Clocks and Clouds

Clocks and Clouds is an American University undergraduate research journal that publishes articles on the cutting edge of political science, international relations, and public policy.

Through the journal, our authors contribute to the intellectual dialogue both within the American University community and in broader academia. Philosopher Karl Popper’s “clocks and clouds” metaphor describes the two ends of the spectrum of predictability in social science. Clouds represent the disorderly and irregular, and clocks represent the predictable and rational.

By providing a venue for top undergraduate research, Clocks and Clouds aims to find the clocks amidst the clouds.

Follow us on Twitter at @ClocksCloudsAU and on Facebook to receive updates on staff application and submission processes! Please reach out to Editor-In-Chief, Paroma Mehta, for inquiries at


Recently Published

How Do Anti-Immigrant Movements Develop?: Wage Competition and Relative Poverty

By: Bronte Kuehnis 

Negative depictions of immigrants are generally false, but significant portions of the public still accept them as true. By generating anti-immigrant sentiment through nativist policy, the Trump Administration and its followers participated in an anti-immigrant movement. To determine the primary cause of anti-immigrant movements, the following study tests the hypothesis: relative poverty among U.S.-born residents causes anti-immigrant sentiment. This hypothesis is based on a wage competition theory and relies on economic threat perceptions. The hypothesis is tested with data collected from the 2016 American National Election Studies. The data consists of survey responses identifying both financial standing and nativism and was analyzed using the R program on a regression model. The results of the study indicate that there is no significant relationship between individual socioeconomic status and anti-immigrant prejudice. However, the findings do suggest a relationship between party affiliation and nativism and encourages further research on the effects of political ideology, presence of a far-right, and intergroup relations on increased xenophobia. Further research to expand on these findings could more clearly explain anti-immigrant sentiment and overcome the stigmatization of immigrant communities utilized to accumulate support for strict immigration policy.

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A Social Network Analysis of Religious Freedom and Interdependence

By: Grace Magness

Within the field of international relations, interdependence represents a complex and increasingly relevant area of study. Despite immense research having been carried out, it is still not fully understood how and why interdependence forms, necessitating further research. This paper seeks to examine the correlation between religious freedom and economic interdependence, using social network analysis (SNA) to visualize the structure of this relationship. SNA allows for a holistic examination of these two concepts, looking at each nations’ level of religious freedom as well as connections with other nations in order to answer the question: What is the connection between restrictions on religious freedom and interdependence among nations? Using data from The World Religion Database, Resource Trade Earth, and Pew Research Center, the results of this study indicate that nations tolerate moderate restrictions on religious freedom and that nations tend to rely economically on other nations who have similar levels of restrictions on religious freedom. Understanding the role of religious freedom in shaping interdependence allows us to recognize how seemingly disparate factors affect the global world. 

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“The Supreme Court Changed My Mind”: How Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) Influences Public Attitudes on Same-Sex Couple Adoptions

By: Lucas Piedmonte

The connection between the Supreme Court and U.S. citizens is a complex relationship that a chorus of researchers has studied. This project considers the extent of the Court’s ability to influence public attitudes. Whereas previous literature has identified the Court’s influence on attitudes on same-sex marriage, this project evaluates whether the Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. (2015) influenced public attitudes on another LGBTQ+ related-policy: same-sex couple adoptions. This study tested a hypothesis that the Court has a legitimizing function by conducting fifteen separate chi-square tests and a single independent t-test using the American National Election Survey (ANES) data from 2012 and 2016. This study is the first to examine the effects of the Court on a national scale in this light. The study reveals an overall increase in public support for same-sex couple adoptions after Obergefell (2015), which lends support to the idea that the Supreme Court legitimizes public attitudes and makes citizens re-think their previous opinions.

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How Merkel’s Wilkommenskultur Welcomed the AfD into the Bundestag: A Comparative Case Study on Refugee Crises in Germany 

By: Sarah Trautwein 

This neopositivist case study compares the Syrian Refugee Crisis between 2013 and 2017 and the Yugoslav Refugee Crisis from 1991 to 1995 in Germany to understand the rise of an extreme right-wing party with anti-immigrant sentiments, the AfD, in the German Bundestag in 2017. By looking back in comparison, I identify the manner in which the German federal chancellors presented their refugee policies as a key influence on the public response to these crises. While Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated for a Wilkommenskultur, a welcome culture, towards Syrian refugees, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl held a much less welcoming tone in the 1990s. The AfD quickly gained prominence in German national politics by capitalizing on a power vacuum and a wave of backlash Merkel had created on the right side of the political spectrum through decisions that abandoned the traditional position of her party. In contrast, there were no major political party shifts in the 1994 Bundestag, the German federal parliament, election because Kohl’s migration policies remained consistent through the 1990s Refugee Crisis allowing voters to remain comfortable with the party, thus eliminating the potential space for an alternative party.

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“Autonomy” for the Cordillera: Historically Tracing an Ascribed Pan-Ethnic Identity and Failed Autonomous Movements

By: Christian Von Rotz

In the Cordillera mountains of Northern Luzon in the 1970s, dozens of ethnolinguistic groups coalesced under the pan-ethnic identity of “Cordillera”, to seek autonomy from the Philippine government and reassert their indigenous ways of life. After over 30 years, despite the establishment of an Administrative Region with legal pathways to autonomy and 2 referendum plebiscites, the Cordillerans have yet to achieve autonomy. At the height of the movement, the Cordillera fulfilled many theoretical prerequisites of a post-colonial, indigenous, nationalist autonomy movement centered around an ethnic identity. Although, through historically tracing the origins and evolution of the Cordillera identity, it becomes clear that the saliency of this identity varies based on conflict and necessity. The Cordillera shared constitutive story is that of unification to defeat Spanish colonial invaders, exploitation and institutionalization of differences between Cordillerans and lowlander Filipinos by the American colonials, and ultimately, resistance to the socioeconomic and environmental destruction of their people and lands by the Philippine Republic under Marcos. Prior research on why the movements have failed have largely centered on political corruption, pacification, and socioeconomic determinants, whereas this research seeks to question a possible root of these causes, the identity’s saliency. While the movement has been largely pacified by the post-Marcos government, the identity’s saliency, the movement’s viability, and the future of the Cordillera people remains in question. This research seeks to advance focus on the saliency and viability of a pan-ethnic Cordillera region, questions that must be answered for possible Cordillera self-determination. 

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