His research interests include methodology, political-economic history of American institutions, economic growth and entrepreneurship, and the political-economic history of railroads. He is the author or coauthor of over 50 articles as well as the author of Spatial Models of Parliamentary Voting (Cambridge University Press, 2005), a coauthor of Political Bubbles: Financial Crises and the Failure of American Democracy (Princeton University Press, 2013), Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches (MIT Press, 2006), Ideology In Congress (Transaction Press 2007), and Congress: A Political-Economic History of Roll Call Voting (Oxford University Press, 1997).
He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2006. He has received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Carnegie-Bosch Foundation, and the Center for Political Economy.
Professor Poole has served on the editorial boards of Social Science Quarterly, Journal of Politics, American Journal of Political Science, and Legislative Studies Quarterly.