Department of Public Policy
M.A., Stony Brook University, 2002
M.A., University of Tuebingen, Germany, Political Science, Computer Science, 1997
Doctorate, University of Tuebingen, Germany, Political Science, 2001
Ph.D., Stony Brook University, 2005
Teaching & Research Interests
Evolutionary modeling methodology
Dr. Thomas Craemer
Combining Traditional and New Surveying Techniques
Professor Thomas Craemer discovered survey research when he began investigating the psychology of race. His interest in racial attitudes was shaped by the experience of growing up struggling with his native Germany’s racist history. He couldn’t understand how a democratic country could turn fascist and violently racist within the span of a few years. More importantly he wondered ‘How could decent people like my own grandparents remain silent or go along and how would I have acted in their place?’,” he asks rhetorically.
By following his curiosity about that racist era of Germany, he discovered that survey research was a crucial tool for researchers in the United States to investigate the social and political psychology of race. After moving from Germany to the United States, he began using reaction time measures to tap people’s implicit racial attitudes and published a number of papers based on that research. Craemer also addressed the issue of racial divides in his research paper “Implicit Closeness to Blacks, Support for Affirmative Action, Slavery Reparations, and Vote Intentions for Barack Obama in the 2008 Elections,” which received the International Society of Political Psychology’s Roberta Sigel Award in 2010.
Craemer incorporates the results of his research to engage students in the classroom. “I use my work as examples to illustrate how you can combine traditional and new surveying techniques,” he says. “However, I always point out that this is just one way to do it, not necessarily the best. I want them to come up with their own solutions.”
Craemer enjoys the diversity of the online classroom, and the format which allows students with professional experience in the field to share their experiences with classmates.
“We have students from all walks of life and from all corners of the country and the world,” says Craemer. “One student is an active survey researcher in Honduras and brings a fascinating perspective from outside the United States. In the United States we were (until very recently) generating random telephone numbers to call people, a very straightforward and relatively inexpensive method of scientific probability sampling. Caller ID and cell phones have changed this so that researchers need to re-think sampling. What better way than to learn from a researcher in a country in which many people do not have landline telephones at all, and others have cell phones only. Having this perspective and the perspectives of other professionals in the classroom is invaluable.”
Craemer also engages with students outside of the classroom. Every year since 2007, he has accompanied Department of Public Policy graduate students to do volunteer work in Hurricane Katrina relief and recovery efforts in the Upper and Lower 9th Wards of New Orleans. He realized the dire need for help when attending a conference in January 2007, a year and a half after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city.
“The French Quarter and Central Business Districts looked like nothing had ever happened,” he says. “But when I walked out to the Lower 9th Ward – busses still weren’t running – and saw the sheer extent of the devastation, I couldn’t believe I was still in America. I saw houses that had been swept off their foundations deposited upside down in their neighbors’ yards, cars rusting in the middle of the street where the flood had set them down. I talked to a forlorn resident who said the city provided no services and had not even turned electricity back on, and without electricity he did not qualify for a FEMA trailer.”
Students who accompanied him on a May 2007 trip to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity in the Upper 9th Ward helped him collect data for a study on racial disparities in Hurricane Katrina relief. That study, which was published in the Public Administration Review in 2010, showed statistically less FEMA trailers in predominately Black neighborhoods.
“On our work-free Sunday we drove on a stretch of road of equal length through both the predominantly White (Arabi) and the predominantly Black (the Lower 9th Ward) neighborhoods and counted all former housing units and all FEMA trailers we could see along the side of the road,” he says. “The difference was statistically significant. The Lower 9th Ward had significantly fewer FEMA trailers per housing unit. We replicated the trailer count using aerial photographs of New Orleans taken by Google Earth in 2006. The aerial count backed up our quick-and-dirty trailer count on the ground, and matched the scant data evidence FEMA published.”
In 2012 and 2013 Craemer also took groups of students to Haiti to volunteer for earthquake reconstruction. Prior to departure, students content coded US news stories of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to investigate the impact of racial stereotypes on the coverage of majority Black countries like Haiti. During their stay in Haiti, students worked alongside Haitian construction workers and compared the image of Haiti they obtained from reading the news stories to the actual situation on the ground. The study has found significant and substantial bias in US news coverage on the earthquake in Haiti.