Hibbing named Guggenheim Fellow

jbrehm2, April 16, 2013 | View original publication

Hibbing named Guggenheim Fellow

John Hibbing, Foundation Regents Professor of Political Science at UNL, has received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He is among 175 artists, scientists and scholars selected this year by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation from nearly 3,000 applicants across the United States and Canada.

Fellows are chosen on the basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise, and were selected this year from 56 disciplines at 85 different institutions from 30 different states.

An accomplished political scientist and a leader in the cutting-edge study of the role of biology in shaping people’s political temperaments, Hibbing has been a NATO Fellow in Science, a Senior Fulbright Fellow, recipient of the Fenno Prize, principal investigator for nine National Science Foundation grants and was recently elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He will use his fellowship award to study the physiological differences of Americans who participate in the political process compared with those who do not.

“It is nice recognition of the work being done by the Department of Political Science, by the Systems Biology of Social Behavior group and soon by UNL’s Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior,” Hibbing said. “Also, the financial award will allow us to pursue a specific research project that could be valuable to the political system in the United States.”

Hibbing joined the UNL faculty as an assistant professor in 1981 and was promoted to associate professor in 1985, to professor in 1990 and was named a Foundation Regents University Professor in 2001.

For the first two decades of his career, he studied legislatures, elections and public opinion, authoring or co-authoring books such as Congressional Careers (UNC Press 1991), Congress as Public Enemy (Cambridge UP, 1995), and Stealth Democracy (Cambridge UP, 2002). More recently, his research focus has shifted to the role of biology in explaining individual-level political variation.

The project for which he will be using the Guggenheim Fellowship deals with variation in political participation. Early indications are that chronic non-voters tend to have high levels of cortisol, a hormone commonly associated with stress. Further understanding of the situations under which high stress levels discourage political participation could make it possible to develop strategies to encourage high-cortisol people to enter the political arena.

“Ninety-three million eligible voters did not go to the polls in the 2012 presidential elections and we have preliminary evidence suggesting that these people, on average, are physiologically different from the approximately 126 million who did vote,” Hibbing said. “The Guggenheim Fellowship will make it possible for my colleagues, such as (UNL political scientist) Kevin Smith and (UNO psychologist) Jeff French, and me to develop a full physiological profile of non-voters and to use this information to find ways to increase the likelihood that these people will vote.”

David Manderscheid, dean of UNL’s College of Arts and Sciences, said the selection confirmed Hibbing’s status as one of the leaders of this highly relevant and emerging area of research.

“This is a well-deserved honor and recognition that will allow Professor Hibbing and his colleagues to do even greater work in studying how people choose to participate in our political process,” Manderscheid said.

The Guggenheim Fellowship program is distinguished by the wide range in interest, age, geography and institutions of those it selects. Since its establishment in 1925, the foundation has granted more than $306 million in fellowships to more than 17,500 people, among who are scores of Nobel laureates, poets laureate, winners of Pulitzer Prizes, Fields Medals and of other important, internationally recognized honors. The most recent UNL scholars to win Guggenheim Fellowships are poet Kwame Dawes in 2012 and chemist Xiao Cheng Zeng in 2004.

“These artists and writers, scholars and scientists, represent the best of the best,” Edward Hirsch, president of the Guggenheim Foundation, said in a statement. “The Guggenheim Foundation has always bet everything on the individual, and we’re thrilled to continue the tradition with this wonderfully talented and diverse group.”