Ashley Thornton


Senior Researcher, SNIS
Areas of expertise
  • Textual Analysis
  • The Welfare State
  • Political Psychology


PhD, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies
Dr. Ashley Thornton is senior researcher on the Garrison State Project, a three-year project led by Professor David Sylvan and funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation. The project, which involves coding parliamentary speeches to look for overlaps in reasoning on national security versus other issues, uses those overlaps as evidence of the growth of the "garrison state" in some seven democratic countries over a 70-year time period.

Dr. Thornton’s doctoral dissertation—Framing and the Retrenchment of the Welfare State: A Comparative Look at New Zealand and France—examined the arguments parliamentarians in New Zealand and France put forth in support of or against proposed welfare reforms over 40 years. Through the detailed analysis of over 1,800 speeches in the two countries, she has developed rigorous techniques for coding legislative speeches, techniques which she is currently applying to the research underway on the Garrison State Project.

In addition to her work on parliamentary debates, Dr. Thornton works in the subfield of political psychology: she taught a course on the subject for the International Relations/Political Science department at the Graduate Institute in 2015 and will be teaching the course again for the Master’s in International Affairs in spring 2017.



  • Thornton, Ashley. May 2016. “How does ideology influence welfare retrenchment proposals? Application of a new methodology.” Party Politics 22,3: 370–381.
  • Thornton, Ashley and David Sylvan. “Political Character Analysis: A Methodology for the Study of Issue Polarization in Political Debate” (under submission).
  • Thornton, Ashley and David Sylvan. “The Structure of Belief Systems on National Security: Connecting Foreign Policy Analysis and Political Psychology.” Presented at the 2015 Annual Convention of the International Studies Association.