• Department of Political Science


    International Security &
    Political Communication

    CV (.pdf)
  • Department of Political Science


    International Security &
    Political Communication

    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 study how and why political actors share, withhold, and frame information for domestic and international audiences.

My dissertation examines how leaders influence and respond to public opinion about international conflict. I show that leaders who are pessimistic about the use of force often face incentives to conceal their doubts from hawkish domestic audiences and attentive international opponents. As a result, leaders sometimes escalate conflicts even when they privately believe that doing so will prove costly for the country as a whole.

In other projects, I analyze the causes and consequences of secret military development, explore how powerful countries motivate smaller allies to cooperate on security policy, identify variation in the tone of questions that reporters pose to political officials, and examine whether politicians attempt to claim political credit by renaming federal agencies. Finally, before joining UCSD I worked as a debate coach for Lewis & Clark College. As such, some of my early research relates to argumentation theory and forensics pedagogy.

My work is supported by the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, the Center on Global Transformation, the UCSD Policy Design and Evaluation Lab, and the UCSD Department of Political Science. I am also grateful for funding from Population Council and the Department of Defense on collaborative research projects.

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


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 Appointments

Lewis & Clark College

  • Debate Coach, College of Arts & Sciences (2011-2012)



Refereed Articles

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

  • with Kevin Calderwood and Todd Graham
  • Forthcoming in Contemporary Argumentation and Debate

"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.


"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

Conferences, Talks & Workshops


"The Vetoed Peace"

  • ISA Annual Convention (2018)

"The Secrecy Gambit," with Alexei Abrahams

  • SPSA Annual Meeting (2018)
  • APSA Annual Meeting (2017)

"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)

"A Model Protectorate?"

  • Elliot School of International Affairs, George Washington University (2016)

"Pandering to War"

  • APSA Annual Meeting (2016)

Brandon Merrell - CV

Click below for a .pdf version.


International Relations, American Politics, and Methods


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


Discussion Sections:

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

Research Advising:

  • 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
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 341