William Franko

William Franko

Associate Professor
Department of Political Science

West Virginia University


I am an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the John D. Rockefeller IV School of Policy and Politics at West Virginia University. I study the causes and consequences of political and economic inequality in the United States. In trying to better understand the relationship between inequality and politics, my research focuses on the public’s attitudes about income inequality and redistribution, the influence of political participation bias on politics and policy, and how political decisions shape economic outcomes.


  • Political and economic inequality
  • Redistribution
  • Political participation
  • Class politics
  • Public opinion
  • State and local politics


  • PhD in Political Science, 2012

    University of Iowa

  • MA in Political Science, 2007

    Kent State University

  • BA in Political Science, 2004

    Kent State University


Book Cover

In my new book co-authored with Chris Witko, The New Economic Populism: How States Respond to Economic Inequality ( Oxford | Amazon), we argue that the U.S. government’s failure to address rising income inequality should not be very surprising since federal inaction in the face of emerging economic problems is the norm in American history. The states led the fight against new economic problems during the Progressive Era and Great Depression, and it is likely that we will once again have to rely on the states to address today’s massive gap between the rich and the poor. We show that the public is cognizant of rising inequality and that this growing awareness is associated with more egalitarian political and policy changes. In contrast to the prevailing pessimism regarding income inequality, we suggest that if history is a guide these incipient state actions to reduce inequality are likely to spread to other states and even the federal government in the coming decades.

The New Economic Populism is winner of the 2018 Virginia Gray Best Book Award. This award is given by the American Political Science Association State Politics and Policy Section to the best political science book published on the subject of U.S. state politics or policy in the preceding three calendar years.



The New Economic Populism: How States Respond to Economic Inequality. William W. Franko and Christopher Witko. 2017. Oxford University Press.

  • Winner of the 2018 Virginia Gray Best Book Award (APSA State Politics and Policy Section)

Digital Cities: The Internet and the Geography of Opportunity. Karen Mossberger, Caroline Tolbert, and William W. Franko. 2012. Oxford University Press.

Journal Articles

How State Responses to Economic Crisis Shape Income Inequality and Financial Well-Being. William W. Franko. 2021. State Politics & Policy Quarterly.

  • Article based on this research at Journalist’s Resource.

Economic Segregation and Public Support for Redistribution. William W. Franko and Avery C. Livingston. Forthcoming. The Social Science Journal.

Economic Segregation and Unequal Policy Responsiveness. Patrick Flavin and William W. Franko. 2020. Political Behavior.

Government’s Unequal Attentiveness to Citizens’ Political Priorities. Patrick Flavin and William W. Franko. 2017. Policy Studies Journal.

Understanding Public Perceptions of Growing Economic Inequality. William W. Franko. 2017. State Politics & Policy Quarterly.

  • Article based on this research at the LSE American politics blog.

Political Context, Government Redistribution, and the Public’s Response to Growing Economic Inequality. William W. Franko. 2016. The Journal of Politics.

Class Bias in Voter Turnout, Representation, and Income Inequality. William W. Franko, Nathan Kelly, and Christopher Witko. 2016. Perspectives on Politics.

  • Op-ed based on this research at Talking Points Memo.

More Equal than We Thought? Using Vote Validation to Better Understand Participation Inequality in the States. William W. Franko. 2015. State Politics & Policy Quarterly.

Inequality, Self-Interest and Public Support for ‘Robin Hood’ Tax Policies. William W. Franko, Caroline Tolbert, and Christopher Witko. 2013. Political Research Quarterly.

  • Article based on this research at the LSE American politics blog.

Political Inequality and State Policy Adoption: Predatory Lending, Children’s Health Care, and Minimum Wage. William W. Franko. 2013. Poverty & Public Policy.

  • Coverage of this research at Rolling Stone.

Voters, Emotions, and Race in 2008: Obama as the First Black President. David Redlawsk, Caroline Tolbert, and William W. Franko. 2010. Political Research Quarterly.

What Moves Partisanship? Migration, State Partisan Environment Change, and Party Identification. Jason MacDonald and William W. Franko. 2008. American Politics Research.

Bureaucratic Capacity and Bureaucratic Discretion: Does Congress Tie Policy Authority to Performance? Jason MacDonald and William W. Franko. 2007. American Politics Research.

Book Chapters

State Political Participation: Election Law, Electoral Competition, and Inequality. Caroline Tolbert and William W. Franko. 2014. In The Oxford Handbook of State and Local Government. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Participation and Engagement in Caucuses and Primaries. William W. Franko (with David Redlawsk, Caroline Tolbert, and Todd Donovan). 2011. In Why Iowa? How Caucuses and Sequential Elections Improve the Presidential Nominating Process. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.


Registered students can find course materials on eCampus.

My Senior Capstone Paper (POLS 487) advisees can download a copy of the Paper Plan and Guidelines

I am an instructor for the following courses at WVU:

  • State and Local Government (POLS 220)
  • Empirical Political Analysis (POLS 300)
  • The Politics of Economic Policy (POLS 334)
  • Intro. to Political Research (POLS 600)
  • Advanced Quantitative Analysis (POLS 603)

Past courses:

  • American Government
  • The Politics of Economic Inequality
  • The American Presidency
  • Research Methods (grad)
  • Research Design and Analysis (grad)
  • The Legislative Process

Curriculum Vitae