American Politics


Professor O’Brien passed away on December 20, 2018 after a brief illness.

David M. O’Brien was the Leone Reaves and George W. Spicer Professor at the University of Virginia.


Subfield: American Politics

Minor: International Relations

Degrees: B.S. United States Military Academy, West Point


My research centers on American politics, with emphases in political psychology, racial and ethnic politics, and political behavior. I am especially interested in how emotion influences our thinking and behavior regarding politics. I am similarly interested in the role that group-based social identities play in determining political preferences and consequent behavior. For information regarding my current projects, please visit my personal website.


My dissertation, “What is Local Politics?” contends that politics in American cities is defined by partisan identities, local media, and elite communication.


Jim practiced law in Washington, DC, for ten years (1971-1981), three in private practice, and the last seven with the Interstate Commerce Commission. He resigned from his government job and moved to Charlottesville in 1982 to pursue his Ph.D. in our department under the mentorship of Henry Abraham, James Ceaser, and David O’Brien. He subsequently taught undergraduate courses in American government and constitutional law and history for twenty-two years, one at Tulane University and twenty-one at the University of Arizona.


Jordan Cash is the 2018-2019 Pre-Doctoral Research Specialist in the Program on Constitutionalism and Democracy. His research focuses on American politics, constitutional law, American political thought, and early modern political theory. His doctoral research examines how presidents who were isolated from other institutions used their constitutional authority to achieve their policy goals, providing a clearer view of the institutional logic of the constitutional presidency.


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