working papers

Can low-cost, scalable, online intervention increase youth informed political participation in electoral authoritarian contexts?(with Romain Ferrali, Horacio Larreguy)
2022. drawing

Abstract Young citizens in many democracies, and more so in electoral autocracies, turn out to vote at relatively low rates. Low youth participation arguably contributes to political parties' tendency to de-prioritize the youth's policy preferences. We analyze the effect of three low-cost, scalable, theoretically-grounded, online interventions designed to encourage young Moroccans to turn out and cast an informed vote ahead of the 2021 parliamentary elections. Those interventions aimed at (1) lowering the cost of participation by providing information about the voting registration process, (2) increasing the expected benefit of voting by providing information about the stakes of the election, and about (3) the distance between respondents’ policy preferences and political parties' policy platforms. We find that while all three interventions failed to increase youth turnout on average, the two treatments designed to increase expected benefits increased turnout intentions for likely "compliers:" those who, prior to treatment assignment, were unsure about whether to vote. Moreover, providing information about parties' policy platforms durably increased their support for the party that best represented their preferences, ultimately leading to better-informed voting. Consistent with probabilistic voting models with voting costs, the effect of the party-platforms treatment is concentrated among those who rated the party that our treatment deemed most congruent from a policy perspective as one of their two favorite parties. Contributing to information processing theories, we also find that party updating followed a form of motivated reasoning even in a context with weak party institutionalization.


Turnout Turnaround: Ethnic Minority Victories Mobilize White Voters(with Stephanie Zonszein)
2022. drawing

Abstract In many countries, the number of ethnic minority representatives has been steadily increasing. How is such a trend shaping electoral behavior? Past work has generally focused on the political engagement of ethnic minorities as a response to having a co-ethnic on the ballot. In contrast, less attention has been devoted to assessing whether an ethnic minority incumbent shapes the electoral behavior of majority-group members. We argue that increased political representation of minorities can be experienced as an external threat to a historically white dominant political context. This in turn may politically activate white constituents aiming to revert their (perceived) disempowerment. We test this argument employing a novel dataset that characterizes candidates' ethnicity, covering four UK Parliamentary general elections, and a regression discontinuity design of close elections between ethnic minority and majority-group candidates. Comparing constituencies that are otherwise identical, except for being represented by a minority Member of Parliament (MP), we find that an MP's ethnicity matters for electoral participation: turnout in constituencies narrowly represented by an ethnic minority MP is 3.6 percentage points larger than in constituencies narrowly represented by a white MP. Consistent with our argument, we find that such difference in turnout is driven by majority-white constituencies, and that voters in these constituencies choose the party of the minority incumbent’s strongest white opponent. However, this dynamic does not overpower minorities' incumbency advantage, but it contributes to polarizing the electorate along ethnic lines. Our findings have important implications for intergroup relations, political behavior, and recent political dynamics more broadly.


Oil discoveries and political windfalls: Evidence on presidential support in Uganda.(with Laura Paler, Jeremy Springman, Jan Pierskalla)
Political Science Research and Methods, 2022, Revise & Resubmit. drawing drawing

Abstract Oil discoveries, paired with delays in production, have created a new phenomenon: sustained post-discovery, pre-production periods. While research on the resource curse has debated the effects of oil on governance and conflict, less is known about the political effects of oil discoveries absent production. Using comprehensive electoral data from Uganda and a difference-in-difference design with heterogeneous effects, we show that oil discoveries increased electoral support for the incumbent chief executive in localities proximate to discoveries, even prior to production. Moreover, the biggest effects occurred in localities that were historically most electorally competitive. Overall, we show that the political effects of oil discoveries vary subnationally depending on local political context and prior to production, with important implications for understanding the roots of the political and conflict curses.


Inclusive Refugee-Hosting in Uganda Improves Local Development and Prevents Public Backlash.(with Yang-Yang Zhou, Shuning Ge)
Policy Research working paper, 2022, no. WPS 9981 Washington, D.C. : World Bank Group. drawing

Abstract Large arrivals of refugees raise concerns about potential tensions with host communities, particularly if refugees are viewed as an out-group competing for limited material resources and crowding out public services. To address this concern, calls have increased to allocate humanitarian aid in ways that (also) benefit host communities. This study empirically tests whether the presence of refugees in Uganda (one of the largest refugee-hosting countries) has improved public service delivery, and consequently, dampened potential social conflict. The data com- bines geospatial information on refugee settlements with unique longitudinal data on primary and secondary schools, road density, health clinics, and health utilization. This study reports two key findings. First, particularly after the 2014 arrival of over 1 million South Sudanese refugees, host communities with greater levels of refugee presence experienced substantial improvements in local development. Second, using public opinion data, we find no evidence that refugee presence is associated with more negative (or positive) attitudes towards migrants or migration policy.


Voted In, Standing Out: Public Response to Immigrants’ Political Accession.(with Stephanie Zonszein)
IPL Working Paper Series, 2021. drawing drawing

Abstract What is the reaction of the host society to immigrants’ political integration? We argue that when they win political office, immigrants pose a threat to natives’ dominant position, triggering hostility from a violent-prone fringe, the mass public and the elites. We test these dynamics across UK general elections, using hate crime police records, public opinion data, and text data from over 500,000 newspaper articles. We identify the public’s reactions with a regression discontinuity design of close elections between minority-immigrant and dominant group candidates. Our findings suggest a public backlash against ethnic minority immigrants’ integration into majority settings.


When Refugee Exposure Increases Incumbent Support through Development: Evidence from Uganda.(with Yang-Yang Zhou)
2022. drawing drawing

Abstract In higher-income democracies, studies have found that refugee shocks cause voters to punish incumbents and turn to far-right parties. Yet there is a dearth of studies on the electoral consequences of refugee-hosting in low-income countries, where most refugees reside. Combining information on refugee settlements with four waves of national elections data in Uganda, we find that a one standard deviation increase in refugee presence leads to a 7.4 percentage point increase in incumbent support. Original longitudinal data on healthcare, schools, and roads coupled with national survey data suggest that the mechanism is positive externalities of refugee-hosting on local public goods.


Can Community Policing Improve Police-Community Relations in an Authoritarian Regime? Evidence from Uganda.(with Rob Blair, Anna Wilke)
2021. drawing

Abstract Throughout the developing world, citizens distrust the police and hesitate to bring crimes to their attention — a suboptimal equilibrium that makes it difficult for the police to effectively combat crime and violence. Community policing has been touted as one solution to this problem, but evidence on its efficacy in developing country contexts is sparse. We present results from a large-scale field experiment that randomly assigned a home-grown community policing intervention to police stations throughout rural Uganda. Drawing on administrative crime data and close to 4,000 interviews with citizens, police officers, and local authorities, we show that community policing had limited effects on core outcomes such as crime, insecurity, and perceptions of the police. We attribute these findings to a combination of turnover, treatment non-compliance, and resource constraints. Our study draws attention to the limits of community policing’s potential to reduce crime and build trust in the developing world.


The Electoral Consequences of Cellphone Coverage Expansion.(with Shuning Ge, Katrina Kosec, Apoorva Lal, Benjamin Laughlin)
2021. drawing

Abstract We study the electoral effects of cellphone coverage expansion in Ghana between 2004 and 2008 using a difference-in-differences design and find that it benefits incumbents in both presidential and parliamentary elections, with gains in the latter concentrated among incumbents from the ruling party. This appears to be due to cellphone coverage expansion improving citizens’ wealth and faith in the economy as opposed to their perceptions of government performance or political knowledge.


Gender Gap in Politician Performance and its Determinants.(with Ana Garcia-Hernandez, Kristin Michelitch)
2022. drawing drawing

Abstract Women politicians face barriers that can undermine their performance relative to men. Using original micro-data from Uganda, we test for gender gaps in performance across different job duties in subnational legislatures. We hypothesize, and find, that performance gender gaps are greatest in job duties that require greater peer interaction (legislative duties), while no such gaps exist in more individually-performed duties (e.g., meeting with the electorate, facilitating constituency development). Fine-grained net- work data reveals women’s informal exclusion in politician networks, and this exclusion holds explanatory power in explaining job duties requiring interaction with fellow politicians. Further, qualifications and previous experience also determine part of the gender performance gap in more intricate tasks. Moving forward, advocacy organizations may consider holding trainings and simulations with politicians on performing job duties in ways that encourage cross-gender professional network ties.