Research Publications


This study examines whether politicians exhibit gender bias in responsiveness to constituents’ requests for public service delivery improvements in Uganda. We leverage an in-person survey experiment conducted with 333 subnational politicians, of which 1/3 are elected to women’s reserved seats. Politicians hear two constituents request improvements in staff absenteeism in their local school and health clinic and must decide how to allocate a fixed (hypothetical) budget between the two improvements. The voices of the citizens are randomly assigned to be (1) male-school, female-health, or (2) female-school, male-health. We find no evidence of gender bias toward men versus women, or toward same-gender constituents. This study expands on the mixed results of prior studies examining gender bias in politician responsiveness (typically over email) by adding a critical new case: a low-income context with women’s reserved seats.

    • Field Experiments: Thinking Through Identity and Positionality. 202X. PS: Political Science & Politics with Justine Davis Working Paper (Ungated)


Many scholars make thoughtful decisions about how identity and positionality can and should guide field experimental research. However, lessons learned are currently communicated informally. In this symposium inclusive of 30 scholars, we discuss how two unique features of field experiments can yield multifaceted considerations of identity and positionality for research quality and ethics. First, field experiments typically involve interventions aimed not only at testing social science hypotheses, but also at improving human welfare according to normative goals. Second, field experiments often involve many actors beyond principal investigators and research participants (e.g., policymakers, donors, governments, NGOs, and large research teams). Our introductory article includes an overview of identity and positionality issues in field experimental research, as well as multiple resources in an online appendix that can facilitate researchers’ projects, as well as classroom instruction: (1) a checklist for researchers, (2) class discussion questions, (3) an extended bibliography of helpful resources.

As part of a "lessons learned" book on field research, my chapter describes how field experimental research (increasing Malian National Public Radio through a radio distribution program) drastically changed over the course of the project due to forces of mother nature, on-the-ground investigation, and a military coup followed by a rebel insurgency. I also detail challenges to including women both as beneficiaries/respondents and as enumerators in this traditional rural context.


Why do some citizens in new democracies attach to parties while other do not? We investigate the determinants of partisanship in Africa by theorizing the role of parties' group mobilization tactics and testing our arguments alongside existing explanations from new democracies. First, using original data on candidate ethnicity, we evaluate a debate as to whether coethnicity with presidential and/or vice-presidential candidates is associated with greater partisanship. Contrary to traditional wisdom, we find no continent-wide relationship --- prominently-studied cases (e.g., Kenya, Ghana) may be falsely overgeneralized. Second, we propose that partisanship is more likely among rural citizens. We find robust, continent-wide support for this relationship, which we show is partially driven by citizens' links to traditional authorities, who often act as opinion leaders and/or brokers for parties. As in other new democracies, partisanship is positively associated with experience with multiparty democracy, the electoral cycle, age, male gender, and education.


Politicians shirk when their performance is obscure to constituents. We theorize that when politician performance information is disseminated early in the electoral term, politicians will subsequently improve their performance in anticipation of changes in citizens’ evaluative criteria and possible challenger entry in the next election. However, politicians may only respond in constituencies where opposition has previously mounted. We test these predictions in partnership with a Ugandan civil society organization in a multiyear field experiment conducted in 20 district governments between the 2011 and 2016 elections. While the organization published yearly job duty performance scorecards for all incumbents, it disseminated the scorecards to constituents for randomly selected politicians. These dissemination efforts induced politicians to improve performance across a range of measures, but only in competitive constituencies. Service delivery was unaffected. We conclude that, conditional on electoral pressure, transparency can improve politicians’ performance between elections but not outcomes outside of their control.

According to many prominent theorists of democracy, citizens must be able to “formulate and signify preferences” to participate as ‘political equals’ for democracy to work (Dahl, 1971). However, a gender gap in political knowledge and opinions exists across the Global South, especially in rural areas. In this paper, we study the relationship between rural women’s socioeconomic empowerment (household agency and mobility outside the village) and political knowledge and opinions in Mali, a West African country with patriarchal gender norms. To reduce well-known difficulties of gaining access to rural women and reducing bystander effects, we use simultaneous co-gender interviews of one man and one woman per extended family household and a modified Audio-Self-Administered Questionnaire for illiterate populations. Further to reduce “satisficed” opinions, we elicit opinion justifications and measure “justified opinions.” Consistent with predictions, we find that women’s empowerment is positively associated with rural women’s political knowledge and opinions. We close by examining opinions towards one controversial policy area with redistributive consequences for men and women—the Family Code, which regulates rights of men and women in marriage, inheritance, and the family. More empowered women are more likely to support pro-woman changes.

Elections are defining elements of democracy but occur infrequently. Given that elections evoke mass mobilization, we expect citizen attachments to political parties to wax during election season and wane in between. By leveraging data from 86 countries across the globe to investigate the effect of the electoral cycle on partisanship, we find that the predicted probability of being close to a political party rises 6 percentage points from cycle midpoint to an election—an effect rivaling traditional key determinants of partisanship. Further, fluctuations are larger where the persistence of party presence throughout the cycle is weaker and socioeconomic development is lower. These findings challenge the discipline to introduce dynamic political events into the study of partisanship, alongside “static” individual-level and country-level determinants. Additionally, presumed cross-country or temporal differences in mass partisanship levels, long used as indicators of democratic consolidation or party system institutionalization, may be confounded by electoral cycle effects.

Political scientists are fielding more and more surveys in the developing world. Yet, most survey research methodology derives from experiences in developed countries. Researchers working in the developing world often confront very different challenges to collecting high-quality data. Census data may be unreliable or outdated, enumerators may shirk, political topics may be sensitive, and respondents may be unaccustomed to and uncomfortable with an interview format. In this article, we review both published methodological research and the best practices of scholars based on an original expert survey of survey researchers. We characterize the state of the field and provide insights about the range of available options for implementing surveys in the developing world. We examine and assess innovations across many aspects of survey implementation, including sampling, enumeration, data collection, ethical considerations, and reporting. We also offer suggestions for future methodological inquiry and for greater research transparency.

As scholars conducting research in the Global South, we "collect'' the insights, opinions, and behaviors of those we study for scholarly publication and teaching outputs. Our audiences, however, are often limited to other scholars or students at universities in the Global North rather than the communities we study. In organizing the symposium "Whose Research Is It? Notable Ways Political Scientists Impact the Communities We Study," I prompt fellow comparative politics scholars with a quote from Linda Tuhiwai Smith's 2012 book (p10): ``Whose research is it? Who owns it? Whose interests does it serve? Who will benefit from it? Who has designed its questions and framed its scope? Who will carry it out? Who will write it up? How will its results be disseminated?" This introduction to the symposium frames and synthesizes the authors' discussion of whether, how, and why we should (not) involve or impact the communities we study, as well as the (lack of) professional incentives to do so.

Poor public service provision and government accountability is commonplace in low-income countries. Although mobile phone-based platforms have emerged to allow constituents to report service deficiencies to government officials, they have been plagued by low citizen participation. We question whether low participation may root in low political efficacy to politically participate. In the context of a text-message reporting platform in Uganda, we investigate the impact of adding efficacy-boosting language to mobilization texts - (a) citizen name personalization and (b) politician encouragement - on citizens' willingness to report service deficiencies to politicians via text messages. Both treatments, designed to increase internal and external efficacy, respectively, have a large, positive effect on participation. The results are driven by traditionally less internally efficacious constituents (females and less externally efficacious constituents (those represented by opposition party members), respectively.

Investigating the effect of media on citizens directly in the wake of a non-democratic regime transition has remained elusive. In this study, we examine the effect of putschist-controlled broadcasting in the wake of the 2012 coup and separatist insurgency in Mali. We leverage a field experiment of a radio (versus flashlight) distribution program located in an area where citizens only receive state-run radio as a form of mass media. Reflecting a typical regime transition strategy, the putschists led a campaign promoting nationalism and attempting to legitimize their rule. We find that, while radio exposure boosted national identity salience and willingness to delay elections, it did not elevate explicit approval for the junta. This study implies that we should revise expectations somewhat downwards regarding the power of non-democratic regimes to win approval using state broadcasting, even while such broadcasting may be effective in impacting citizens' attitudes and identity.

Does political competition exacerbate economic discrimination between citizens on ethnic or partisan cleavages? Individuals often discriminate on group lines in ordinary economic activities, especially in low-income settings. Political competition, and thus mobilization of partisan and ethnic groups, waxes and wanes over the electoral cycle. This study therefore investigates discrimination over the electoral cycle in a commonplace yet consequential economic activity: market price bargaining. By conducting field experiments on taxi fare bargaining at three points in time around Ghana’s 2008 election, the research reveals that drivers accept lower prices from coethnics regardless of temporal proximity to the election. However, only at election time, drivers accept lower prices from copartisans and demand higher prices from noncopartisans. In sum, political competition affects commonplace economic transactions between citizens on the partisan cleavage. This study is the first to show evidence of interpartisan discrimination in everyday behavior and expands our knowledge of electoral cycle effects.

In 2012, Mali faced a dual state breakdown disrupting nearly 20 years of democratization - a coup and secessionist insurgency. This paper provides the perspectives of rural Malians living on the border of state and rebel-controlled territory. Our main finding is that villagers redefined “the crisis” as one of unmet need for public services and infrastructure. State breakdown matters less where the state is not present in the first place. The salience of villagers’ concerns about public services and infrastructure are echoed in cross-national Afrobarometer data (2012-2013) on public service provision across rural and urban citizens. In nearly all sub-Saharan African countries, the urban-rural gap is large, absolute levels of rural provision low, and countries inconsistent in provision across indicators. We conclude by drawing implications of weak state public service and infrastructure provision in rural areas for democratic citizenship.


Read our Monkey Cage opEd on the Malian coup and insurgency, or view Messages our respondents recorded to send to President Obama

Despite the economic turmoil of the time, a typical study of vote choice in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election would (falsely) find little evidence that voters' opinions about the future state of the economy affected their vote choice. We argue that this misleading conclusion results from serious measurement error in the standard prospective economic evaluations survey question. Relying instead on a revised question, included for the first time in the 2008 American National Election Study, we find that most respondents condition their prospective economic evaluations on potential election outcomes, and that these evaluations are an important determinant of vote choice. A replication in a very different political context - the 2008 Ghanaian election - yields similar results.

  • Innovations in Experimental Design: Lessons from 'Get Out the (Free And Fair) Vote' in Africa The Experimental Political Scientist 1(1): 11-16. Paper

Violence. Vote-Buying. Ballot Fraud. The question isn't so much how to get people to turn out to vote in sub-Saharan Africa. The question is more how to get citizens to turn out of their own free will, cast votes for parties that haven't just offered wads of cash for them, or be confident that their ballots weren't destroyed in an effort to manufacture a more *favorable* result. This review highlights a set of field experimental interventions aimed at getting out the free and fair vote in three recent elections in sub-Saharan Africa. Not only does this research represent a huge break into large and substantively uncharted waters, but we can also learn from some clever design and measurement techniques employed by the authors.