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David C. Barker, Ph.D.

Dr. David Barker joined the Institute for Social Research in December of 2012, upon Ernest Cowles’s well-deserved (but roundly bemoaned) retirement. He also holds an appointment as Professor of Government.


Prior to joining the Institute, David served for 13 years as a Political Science professor at the University of Pittsburgh, a stint that included five years as Director of Graduate Studies. During that time, David also participated as a Faculty-Associate with the University Center for Social and Urban Research. David has also held visiting professorships abroad at the University of Sydney, the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow), and Sciences Po (Paris). In past professional lives, David worked as a technical writer and a sales account manager. And in his dreams, he was an excellent NFL quarterback.


To date, David’s research has centered on the study of public opinion, research methodology and social welfare policy – designing surveys/experiments and analyzing data using a variety of statistical tools. He has served or is serving as Principal Investigator/Project Director on more than 32 externally funded projects, totaling over $6 million. He has also published dozens of peer-reviewed scientific journal articles and two university-press books, been honored with a number of research and teaching awards, written survey questions for the American National Election Study, organized and managed several inter-university research teams, served on the editorial board of two academic journals, and supervised 23 doctoral dissertations, chairing eight of them.


The first of David’s books, Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior (2002), investigates the persuasive effects associated with partisan media, and has been nominated for several awards. The second, Representing Red and Blue: How the Culture Wars Change the Way Citizens Speak and Politicians Listen (2012), explores how cultural differences across Red and Blue America redefine the functioning of American democracy.


While appreciating the charms of the ivory-tower, David is motivated these days by applied social research – harnessing social science research methods to help policymakers, agency heads and non-profit organizations make more informed decisions in an environment of finite resources.


In terms of education, David earned his B.A. in Professional Writing from Baylor and a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Houston. He also completed a summer graduate program in Statistics at the University of Michigan.


Personally, David’s enthusiasms include his wife, Meg, the Great Californian Outdoors (and wine country!), NCAA basketball, and—it seems—sending all of his paychecks to the University of California-San Diego, where his son currently attends.

David Barker

David C. Barker, Ph.D.
ISR Director and
Professor of Government

Curriculum Vitae (pdf)