What I do

My profile picture.

My research investigates the capacity of political entrepreneurs to influence voting, media consumption, and public opinion with both digital and conventional tools. I am interested in the power (and constraints) of institutions and individuals to structure awareness, beliefs, and narratives about the economy.

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Politics at NYU and a Research Associate at the Social Media and Political Participation Lab. My ongoing work includes predictions of economic sentiment around the world with disciplined approaches to model selection inspired by machine learning approaches. With my collaborators at NYU I also study the trajectories of voters’ beliefs by using survey data augmented with behavioral outcomes.

My academic research has also contributed to the debate on the threat from populism.


Research

Publications

Democratic deconsolidation revisited: Young Europeans are not dissatisfied with democracy
Research & Politics
PDF (open-access) | Data & Code | Show BibTex citation

How Many People Live in Political Bubbles on Social Media? Evidence from Linked Survey and Twitter Data
with Gregory Eady, Jonathan Nagler, Andrew Guess, and Joshua Tucker
Sage Open
PDF (open-access) | Summaries: Pacific Standard, Main chart | Show BibTex citation

The Happiness Gap in Eastern Europe
with Simeon Djankov and Elena Nikolova
Journal of Comparative Economics
PDF | Summary: Financial Times blog | Ungated SSRN & OSF pre-prints | Show BibTex citation


Working papers

Learning About Income Inequality: What is the Impact of Information on Preferences for Redistribution?
Ungated SSRN pre-print | Press reactions: The Economist, Bloomberg


Non-peer reviewed research: economic policy

Higher Wages for Low-Income Workers Lead to Higher Productivity
with Justin Wolfers. Reproduced in Newsweek
Press reactions: The Atlantic, Vox, Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg.

Reducing Government Debt Ratios in an Era of Low Growth
with Paolo Mauro. Peterson Institute Policy Brief.
Press reactions: Wall Street Journal.

Fiscal Tightening and Economic Growth
with Paolo Mauro, Peterson Institute Policy Brief
Summary: VoxEu.org


Research Interests

I am interested in how actions of political influencers affect voters’ lives and decisions. I study how people with political objectives convey economic data, compete for office, and how they apply persuasion strategies in an environment where much of the electorate does not seek – or even actively avoids – direct exposure to political messages.

Political discourse now permeates into citizens’ screens, pockets, and any room where people own cell phones. Many observers are concerned that inflammatory news, permanent campaigning, populist rhetoric, and echo chambers are eroding democracy. My published work shows that satisfaction with democracy has, in fact not decreased over the last decade, and forthcoming research challenges some of the received wisdom about “media bubbles.”

Even if democracy is durable, social conflict may arise if some groups feel the system is not working for them, or if they resent their fellow citizens. To better understand these phenomena, my other work asks these questions:

  1. Can machine learning help us identify which aspects of the economy people value the most?
  2. Do citizens remember issue-based promises from election campaigns?
  3. Are American users of social media exposed to diverse viewpoints, and do their believe that most of their friends hold similar opinions?
  4. How likely are Americans who avoid hard news to encounter political information? My co-authors and I document involvement of cultural elites (singers, actors, etc.) in political debates and campaigns to find out.


My goal is to improve our understanding of the connection between politics and economics through rigorous research. Before joining NYU, I have worked on projects related to discrimination, inclusive capitalism, and behavioral economics. Most of that work was done at MIT and at the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

As a Data Fellow at NYU, I have advised undergraduate students on research design, tidying data, and interpreting empirical results. I strive to guide students to become clear communicators – big data is no excuse for cryptic writing or speaking. Earlier, I was a Teaching Fellow in the economics department at Harvard, and have taught courses covering topics including model selection, false discovery rates, classification and decision trees, the bootstrap and cross-validation. I am a graduate of the University of Chicago and of Harvard University.


What's New?

“Trying to understand how Jeff Flake is leaning? We analyzed his Twitter feed.” Washington Post, Monkey Cage.
with Gregory Eady, Joshua Tucker & Jonathan Nagler

Methodology: Calculating ideology of political actors based on their social media content.

My paper on satisfaction with democracy was published on January 31, 2019. The journal is open access.


How to get in touch

zilinsky (at) nyu.edu


Recent/upcoming opportunities to meet:

Provo (July 2018)
Boston (Late August - Early Sept. 2018)
Abu Dhabi (January 2019)
Chicago (April 2019)
Washington, D.C. (August 29 – September 1, 2019)

New York (most of the year)

I value face-to-face conversations with other social scientists, journalists, and other people.

If you are passing through the area and we have similar research interests, or if we follow each other on Twitter,
or if you would like to chat about economics, politics, or data science,
feel free to reach out.

(But please understand that I sometimes take breaks from email and social media to attend to work obligations or to take time to think.)