Michael Wagner

Associate Professor


Michael W. Wagner is an associate professor in the University of Wisconsin Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.  His research, teaching, and service are animated by the question, “how well does democracy work?”  Wagner approaches this question from a variety of perspectives, incorporating elements of the study of political communication, political parties, journalism, public opinion, political psychology, political behavior, religion and politics, the presidency, and biology into his work.

Wagner’s research has been published or is forthcoming in the Annual Review of Political Science, American Behavioral Scientist, Political Research Quarterly American Politics Review, Politics and Religion, Politics and Policy, The Forum, PS: Political Science and Politics, and State Politics and Policy Quarterly.  His co-authored book, Political Behavior in Midterm Elections: 2011 Edition (with Elizabeth Theiss-Morse), was published by CQ Press. He has also published several chapters in scholarly books, including Facing the Challenge of Democracy (Princeton University Press), Winning with Words (Routledge), Fault Lines: Why The Republicans Lost Congress (Routledge), Sourcebook for Political Communication Research (Routledge), and Polling America: An Encyclopedia of Public Opinion.  He has also authored three editions of the Instructor’s Manual for the textbook American Politics Today (W.W. Norton & Company).

Currently, Wagner is completing a book manuscript with Edward G. Carmines and Michael J. Ensley called Beyond the Left-Right Divide: How the Multidimensional Character of Mass Policy Preferences Affects American Politics (under contract at the University of Chicago Press).  He is also completing Political Behavior in the American Electorate (CQ Press) with Elizabeth Theiss-Morse.

Other current research projects include studies of the effects of partisan issue framing in the news media on the electorate (with Michael W. Gruszczynski), how people connect their religious views to their political preferences (with Amanda Friesen), the public consequences of political vilification in politics and the media (with Elizabeth Theiss-Morse and Dona-Gene Mitchell), the influence of public opinion polls on public opinion itself (with Edward M. Burmila), the physiology of survey response (with John R. Hibbing, Kevin B. Smith, Kristen Deppe, Amanda Friesen, and Carly M. Jacobs), redistricting and representation (with Jonathan C. Winburn), media bias (with Tim Collins), and agenda-setting in a digital age (with Michael W. Gruszczynski)

An award-winning teacher, Wagner was named the Hazel R. McClymont Distinguished Teaching Fellow while on the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Department of Political Science in 2012.  A vote of the student body named Wagner UNL’s Outstanding Educator of the Year in 2009.  His research, teaching, and student mentoring earned him the UNL College of Arts and Sciences distinction of “Academic Star” in 2011.

Wagner earned his Bachelor of Journalism degree at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1998.  He earned his Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University in 2006.  While at Indiana, Wagner was project director for the Center on Congress at Indiana University’s Congressional Election Study in 2006.  Wagner has been on the faculty of the University of Delaware’s Department of Political Science and International Relations (2006-7) where he moderated the televised senate debate between Senator Tom Carper and Jan Ting.  He was on the faculty of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Political Science (2007-12) and College of Journalism and Mass Communications (2011-2012).  In between his undergraduate and graduate training, he worked as a political reporter for CBS 31/1470 WMBD-AM in Peoria, IL and 1110 KFAB-AM in Omaha, NE.  He also served as a press secretary on a congressional campaign during the 2000 election cycle.

When he isn’t in his office or the classroom, Wagner, a native Minnesotan, enjoys spending time with his family, playing the guitar, golfing, kayaking on Lake Wingra, and fruitlessly rooting for the Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Vikings, and Minnesota Timberwolves.