- Electoral Cycle Fluctuations in Partisanship: Global Evidence from 86 Counties. forthcoming. Journal of Politics
Elections are defining elements of democracy, but occur only infrequently. Given elections evoke mass mobilization, we expect citizen attachments to political parties to wax during election season and wane in-between. This research leverages data from 86 countries across the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Europe to investigate the effect of the electoral cycle on partisanship. Globally, the predicted probability of being close to a political party drops 6 percentage points from Election Day to cycle midpoint and subsequently rises 6 percentage points to the next Election Day. Fluctuations are larger in newer democracies and where elections are not free and fair. 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 partisanship, long used as indicators of democratic consolidation or party system institutionalization, may be confounded by electoral cycle effects.
- Texting Complaints to Politicians: Name Personalization and Politicians' Encouragement in Citizen Mobilization. forthcoming. Comparative Political Studies. with Guy Grossman and Marta Santamaria Paper Online Appendix
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 taxifare 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 non-copartisans. In sum, political competition affects commonplace economic transactions between citizens on the partisan cleavage. This study is the first to show evidence for 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.