• Department of Political Science


    International Security &
    Political Economy

    CV (.pdf)
  • Department of Political Science


    International Security &
    Political Economy

    CV (.pdf)




I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, San Diego, and the Herb York Fellow at the Institute for Global Conflict and Cooperation. I use game theory, large-n data, survey experiments, and historical case studies to study how actors share, withhold, and frame information in ways that affect the likelihood of war or violence.

During military crises, national leaders face complex strategic incentives that traditional signaling, deterrence, and crisis bargaining theories sometimes overlook. In a series of projects, I demonstrate that leaders struggle to temper domestic support for war without inadvertently signaling weakness to foreign adversaries, that countries sometimes attempt to conceal rather than advertise their military strength when bargaining with hostile rivals, that domestic opposition can prevent powerful states from coercing the compliance of weak proxies, and that the threat of civil insurgency can deter government predation.

Another branch of my research explores how actors strategically frame information on domestic issues. In one project I show that journalists adjust the tone and content of their questions in accordance with the gender and personal characteristics of the person they interview. In another paper, I provide evidence that politicians attempt to claim political credit by renaming rather than terminating unpopular federal agencies. A third project evaluates how the spread of information can motivate citizens to abandon long-held social norms. Finally, before joining U.C. San Diego I worked as the debate coach at Lewis & Clark College. As such, some of my early research relates to argumentation theory and communication pedagogy.

If you have questions or wish to contact me, please email bmerrell@ucsd.edu.

Brandon Merrell


University of California, San Diego

  • Ph.D., Political Science (in progress)
    • Committee: David Lake (co-chair), Branislav Slantchev (co-chair),
        Eli Berman, Lauren Prather, Phil Roeder
  • M.A., Political Science (2015)

Southern Illinois University

  • B.A., Economics and Political Science (2011)

Western Kentucky University

  • Undergraduate (2007-2009)

Academic Positions

Lewis & Clark College

  • Debate Coach, Rhetoric and Media Studies (2011-2012)



Refereed Articles

"Debate across the Disciplines: Structured Classroom Debates in Interdisciplinary Curricula"

  • with Kevin Calderwood and Todd Graham
  • Contemporary Argumentation and Debate Vol. 37, pp. 57-74, 2017.

"Back to its Roots: Accuracy as the Litmus Test for Topicality"

  • with Todd Graham
  • Parliamentary Debate, Vol 13, No. 2, pp. 21-68, November 2016.

"Contrasting Structures, Conditional Strategies: Designing Format-Specific Theories for Competitive Debate"

  • with Todd Graham
  • Parliamentary Debate, Vol. 13, No. 1, pp. 1-37, May 2016.

"The Intersection of Competitions and Classrooms in Forensics Pedagogy"

  • with Kevin Calderwood and Richard Flores
  • Communication Studies, Vol. 66, No. 4, pp. 433-47, August 2015.

Chapters in Refereed Volumes

"Denmark, 1940-1945: Armed Resistance and Agency Slippage in Germany's Model Protectorate"

  • in Proxy Wars: Suppressing Transnational Violence through Local Agents,
  • edited by Eli Berman and David Lake. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, Accepted.


"Illegal Wildlife Trafficking - The Unseen Environmental Harms"

  • with Thomas Schally
  • in Up for Debate: U.S. Foreign Policy Options Towards the Greater Horn of Africa,
  • edited by Danny Cantrell and Brandy Brickey, pp. 1-24. La Mirada, CA: Picket Fence, 2009.

In Progress

Conference Papers or Work Under Review

"Vetoing the Peace: The Agency Dilemma in Crisis Decision-Making"

    • ISA Annual Convention (2018)

"The War Referendum: Hawkish Opinion and Support for War"

    • APSA Annual Meeting (2016)

"The Secrecy Gambit: Clandestine Power Shifts and Preventive Conflict"

  • with Alexei Abrahams
    • APSA Annual Meeting (2018)
    • SPSA Annual Meeting (2018)
    • APSA Annual Meeting (2017)

"Monopolies of Violence? Civil Insurgency and the Accountability Paradox"

  • with Alexei Abrahams
    • APSA Annual Meeting (2018)

"Media Bias in Presidential Press Questions"

  • with Kevin Calderwood
    • ICA Annual Conference (2018)
    • SPSA Annual Meeting (2018)
    • APSA Annual Meeting (2017)

"Renaming and Credit Claiming in Federal Agencies"

  • with Richard Flores
    • MPSA Annual Meeting (2018)
    • APSA Annual Meeting (2017)

"Unprogrammed Abandonment of Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting"

  • with Brian Engelsma and Gerry Mackie

Brandon Merrell - CV

Click below for a .pdf version.


International Relations, American Politics, and Research Methods


Applied Data Analysis for Political Science
Crisis Areas in World Politics (x2)
International Crisis Diplomacy
Introduction to American Politics
Mathematical and Statistical Foundations (graduate, x3)


Discussion Sections:

  • International Politics & Security (graduate)
  • Introduction to International Relations (x3)

Research Mentor:

  • Frontiers of Political Science (senior honors seminar, x2)
  • Policy Responses to Global Problems (graduate research capstone)
  • Political Science Research Apprenticeship Program
  • Postwar Politics in Japan (graduate)


East Asian Thought (x2)
Insurgency and Terrorism
International Law
Politics and Warfare
Supreme Court & Constitution
United States Foreign Policy
War and Society (x2)
Weapons of Mass Destruction


Email Preferred


Brandon Merrell
University of California, San Diego
Department of Political Science
Social Sciences Building 301
9500 Gilman Drive, 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521

Email & Other

Email: bmerrell@ucsd.edu
Homepage: www.brandonmerrell.com
Office: Social Science Building 448