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Sean Theriault

ProfessorPh.D., Stanford University

Sean Theriault



American political institutions


Professor Theriault, who is fascinated by congressional decision-making, is currently researching the distinction between ideological and war-making behavior in the U.S. Congress.  He has published three books, The Power of the People: Congressional Competition, Public Attention, and Voter Retribution(Ohio State University Press, 2005), Party Polarization in Congress (Cambridge University Press, 2008), and The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress (Oxford University Press, 2013). He has also published numerous articles in a variety of journals on subjects ranging from presidential rhetoric to congressional careers and the Louisiana Purchase to the Pendleton Act of 1883.

Professor Theriault, whose classes include the U.S. Congress, Congressional Elections, Party Polarization in the United States, and the Politics of the Catholic Church, is passionate about teaching.  He has received numerous teaching awards, including the Friar Society Teaching Fellowship (the biggest undergraduate teaching award at UT) in 2009, UT Professor the Year in 2011, and the Regents' Outstanding Teaching Award in 2014.  In 2012, he was inducted into the Academy of Distinguished Teachers.  He has experienced no greater honor than “officiating” at two weddings for former students.

Professor Theriault, who grew up in Michigan, has been to all 50 states (though only 49 state capitols) and six continents.  His research and teaching have taken him to among other places Seoul, Rome, and Berlin.  He is a competitive tennis player and an avid runner, having competed twice in the Boston Marathon.  Before obtaining his Ph.D. from Stanford University (in 2001; M.A. in Political Science in 2000), he attended the University of Richmond (B.A., 1993), and the University of Rochester (M.S. in Public Policy Analysis, 1996).


T C 357 • Pope Francis's Cath Church-Ita

42100 • Spring 2016
(also listed as GOV 379S, LAH 350)

Students may only enroll in this course if accepted into the 2016 Maymester Program: 

Pope Francis’s Catholic Church: The Making of the Modern Papacy 

Course offered in Rome, Italy May 24-June 21, 2016

This program offers the unique opportunity to explore first-hand the history and politics of papal succession and church policy in Rome, Italy. Specifically, we will concentrate on Pope Francis, the Holy See, the Vatican, and the world that it serves. The course will introduce, describe, and analyze how the Church makes its decisions and why. In addition to a regular classroom schedule, we will visit the great churches of Rome, meet with the Princes of the Church, and observe the church's far-reaching influence. By the end of the course, students will have developed an understanding of the church as a historical, religious, and political organization. Local program staff in Rome will organize orientation and housing and support students throughout the program's duration.

For more information visit:

T C 357 • The Senate

42925 • Fall 2011
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm CRD 007A

Instructor: Sean Theriault, Associate Professor, Department of Government, College of Liberal Arts

Description:This course will examine the Senate of the United States through a variety of different perspectives:  mostly political science, but we will also draw on journalism, biography, film, and history.  We will aim to discover the activities in the Senate as well as to develop an understanding of how the Senate has changed (or not changed).  

Texts/Readings:•    Lee, Frances E. 2009.  Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles, and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.•    Koger. Gregory.  2010.  Filibustering. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  •    Wawro, Gregory J., and Eric Schickler.  2006.  Filibuster.  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.•    Wendy Schiller’s Partners and Rivals•    Sean M. Theriault.  2011.  The Gingrich Senators.  Unpublished Manuscript. •    A course packet will comprise about half of the readings for the course.

Assignments:•    30%    Class Participation.  The grade for this portion will be determined by class homework assignments, pop quizzes, and active participation in class as well as sections. •    10%    Preliminary Paper (4 pages).•    50%    Final Paper (15 pages).•    10%    Presentations of Research  

About the Professor:

Professor Theriault researches American political institutions, primarily the U.S. Congress.  His current research is on the Gingrich Senators and how they have transformed the U.S. Senate.  His classes include the U.S. Congress, Congressional Elections, Party Polarization in the United States, and the Politics of the Catholic Church.  He has received numerous teaching awards, including the Friar Society Teaching Fellowship (the biggest undergraduate teaching award at UT) in 2009.Professor Theriault has published two books, The Power of the People: Congressional Competition, Public Attention, and Voter Retribution (Ohio State University Press, 2005) and Party Polarization in Congress (Cambridge University Press, 2008). He has also published numerous articles on subjects ranging from presidential rhetoric to congressional careers and the Louisiana Purchase to the Pendleton Act of 1883.

Undergraduate Research

Professor Bryan Jones and I run a year-long undergraduate research program during which the students work on our research projects and then slowly, but definitively by the end, work on their own research.  The year culminates in student poster presentations during Undergraduate Research Week.  

For more about the research program, please click here.

If you would like to participate in the research program, please download the application, complete it, and email it back to me.




The Gingrich Senators

Project Description

I am currently researching a set of Senators who have had a profound effect on the U.S. Senate -- I call these senators, "The Gingrich Senators."  Since Gingrich's first election to the U.S. House in 1978, 40 Republicans have served in the House prior to their career in the Senate.  Twenty-two of them are currently serving in the Senate during the 112nd Congress.  

The Gingrich Senators are more conservative than even the increasingly conservative Republican Conference in the Senate.  They are less likely to work with Democrats.  Their strategies in the Senate have helped to make the Senate operate much more like the highly partisan House.

I hope to have a completed book manuscript of the project by the end of 2011.

Click here for a one-page description of the project.


Click here to see a copy of my article (co-written with David Rohde) that has been accepted for publication in The Journal of Politics.

Click here to see a copy of an op-ed that I wrote for the Huffington Post.

Click here to see a copy of an op-ed that I wrote for CNN.

What Others are Saying about this Project

Click here to read about the project on the Monkey Cage.

Click here to read what Ezra Klein (of the Washington Post) wrote about the project.

Click here to read a blog entry on

Click here to read what Mother Jones is saying about the project.

Presentations on the Gingrich Senators

Future Talks:

January 19 and 20, 2012 -- Book Seminar, University of Texas at Austin


Past Talks:

November 30, 2011 -- Institute for Social and Policy Studies, Yale Unviersity, New Haven, CT

April 2, 2011 -- Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL

February 18, 2011 -- The Bulen Symposium, Indianapolis, Indiana

March 23, 2011 -- Political Science Department, Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX

September 15, 2010 -- Centennial Lecture, Department of Government, the University of Texas at Austin

September 4, 2010 -- American Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Washington, DC

May 25, 2010 -- Summer Statistics Institute, Division of Statistics and Scientific Computation, the University of Texas at Austin.  Click here to see it.

May 10, 2010 -- Congress and History Workshop, Berkeley, CA

April 24, 2010 -- Midwest Political Science Association Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL

April 1, 2010 -- Western Political Science Association Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA

January 29, 2010 -- Brown Bag Seminar, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA

October 23, 2010 -- Bicameralism Conference, Vanderbilt Unviersity, Nashville, TN

The 40 Gingrich Senators

                Senate House of Representative
Name State Tenure Ideology Tenure Ideology
Allard Colorado 105-110 0.613 102-104 0.597
Allen Virginia 107-109 0.407 102 0.474
Blunt Missouri 112-present
105-111 0.602
Boozman Arkansas 112-present
107-111 0.521
Brown Colorado 102-104 0.543 97-101 0.456
Brownback Kansas 105-111 0.459 104 0.546
Bunning Kentucky 106-111 0.630 100-105 0.505
Burr North Carolina 109-present 0.579 104-108 0.445
Chambliss Georgia 108-present 0.518 104-107 0.427
Coats Indiana 101-105, 112-present 0.407 97-100 0.297
Coburn Oklahoma 109-present 0.907 104-106 0.815
Craig Idaho 102-110 0.512 97-101 0.487
Crapo Idaho 106-present 0.493 103-105 0.523
DeMint South Carolina 109-present 0.831 106-108 0.704
DeWine Ohio 104-109 0.192 98-101 0.343
Ensign Nevada 107-112 0.554 104-105 0.635
Graham South Carolina 108-present 0.473 104-107 0.477
Gramm2 Texas 99-107 0.561 98 0.548
Grams Minnesota 104-106 0.526 103 0.530
Gregg New Hampshire 103-111 0.429 97-100 0.412
Heller Nevada 112-present
110-112 0.646
Hutchinson Arkansas 105-107 0.457 103-104 0.412
Inhofe Oklahoma 104-present 0.689 100-103 0.475
Isakson Georgia 109-present 0.504 106-108 0.500
Kirk Illinois 111-present 0.333 107-111 0.453
Kyl Arizona 104-present 0.616 100-103 0.527
Mack Florida 101-106 0.407 98-100 0.520
McCain Arizona 100-present 0.371 98-99 0.302
Moran Kansas 112-present
105-111 0.494
Portman Ohio 112-present
103-109 0.447
Roberts Kansas 105-present 0.399 97-104 0.407
Santorum Pennsylvania 104-109 0.373 102-103 0.294
Smith New Hampshire 102-107 0.747 99-101 0.545
Sununu New Hampshire 108-110 0.423 105-107 0.634
Talent Missouri 108-109 0.305 103-106 0.455
Thomas Wyoming 104-110 0.525 101-103 0.396
Thune South Dakota 109-present 0.509 105-107 0.358
Toomey Pennsylvania 112-present
106-108 0.795
Vitter Louisiana 109-present 0.623 106-108 0.550
Wicker Mississippi 110-present 0.444 104-110 0.487


Theriault, Sean M.  (2013)  The Gingrich Senators: The Roots of Partisan Warfare in Congress  New York: Oxford University Press.

Theriault, Sean M.  (2008)  Party Polarization in Congress  New York: Cambridge University Press.

Reviews: APSA Legislative Studies Section

Theriault, Sean, and Jonathan Lewallen. (2012) Congressional Parties and the Policy Process in The Parties Respond: Changes in American Parties and Campaigns, Fifth Edition, Mark D. Brewer and L. Sandy Maisel (eds.). Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press.

Seo, Jungkun, and Sean M. Theriault.  (2012)  Moderate Caucuses in a Polarized U.S. Congress Journal of Legislative Studies, 18(2): 203-221.

Huang, Taofang, and Sean M. Theriault.  (2012)  The Strategic Timing Behind Position-Taking in Congress: A Study of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act.  Journal of Legislative Studies, 18(1):41-62.

Theriault, Sean M., and David Rohde.  (2011)  The Gingrich Senators and Party Polarization in the U.S. Senate, Journal of Politics, 73(4): 1011-1024.

Theriault, Sean M.  (2009) Party Polarization in the 111th Congress. APSA's Legislative Studies Section Extension of Remarks (January).


Karch, Andrew, Corrine M. McConnaughy, and Theriault, Sean M. (2007) The Legislative Politics of Congressional Redistricting Commission Proposals. American Politics Research  35 (Nov.): 808-825. 


Lawless, Jennifer L., and Sean M. Theriault. (2006) Women in Congress: From Entry to Exit in Women in Politics: Outsiders or Insiders, Fourth Edition, Louis Duke Whitaker (ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall


Theriault, Sean M. (2006) Party Polarization in the U.S. Congress: Member Replacement and Member Adaptation. Party Politics 12 (July): 483-503.


Theriault, Sean M. (2006) Party Politics during the Louisiana Purchase. Social Science History 30 (Summer): 293-324.


Lawless, Jennifer L., and Sean M. Theriault. (2005) Will She Stay or Will She Go? Career Ceilings and Women's Retirement from the U.S. Congress. Legislative Studies Quarterly Legislative Studies Quarterly


Sniderman, Paul M., and Sean M. Theriault. (2004) The Dynamics of Political Argument and The Logic of Issue Framing in Studies in Public Opinion: Attitudes, Nonattitudes, Measurement Error, and Change, Willem E. Saris and Paul M. Sniderman (eds.). Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.


Theriault, Sean M. (2004) Public Pressure and Punishment in the Politics of Congressional Pay Raises. American Politics Research 32 (July): 444-464.


Theriault, Sean M. (2003) Patronage, the Pendleton Act, and the Power of the People. Journal of Politics 65 (Feb.): 50-68.


Theriault, Sean M., and Barry Weingast, B. (2002) Agenda Manipulation, Strategic Voting, and Legislative Details in the Compromise of 1850 in Party, Process, and Political Schange in Congress, David Brady and Mathew McCubbins (eds.). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. 


Brady, David W., and Sean M. Theriault. (2001) A Reassessment of Who's to Blame: A Positive Case for the Public Evaluation of Congress in What is it About Government that Americans Dislike?, John R. Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-Morse (eds.).  New York: Cambridge University Press.

Reprinted in The American Congress Reader, Steven S. Smith, Jason M. Roberts, and Ryan J. Vander Wielen (eds.).  New York: Cambridge University Press.  2008. 7-15.


Theriault, Sean M. (1998) Moving Up or Moving Out: Career Ceilings and Congressional Retirement. Legislative Studies Quarterly 23 (Aug.): 419-433.


Palazzolo, Daniel J., and Sean M. Theriault. (1996) Presidential Announcement Addresses: Campaign Strategies and Voting Behavior. Presidential Studies 26 (Spring): 350-363.


Teaching Awards

Teaching Awards

Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship (2009) -- see video and article

Dads’ Association Centennial Teaching Fellowship (2009)

Texas Exes Teaching Excellence Award (2007)

Texas Blazers Faculty Excellence Award (2007)

President’s Associates Teaching Excellence Award (2006) -- see article

Eyes of Texas Teaching Excellence Award (2005)

In the News...


Analysis on Governor Rick Perry's Presidential Annoucement on Fox News Channel -- America's Election HQ (14 August 2011).  Click here to see the story.

"Tea Partiers Shaking up Local Congressional Race" on News 8 Austin (22 October 2010).  Click here to see the website.  Click here to see the story.

On the Radio

  "How DeLay's Resignation Will Affect Elections" on KUT (April 4, 2006).

  Take 5 "Lecture" for UT (2004 February). Click here to see it.

  Congress to Campus Visit (October 1, 2003) on KUT. Click here to see it. Click here to hear it.

  Analysis of Governor Perry's State of the State Address (2003 February 11) on KUT.


"With the current dysfunction, U.S. Senate isn't what it used to be" in the Milwaukee Jounal Sentinel (2014 May 10)

"in Civil Rights Law, A Lesson for Today" in The Daily Texan (In Reaction to Bush's stand on gay marriage)

"An Apology" in The Austin American-Statesman (In Reaction to Senator Lott's Remarks about Thurmond

Quotes from Newspapers

"Underwood Says Cuellar has Voted with Pelosi 96 Percent of Last Session" in PolitiFact Texas (The Austin American Statesman -- 2010 June 26)

"Gridlock in Washington" in CQ Researcher (2010 April 30)

"Democratic Retirements Could Derail LGBT Advances" in DC Agenda (2010 February 19)

"Usually Unopposed GOP Congressmen Draw Challengers" from The Austin American Statesman (2010 February 8)

"Medina Could Creat Problems for Perry, Hutchison" from The Austin American Statesman (2010 January 19)

"Gays Feeling Jilted after Tough Battles for Rights Coming Soon: New Commenting Experience" from Aol News (USA Today -- 2010 January 14)

"Democrats Desperate for Good News on Jobs" from The Examiner (2010 January 13).

"Campaign Rhetoric Obscures Facts about Federal Money" from The Austin American Statesman (2010 January 10)

"Texas Democrats Optimistic They'll Break String of Losses in Statewide Races" from The Dallas Morning News (2010 January 5)

"Gay Candidates Get Support that Causes May Not" from The New York Times (2009 December 28)

"Recession Slows Population Rise Across Sun Belt" from The New York Times (2009 December 24)

"Obama Focuses More on Issue Czars, Less on Cabinet" from The Examiner (2009 April 21)

"Bipartisan Panel Debates Public Policy" from The Daily Texan (2009 February 20)

"For Obama, Immigration Reform Takes Backseat to Economy" from The Dallas Morning News (2008 November 30)

"Prof Evaluates Election" from The Daily Texan (2008 November 12)

"Professors Assess Final Debate's Effects" from The Daily Texan (2008 October 16)

"UT Professors Predict Obama to be Next President" from The Daily Texan (2008 October 15)

"Campus Fusion Tackles Diversity" from The Daily Texan (2008 October 15)

"Tom Davis Gives Up" from The New York Times (2008 October 5)

"Disappointed Bush Urges Lawmakers to Try Again on Bailout" from The Dallas Morning News (2008 September 30)

"Democrats Drill on Beating GOP Incumbents, Support Offshore Drilling" from The Dallas Morning News (2008 September 16)

"Runoff Candidates Avoid Immigration; In District on Border, Campaigns Believe Issue Cuts Both Ways" from USA Today (2006 December 8)

"Texans Now in the Minority in the Senate" from The Austin American Statesman (2006 November 10)

"Rep. Lloyd Doggett Wins 4-Way Race for District 25 House Seat" from The Daily Texan (2006 November 8)

"Students Gather, Watch Results Come In" from The Daily Texan (2006 November 8)

"Perry Wins with 39 Percent" from The Daily Texan (2006 November 8)

"More Young Voters Expected to Participate" from The Daily Texan (2006 November 7)

"Democrats Vow to Keep UP Fight" from The Austin American Statesman (2006 November 5)

"Experts: Doggett's House Seat Safe" from The Daily Texan (2006 November 1)

"Faculty Members Predict Democratic Takeover at Forum" from The Daily Texan (2006 October 25)

"Congressional Incumbents See No Reason to Debate" from The Austin American Statesman (2006 October 21)

"Some House Elections May Wait" from The Daily Texan (2006 September 7)

"Top Court OKs Redistricting" from The Daily Texan (2006 June 29)

"FAC Available for Early Voting in Primaries" from The Daily Texan (2006 February 22)

"Assistant Professor Predicts Democratic House" from The Daily Texan (2006 February 17)

"Rule May Limit Debate Tonight" from The Daily Texan (2004 September 30)

"Congress Grows More Polarized, Less Polite" from Copley News Service (2004 September 17)

"Final Debate Shifts Focus Back Home" from The Daily Texan (2004 October 14)

"Final Debate Can Make or Break" from The Daily Texan (2004 October 13)

"Debate 2004" from The Daily Texan

"Partisan Divisions Grow in Congress" from The Springfield (IL) State Journal Register (2004 September 20)

"Congress Returns to Huge Workload" from The Washington Times (2004 September 6)

"Congress Returns With Too Much To Do, too Little Time" from Cox Newspapers (2004 September 5)

"Winner Takes All in District 10 Runoff Race" from Associated Press (2004 April 9) 

"Gay Marriage Amendment: Valid?" from The Daily Texan (2004 April 1)

"How's My Voting: Texans Tailor Pitch to Districts" from Congressional Quarterly (2004 March 27)

"Stenholm to Vie for Republican District" from The Hill

"Panelists Analyze Bush Administration" from The Daily Texan (2003 February 11)

"Kingston Hosts Summit of G-8 Politicians" from Kingston Whig-Standard

"Enron Woes Could Impact Senate Contest in Texas as Dems Seek to Exploit GOP Ties" from The Hill (2002 January 23)

"Let’s Skip McCain’s Sideshow" from The National Review Online (2001 April 30)

"Let's Skip McCain's Sideshow"from The Cato Institute (2001 April 30)

Articles about Me, My Students, My Classes or My Research

"Partisanship is Here to Stay" in The Weekly Standard (2010 August 26) -- also in The Examiner (2010 August 27)

"Friar Teaching Award Presentation to Professor Theriault" (2009)

"Western Grad Receives Friar Award" in The Midland Daily News (2009 May 6)

"Theriault Awarded Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship" in Our Campus (2009 May)

"UT Grad One of 50 Finalists for Island Caretaker Contest" from The Daily Texan (2009 March 12) -- about Juweon Kim

"UT Class Examines Presidential Debate" from The Daily Texan (2008 October 8)

"Undergraduate Research in the Humanities" in Council of Undergraduate Research (20087 Summer)

"Students Use Fellowship Grants to Fund Research" in The Daily Texan (2008 April 1)

"Professor Watch List" from the Young Conservatives of Texas (2007 Spring)

"UT Prof Wins Silver Medal in Gay Games" from The Daily Texan (2006 July 19)

"Hail to the Chief!" from The San Antonio Express-News (2002 May 7) -- about Katie King

"What's Hot at APSA?" from Washington Monthly (2000)

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  • Plan II Honors Program

    University of Texas at Austin
    305 East 23rd St
    CLA 2.102
    Austin, Texas, 78712-1250