Research

Books

Conditionality and Coercion: Electoral Clientelism in Eastern Europe Joint with Isabela Mares. Forthcoming fall 2019, Oxford University Press.
Oxford UP | Abstract

In many recent democracies, candidates compete for office using illegal strategies to influence voters. In Hungary and Romania, local actors including mayors and bureaucrats offer access to social policy benefits to voters who offer to support their preferred candidates, and they threaten others with the loss of a range of policy and private benefits for voting the “wrong” way. These quid pro quo exchanges are often called clientelism. How can politicians and their accomplices get away with such illegal campaigning in otherwise democratic, competitive elections? When do they rely on the worst forms of clientelism that involve threatening voters and manipulating public benefits?

This book uses multiple methods, including large-scale surveys, survey experiments, and in-depth ethnography, to understand how illegal forms of campaigning including vote buying and electoral coercion persist in two democratic countries in the European Union. It argues that we must disaggregate clientelistic strategies based on whether they use public or private resources, and whether they involve positive promises or negative threats and coercion. We document that the type of clientelistic strategies that candidates and brokers use varies systematically across localities based on their underlying social coalitions. We also show that voters assess and sanction different forms of clientelism in different ways. Voters glean information about politicians’ personal characteristics and their policy preferences from the specific clientelistic strategies these candidates deploy.

Most voters judge candidates who use clientelism harshly. So how does clientelism, including its most odious coercive forms, persist in democratic systems? This book suggests that politicians can get away with clientelism by using forms of it that are in line with the policy preferences of constituencies whose votes they need. Clientelistic and programmatic strategies are not as distinct as previous scholars have argued. The extent to which different types of voters view candidates who use forms of clientelism that are superficially in line with their policy preferences helps explain where the worst forms of clientelism based on coercion occur.

Articles

Who dissents? Self efficacy and opposition action after state-sponsored election violence. Conditionally accepted, Journal of Peace Research.
Draft | Appendix | Pre-Analysis Plan | Abstract

Reactions to acts of state-sponsored election violence vary greatly across individuals and over time. This article develops a theory that the psychological characteristic of self efficacy moderates citizens’ reactions to state-sponsored election violence. I use data from an original survey and in-depth qualitative interviews with opposition supporters in Zimbabwe to illustrate and test this hypothesis. I find that self-efficacy is a strong predictor of intention to take action in support of the opposition after violence and is related to the emotional reactions that citizens have after violent events. Opposition supporters who are higher in self efficacy are also particularly likely to take action after more severe violent events. Self efficacy is a better predictor of reactions to repression than other prominent explanations in the literature including strength of party identification.

The psychology of state repression: Fear and dissent decisions in Zimbabwe. 2019. American Political Science Review 113(1), pp. 140-155. 
Article | Appendix | Replication Data | Pre-Analysis Plan | Abstract

Many authoritarian regimes use frightening acts of repression to suppress dissent. Theory from psychology suggests that emotions should affect how citizens perceive and process information about repression risk and ultimately whether or not they dissent. I test the effects of emotions on dissent in autocracy by running a lab-in-the-field experiment with 671 opposition supporters in Zimbabwe that randomly assigns some participants to an exercise that induces a mild state of fear, whereas others complete a neutral placebo. The fear treatment significantly reduces hypothetical and behavioral measures of dissent by substantively large amounts. It also increases pessimism about parameters that enter into the dissent decision as well as risk aversion. These results show that emotions interact in important ways with strategic considerations. Fear may be a powerful component of how unpopular autocrats exclude large portions of their populations from mobilizing for regime change.

Fear and citizen coordination against dictatorship. 2019. Joint with Abraham Aldama and Mateo Vasquez. Journal of Theoretical Politics 31(1): pp. 103-125. 
Abstract

Despite numerous studies showing that emotions influence political decision making, there is scant literature giving a formal treatment to this phenomenon. This paper formalizes insights about how fear influences participation in risky collective action such as citizen revolt against an autocratic regime. To do so we build a global game and analyze the effects that fear may have on participation through increasing pessimism about the regime’s strength, increasing pessimism about the participation of others in the revolution, and increasing risk aversion. We find that although the impact of the first two effects of fear is a clear reduction in the probability that people will mobilize, the effect that an increase in risk aversion may have is that under some circumstances fear is empowering and increases the probability with which citizens will mobilize. We conclude with a discussion of the conditions in which fear is likely to have such counter-intuitive mobilizing effects.

Varieties of clientelism in Hungarian elections. 2019. Joint with Isabela Mares. Comparative Politics 51(3), pp. 449-480.
Article | Abstract

In elections around the world, candidates seek to influence voters’ choices using a variety of intermediaries and by relying on either positive electoral inducements or coercive strategies. What explains candidates’ choices among different forms of clientelism? When do candidates incentivize voters using positive inducements and when do they choose coercive strategies? This article proposes a new typology of clientelism and tests two families of explanations for why candidates would choose to use state versus non-state brokers, and inducements versus coercion, as private incentives to voters. First, existing theory predicts that political conditions such as incumbency or co-partisanship with the national party should enable the use of public over private brokers and resources. In addition, we conjecture that clientelism carries programmatic signals, such that the choice between inducements and coercion depends on local political conditions. We test our predictions using a post-electoral survey fielded in 2014 in ninety rural Hungarian communities. We find little evidence that local political conditions are related to the choice between state versus non-state brokers, but significant support for the prediction that programmatic signals explain the choice between inducements and coercion.

The core voter’s curse: Clientelistic threats and promises in Hungarian elections. 2018. Joint with Isabela Mares. Comparative Political Studies 51(11), pp. 1441-1471.
Article | Appendix | Abstract

In elections around the world, voters are influenced not only by positive offers of gifts and favors, but also by the threat of negative sanctions for their individual electoral choices. Pre-electoral entitlements such as jobs, assets, and welfare create expectations of future access that brokers can use as powerful negative inducements at the moment of the vote. We argue that in conditions where ballot secrecy makes it difficult to monitor vote choices, brokers are likely to target core supporters with both pre-electoral entitlements and election-time threats. We refer to this counterintuitive logic as the “core voters’ curse.” We find evidence for this argument using an original household survey of 1,860 Hungarian citizens in 93 rural communities fielded shortly after the 2014 parliamentary election.

Cooperation, Information, and Keeping the Peace: Civilian Engagement with Peacekeepers in Haiti. 2017. Joint with Grant Gordon. Journal of Peace Research 54(1), pp. 64-79.
Article | Appendix | Replication Data | Abstract

Cultivating cooperation with local populations is crucial to peacekeeping effectiveness. Peacekeepers must generate cooperation in order to solicit information about local political actors, social networks and violence in order to overcome the asymmetries of operating in foreign and unfamiliar theaters. Under what conditions do local populations decide to cooperate with peacekeepers? How does exposure to peacekeeping security, relief, or abuse — three of the primary ways that local communities experience peacekeepers — affect the likelihood that local populations will provide information to peacekeepers? Using an original survey of a random sample of residents living in metropolitan Port-au-Prince, Haiti, we show that exposure to security and relief activities improves public opinion and is associated with substantial increases in the willingness to cooperate with peacekeepers whereas exposure to peacekeeping abuse dramatically undermines civilian attitudes and cooperation. Interestingly, while the impact of abuse is larger than that of security and relief activities in explaining beliefs, the impact of security and relief activities outweigh the effect of abuse in explaining cooperative behavior. These findings present an opportunity and challenge for peacekeepers: if public opinion and cooperation are strongly responsive to peacekeeper programming and policy, then peacekeepers must deliver services and prevent abuse in order to solicit the cooperation that they need to achieve their mandates.

Buying, expropriating and stealing votes. 2016. Joint with Isabela Mares. Annual Review of Political Science 19, pp. 267-288.
Article | Abstract

In elections around the world, large numbers of voters are influenced by promises or threats that are contingent on how they vote. Recently, the political science literature has made considerable progress in disaggregating clientelism along two dimensions: first, in recognizing the diversity of actors working as brokers, and second, in conceptualizing and disaggregating types of clientelism based on positive and negative inducements of different forms. In this review, we discuss recent findings explaining variation in the mix of clientelistic strategies across countries, regions, and individuals and identify a few areas for future progress, particularly in explaining variation in targeting of inducements by politicians on different types of voters.

Under Review

Social Origins of Dictatorship: Elite social networks and political transitions in Haiti. Joint with Suresh Naidu and James A. Robinson. Revision invited, American Political Science Review.
Draft | Appendix | Abstract

Existing theories of coups against democracy emphasize that elite incentives to mount a coup depend on the threat that democracy represents to them and what they stand to gain from dictatorship. But holding interests constant, some potential plotters, by the nature of their social networks, have much more influence over whether or not a coup succeeds. We develop a model of elite social networks and show that coup participation of an elite is increasing in their network centrality and results in rents during a dictatorship. We empirically explore the model using an original dataset of Haitian elite social networks which we linked to firm-level data on importing firms. We show that highly central families are more likely to participate in the 1991 coup against the democratic Aristide government. We then find that the retail prices of the staple goods imported by coup participators differentially increase during subsequent periods of non-democracy. Finally, we find that urban children born during periods of non-democracy are more likely to experience adverse health outcomes.

Mobilization under threat: An experimental test of opposition party strategies in a repressive regime.
Draft | Appendix | Pre-Analysis Plan | Abstract

Although participation in opposition politics carries significant risks for many citizens, large numbers consistently turn out to support opposition parties. Why do citizens mobilize against threatening regimes despite the risk of high personal costs? Through an experiment carried out by an opposition party in Zimbabwe, test whether campaign appeals to opposition supporters’ emotions affect their level of political participation in pro-opposition discussion groups. I find that across two different issues, randomly assigned anger appeals increase action on average by 0.38 standard deviations more than enthusiasm appeals with the same informational content. In real terms, this represents between 32% and 174% more participation in the groups assigned to the anger appeals across four different measures of participation. The effects may be strongest in areas with past repression. These results suggest that anger can be an important force for mobilizing political participation in repressive environments.

Anger and support for vigilante justice in Mexico’s drug war. Joint with Omar Garcia-Ponce and Thomas Zeitzoff.
Article | Appendix | Pre-Analysis Plan | Abstract

How does exposure to criminal violence shape attitudes towards justice? We argue that outrage after violence increases the demand for punitiveness, even at the expense of the rule of law. We test our theory using three observational and experimental studies based on an original face-to-face survey of 1,200 individuals in Western Mexico, a region affected by organized crime and vigilante violence. We show that individuals exposed to more violence are angrier and more supportive of punitive extrajudicial justice. Second, two experiments show that citizens are more supportive of harsh punishments, and place less value on their legality, for morally outrageous crimes. Third, the innocence of a crime’s victim has a stronger effect on anger and punitiveness than the severity of its violence. Our findings suggest that emotional reactions to criminal violence–particularly against civilians–can lead to cycles of retribution that undermine the rule of law and perpetuate violence.

Working Papers

Preying on the poor: The impact of repressive violence on citizen behavior.
Draft | Abstract

State repression, or the threat of violence by the state, is used in many countries by unpopular regimes to force citizens to act against their preferences. It is often assumed that repression is effective in shaping citizen behavior; however, there is enormous heterogeneity in how citizens respond both across countries and across individuals. I argue that repression is most effective against the poor, and that this effect is driven by both psychological and physical vulnerability. I test my theory using data from the case of Zimbabwe and two empirical strategies at the constituency and individual level that draw on random variation in economic scarcity and exposure to repressive violence. My results show that repression is more effective in shaping the behavior of citizens living in a state of economic scarcity. This suggests a new channel by which underdevelopment may be linked to authoritarian, non-responsive institutions.

Ongoing Projects

Analysis of Cycles of Retributive Violence. Joint with Thomas Zeitzoff, Omar Garcia-Ponce, and Hannah Baron.
Funded by the National Science Foundation.
Abstract

Punishing those who break the law and providing justice to victims is a fundamental duty of states. When citizens doubt the legitimacy of the state’s punishments, the ability to govern breaks down, which can lead to public support for vigilante justice and further erosion of support for the rule of law. This project analyzes the factors related to support for vigilante violence. This project studies the role that information and misconceptions as well as the role of emotion influence citizen support for harsh punishments.

Engaging theories from criminal justice, psychology, and political science, this study develops, tests, and implements interventions thought to shape citizen support for harsh punishments in Mexico. The study employs an experimental design to test different underlying reasons that citizens might support vigilante violence. A goal of this project is to identify policy interventions that reduce support for harsh and sometimes extrajudicial punishments and increase support for due process.

Fear and coordination. Joint with Abraham Aldama and Mateo Vasquez.
Funded by the Columbia Experimental Laboratory in the Social Sciences, the NYU Center for Experimental Social Science, and the International Federation for Experimental Economics.
Abstract

Despite numerous studies showing that emotions influence political decision making, there is scant literature giving a formal treatment this phenomenon. This paper is a step in providing a formal account of how emotions influence politics. In particular, we analyze the role of fear in the decision to join a protest against a repressive regime. To do so we build a global game and analyze the effects that fear may have through increasing pessimism about the regime’s strength, increasing pessimism about the participation of others in the protest, and increasing risk aversion. We fi nd that although the impact of the fi rst two effects of fear is a clear reduction in the probability that people will mobilize, the effect that an increase in risk aversion may have is that under some circumstances fear is empowering and increases the probability with which citizens will mobilize. These results may help explain why repression is empirically linked to both increases and decreases in protest.