage on this subject. I show that federal judges of one political party tend strike down redistricting plans drawn up by the opposite party. In other words, federal judges sometimes engage in partisan favoritism when reviewing the legality of a state’s redistricting plans. However, I also show that when the law is clear and unambiguous, federal judges eschew partisan favoritism and instead follow the law. I argue that federal judges want to follow the law, but if the law is unclear, then facts and circumstances of the case allow judges’ partisan biases to guide their decisions.
Currently I am working on a book manuscript that expands on the PRQ research. In addition to examining federal court oversight in redistricting, the book examines the role of partisanship in state supreme court oversight of redistricting. The book project also relies on a mail survey of over 100 randomly selected federal judges that I conducted in 2008 in order to gauge judicial perceptions of redistricting disputes. Finally, the book project draws on in-person interviews with federal judges. I interviewed 22 federal judges across 8 states in 7 different circuits in 2006 and 2007.
Dr. Gerlach’s research focuses primarily on the environmental policy process. Specifically, Dr. Gerlach studies public participation and science as they relate to formulating and evaluating environmental and natural resource policies. He recently completed two studies which examined the following areas.
1) factors which influence public opinion on environmental policy issues
2) how neo-institutional theory explains the use of science in making ground-level natural resource policy decisions
The former study analyzed 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study survey data for the purpose of determining how citizens form their opinions of climate change, wilderness protection, and environmental vs. economic concern. The study, conducted in collaboration with Dr. Cindy Rugeley (Texas Tech University), found that political affiliations, i.e., ideology and party identification, dominate public opinion regarding climate change. The latter study analyzed data collected through a nationwide survey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. As a result, Dr. Gerlach and his collaborators (Dr. Laron Williams (University of Missouri) and Colleen E. Forcina (Elon University)), argue that institutional constraints heavily influence how science is used to inform biodiversity management decisions within the agency. This finding casts doubt upon the usefulness of the popular notion of environmental policymaking based on best available science.
Dr. Gerlach is currently completing three academic manuscripts related to his work on pharmaceutical and personal care products regulatory policy, the salience of diffusion theory in explaining natural resource data selection, and the regulatory dilemma associated with the governance of nanomaterials, respectively. Dr. Gerlach is also currently contributing to an international study of conflict and cooperation over water resources among nation-states.