Conditionality and Coercion: Electoral Clientelism in Eastern Europe With Isabela Mares. 2019. Oxford University Press.
– Winner, APSA Political Economy Section William H. Riker Book Award 2020
– Winner, APSA European Politics and Society Section Book Award 2021
– Honorable Mention, APSA Comparative Politics Section Gregory Luebbert Book Award 2020
Oxford UP | Amazon | 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.


Moral reasoning and support for punitive violence: A multi-methods analysis. With Hannah Baron, Omar García-Ponce, Jorge Olmos Camarillo, and Thomas Zeitzoff. Funded by the National Science Foundation. Forthcoming, Journal of Peace Research. 
Draft | Appendix | Abstract

How do people who live in communities plagued by criminal violence and weak rule of law decide how to respond to crime? How and why do they support physical punishments, including extrajudicial violence and torture? Much of the recent literature has argued that retributive violence is counterproductive, and driven by deontological forms of moral reasoning that emphasize the appropriateness of an action regardless of its consequences. In this article, we draw on in-depth qualitative interviews to understand whether patterns of moral reasoning can explain why individuals support violent responses to crime. We analyze 62 semi-structured interviews with individuals living in the Mexican state of Michoacan, an area affected by criminal and vigilante violence. We use both a quantitative analysis of unique crime events discussed in the interviews to identify correlations between moral reasoning and punishment preferences, and a qualitative content analysis to investigate mechanisms and identify new hypotheses. We find that counter to prevailing theory, deontological moral reasoning is not predictive of support for harsh punishments, while consequentialist consideration of costs and benefits is. These results cast doubt on deontological theories of support for violence and illustrate some of the merits of multi-methods research.

Promoting reproducibility and replicability in political science. With Abel Brodeur, Kevin Esterling, Jörg Ankel-Peters, Natália Bueno, Scott Desposato, Anna Dreber, Federica Genovese, Donald Green, Matthew Hepplewhite, Fernando Hoces de la Guardia, Magnus Johannesson, Andreas Kotsadam, Edward Miguel, and Yamil Velez. 2024. Research and Politics.

Article | Abstract

This article reviews and summarizes current reproduction and replication practices in political science. We first provide definitions for reproducibility and replicability. We then review data availability policies for 28 leading political science journals and present the results from a survey of editors about their willingness to publish comments and replications. We discuss new initiatives that seek to promote and generate high-quality reproductions and replications. Finally, we make the case for standards and practices that may help increase data availability, reproducibility, and replicability in political science.

Repression and dissent in moments of uncertainty: Panel data evidence from Zimbabwe. With Adrienne LeBas. 2023. American Political Science Review.
Article | Pre-Print | Appendix | Replication Package | Abstract

State repression and protest are common in modern authoritarian and hybrid regimes, yet individual responses to these events are not well understood. This article draws on unique panel data from the months spanning Zimbabwe’s 2018 election, which we view as a moment of uncertainty for most Zimbabwean citizens. Using a difference-in-difference estimator, we assess change in individual protest intentions following exposure to repression and dissent, and we assess three individual-level mechanisms hypothesized to drive responses. We find evidence that exposure to local repression and dissent are mobilizing among opposition supporters and non-partisans. Analysis of potential mechanisms suggest that the effects of exposure to dissent may be driven by information updating, while relational and emotional mechanisms seem to drive backlash against repression, despite increased perceptions of risk. We find no evidence of counter-mobilization by ruling party supporters, and little effect of exposure to contentious events over social media.

An Experimental Test of the Effects of Fear in a Coordination Game. With Abraham Aldama, Deshawn Sambrano, and Mateo Vasquez. 2023. Journal of Experimental Political Science.
Article | Pre-Print | Appendix | Replication Materials | Pre-Analysis Plan | Abstract

Theory predicts that emotions should affect political decisions around risky collective action. However, little existing research has attempted to parse out various mechanisms by which emotions might affect collective action. We build a global game of regime change and discuss the effects that fear may have on participation through pessimism about the state of the world, other players’ willingness to participate, and risk aversion. We test the behavioral effects of fear in this game using a lab experiment where participants are randomly assigned to an emotion induction procedure. In some rounds of the game, potential mechanisms are shut down to parse their relative contribution to the overall effect of fear. We present results from 32 sessions in two different labs showing that in this context fear actually does not affect willingness to participate. This null fi nding highlights the importance of context, including integral versus incidental emotions and the size of the stakes, in shaping their effects.

Mobilization under threat: An experimental test of opposition party strategies in a repressive regime. 2023. Political Behavior 45(2): 445-468.
Article (Open Access) | Appendix | Pre-Analysis Plan | Replication Package | Abstract

Large numbers of people living under authoritarian governments participate in pro-opposition politics despite sometimes significant risks. Increasing amounts of this political participation are taking place and being organized online. Do emotions play a causal role in inducing pro-opposition participation in authoritarian regimes? Can emotions that mobilize participation be spread via social media? Through an experiment carried out by an opposition party in Zimbabwe, I test whether campaign appeals to opposition supporters’ emotions affect their level of political participation in online pro-opposition discussions. I find that across two different issue areas, randomly assigned anger appeals increase participation on average by 0.4 standard deviations more than enthusiasm appeals with the same informational content. In real terms, this represents between 30% and 170% more participation in the groups assigned to the anger appeals across four different measures of participation. There is little evidence that these effects are stronger in areas with less poverty or that have historically been affected by more violence, or when coupled with messages emphasizing personal power. These results suggest that anger appeals that highlight economic grievances can be an important force for mobilizing online political participation in repressive environments.

Anger and support for vigilante justice in Mexico’s drug war. With Omar García-Ponce and Thomas Zeitzoff. 2023. Journal of Peace Research 60(2): 274–290.
Article (Open Access) | Appendix | Pre-Analysis Plan | Media: PVG | 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.

From principles to practice: Methods for increasing the transparency of research ethics in violent contexts. With Hannah Baron. 2022. Political Science Research & Methods 10: 840-847.
Article (Open Access) | Pre-Print | Replication Package | Abstract

There has been a proliferation of research with human participants in violent contexts over the past 20 years. In contexts of violence, it is particularly important and difficult to adhere to commonly held ethical principles such as beneficence, justice, and respect for persons. This note argues that practices around adhering to ethical principles in violent contexts should be reported more transparently in research outputs, and should be seen as a subset of research methods. We offer practical suggestions and some preliminary empirical evidence from our research on violence in Zimbabwe and Mexico around risk assessments, mitigating the risk of distress and negative psychological outcomes, informed consent, and monitoring the incidence of potential risks.

Social Origins of Dictatorship: Elite social networks and political transitions in Haiti. With Suresh Naidu and James A. Robinson. 2021. American Political Science Review, 115(3): 900-916.
Article (Open Access) | Appendix | Replication Package | Abstract

Existing theories of democratic reversals emphasize that elites mount actions like coups when democracy is particularly threatening to their interests. However, existing theory has been largely silent on the role of elite social networks, which interact with economic incentives and may facilitate anti-democratic collective action. We develop a model where coups generate rents for elites and show that the effort an elite puts into a coup is increasing in their network centrality. We empirically explore the model using an original dataset of Haitian elite networks which we linked to firm-level data. We show that central families were more likely to be accused of participating in the 1991 coup against the democratic Aristide government. We then find that the retail prices of staple goods imported by such elites differentially increase during subsequent periods of non-democracy. Our results suggest that elite social structure is an important factor in democratic reversals.

Who dissents? Self efficacy and opposition action after state-sponsored election violence. 2020. Journal of Peace Research 57(1): 62-76.
Pre-Print | Article | Appendix | Pre-Analysis Plan | Replication Package | Abstract

Reactions to acts of state-sponsored election violence and other forms of repression vary greatly across individuals and over time. This article develops a theory that the psychological characteristic of self-efficacy moderates opposition supporters’ 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 theory. Self-efficacy is a strong predictor of intention to take action in support of the opposition after episodes of state-sponsored election violence and is related to the emotional reactions that opposition supporters have after violent events. Specifically, people who are higher in self-efficacy report that they would feel more anger relative to fear after episodes of state-sponsored election violence. The relationship between self-efficacy and persistence in pro-opposition action after violence is similar in magnitude to variables that the existing literature argues are the most important predictors of dissent in repressive environments, including strength of identification with the opposition and gender. These results provide empirical support for the assumption in many collective action theories that psychological characteristics create variation in dissent in repressive environments. Understanding how individual psychological differences can shape reactions to coercive violence may help explain why forms of repression like state-sponsored election violence have such unpredictable effects on subsequent pro-opposition mobilization.

The psychology of state repression: Fear and dissent decisions in Zimbabwe. 2019. American Political Science Review 113(1): 140-155.
Pre-Print | Article | Appendix | Replication Data | Pre-Analysis Plan | Media: Washington Post | 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. With Abraham Aldama and Mateo Vasquez. 2019. Journal of Theoretical Politics 31(1): 103-125.

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. With Isabela Mares. 2019. Comparative Politics 51(3): 449-480.
Article | Replication Data | 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. With Isabela Mares. 2018. Comparative Political Studies 51(11): 1441-1471.
Pre-Print | Article | Appendix | Replication Data | 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. With Grant Gordon. 2017. Journal of Peace Research 54(1): 64-79.
Pre-Print | Article | Appendix | Replication Data | Media: Global Observatory | 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. With Isabela Mares. 2016. Annual Review of Political Science 19: 267-288.
Pre-Print | 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.

Working Papers

Preying on the poor: The impact of repressive violence on citizen behavior. With Laurel Yacuta.
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.

The limits of deliberation: A field experiment on criminal justice preferences in Mexico. With Hannah Baron, Omar Garcia-Ponce, and Thomas Zeitzoff. Funded by the National Science Foundation.

Harsh and even extrajudicial punishments for crimes are highly popular around the world, despite significant academic literature suggesting that they are ineffective. Do citizens reduce their support for harsh punishments when given the chance to deliberate on crime responses in an information rich and emotionally-aware environment? This study experimentally tests whether two versions of a citizen deliberation process affect support for harsh punishments in the immediate and medium term with a sample of 748 residents of the Mexican city of Morelia. The results show that deliberation does not reduce support for harsh punishments, and may even increase it. Support for harsh punishments is thus unlikely to be driven by information gaps or undesired emotional responses to crime, and may be better addressed with structural rather than behavioral interventions.

Ongoing Projects

Understanding voter registration in a hybrid regime: A field experiment in Zimbabwe. With Chipo Dendere. Funded by USAID-Zimbabwe via the National Democratic Institute.

Voters in hybrid regimes like Zimbabwe face numerous reasons not to turn out to vote. The costs of voting in terms of time and money can be high, particularly for voters who are not already registered. Additionally, voters are often fearful that they might face violence or the loss of benefits if they are seen engaging in activities that could influence the outcome of the election. On the other hand, voters perceive few instrumental reasons to cast a vote because the outcome is believed to be decided in favor of the ruling party. This research evaluates two programs coordinated by the National Democratic Institute’s Harare office via a consortium of 13 civil society organizations that work with under-represented populations in Zimbabwe, particularly women and youth. The two programs test whether CSO programming to encourage voter registration by activating social incentives to vote can overcome the significant barriers to electoral participation. The interventions will be fielded in the summer of 2022.

A global analysis of the targeting and effects of election violence. With Marika Miner. Funded by the Hellman Fellowship.

According to NELDA data, one in five elections between 1990 and 2015 was characterized by regime use of repression, mostly perpetrated by incumbents, and one in seven elections were followed by protests or riots. As elections have spread around the world since the end of the Cold War, an increasing amount of repression is taking place in the context of elections where the incumbent is unwilling to give up power. This project attempts to use new global data on election violence and electoral outcomes to understand how context affects where election violence occurs, and how it affects electoral outcomes. It complements the growing body of single-country case studies that have added considerably to our understanding of how electoral repression works (and often backfires) in contemporary regimes. It attempts to better accumulate knowledge across cases and add to our understanding of when and where electoral repression is likely to occur.

The causes and effects of lynchings in Mexico. With Hannah Baron and Sandra Ley.
Funded by the US MEXUS and Conacyt.

Mob-based vigilante violence, commonly called lynchings, is frequent in Mexico and other countries where crime is prevalent and trust in the state is low. This joint research project seeks to fill a gap in our knowledge about lynchings in Mexico. The first goal is descriptive: we will produce a comprehensive, transparent, and verifiable public dataset of mob violence in Mexico between 2009 and 2019 using local media reports. We will also validate the data through in-depth case studies to assess the prevalence of 1) cases of actual lynchings that the local media misses, and 2) reported cases that include false information. The second goal of the project is analytical: we will use the new lynching data to better understand the causes and effects of mob-based vigilante violence. Do lynchings actually lead to reductions in crime at the local level? What predicts where lynchings are most likely to occur? Our fine-grained data, combined with other administrative data on violence, economic shocks, political control, and local state capacity, among other factors, will enable us to provide new insights for both an academic and policy audience.

EGAP Metaketa V: Women’s Political Participation in Hybrid Regimes. Steering committee member with Susan Hyde, Eddy Malesky, Alex Coppock, and Mathias Poertner.

How can women be better mobilized to participate in consultative processes that might improve public service provision? The fifth EGAP Metaketa round seeks to answer this question by coordinating five research projects in diverse contexts that assess whether an intensive treatment designed to kick-start the social psychological processes believed to underlie collective action might affect the type and level of political participation of marginalized women.

This Metaketa round was launched in Fall 2018 and will run until 2025. This round awarded five projects—one each in Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Vietnam—ranging in funding from $250,000 to $300,000. All of the projects use common interventions that include a placebo treatment and a treatment arm that uses multiple facilitated group sessions to increase the collective efficacy and jumpstart political participation of women’s group members.