Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Policy Studies

Committee Chair/Advisor

Lori Dickes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

William Bridges, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Natalia Sianko, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Natan Teklemariam, Ph.D.


This dissertation explores the nuanced relationship between political polarization and policy diffusion within local governments in the United States, a topic of considerable relevance given the country’s increasing political divide. By examining the diffusion of COVID-19 policies, historical marker modifications, and the implementation of eGovernment services, this research identifies a novel mechanism of policy diffusion that is significantly influenced by political party lines. The study employs a comprehensive methodological approach, incorporating case studies and quantitative analysis to examine policy implementation across politically diverse local governments. The findings reveal that political affiliation profoundly impacts policy choices, with distinct patterns of policy diffusion observed among local governments led by officials from different political parties. In particular, the research highlights how Democratic and Republican local governments have diverged in their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, approaches to historical marker changes, and adoption of eGovernment services. This divergence underscores the need for a new understanding of policy diffusion mechanisms beyond traditional models to account for the influence of political polarization. This dissertation contributes to the policy studies field by providing empirical evidence of a fifth mechanism of policy diffusion that captures the complexities of governing in a politically polarized environment. It offers valuable insights for policymakers, scholars, and practitioners interested in the dynamics of local governance and the interplay between politics and policy diffusion in the contemporary United States.

Included in

Public Policy Commons



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.