My research engages with topics in political behavior, political economy, and political psychology. Substantively, my dissertation research and related projects examine the influence of past violence – resulting from interstate wars, civil conflicts, forced migrations, and genocide – on subsequent attitudes, behaviors, and institutions. Beyond the dissertation, I investigate the shorter-term political consequences of traumatic experiences like deterioration in individual health and public health crises. My work also examines the historical roots of contemporary economic and political development and the persuasiveness of rhetorical appeals to the past.
Does Health Vulnerability Predict Voting for Right-Wing Populist Parties in Europe?
with Nolan M. Kavanagh and Justin E. Heinze (Featured on the Monkey Cage)
Published online: 26 April 2021, American Political Science Review
Why do voters in developed democracies support right-wing populist parties? Existing research focuses on economic and cultural vulnerability as driving this phenomenon. We hypothesize that perceptions of personal health vulnerability might have a similar effect on voters. To test this argument, we analyze all waves of the European Social Survey (2002–2018). Our findings suggest that voters with worse self-reported health were significantly more likely to vote for right-wing populist parties. This relationship persists even after accounting for measures of cultural and economic vulnerability, as well as voters’ satisfaction with both their personal lives and their country’s health system. The influence of health on support for populist parties appears to be greater than that of education and self-reported economic insecurity, while lesser than that of income and attitudes about immigrants. Our findings suggest that policies affecting public health could shape not only health outcomes but also the political landscape.
Pre-Colonial Warfare and Long-Run Development in India
with Mark Dincecco, James Frank, and Shivaji Mukherjee
Published online: 16 November 2021, The Economic Journal
Does pre-colonial history – and in particular the role of interstate warfare – help explain long-run development patterns across India? To address this question, we construct a new geocoded database of historical conflicts on the Indian subcontinent. We document a robust positive relationship between pre-colonial conflict exposure and local economic development today. Drawing on archival and secondary data, we show that districts that were more exposed to pre-colonial conflict experienced greater early state-making, followed by lower political violence and higher investments in physical and human capital in the long term.
Understanding Vaccine Hesitancy in the Context of COVID-19: The Role of Trust and Confidence in a Seventeen-Country Survey
with Allen Hicken, Pauline Jones, Laura Rozek, and Elizabeth J. King (Featured on the Monkey Cage)
Published online: 14 May 2021, International Journal of Public Health
An effective vaccine to SARS-CoV-2 is essential to controlling the current pandemic. However, it cannot be successfully deployed if a significant number of people worldwide are unwilling to accept it. We draw on recent research suggesting that there is a strong relationship between trust in scientists and medical professionals and perceptions of vaccine safety and effectiveness. We also build on past studies by exploring the relationship between confidence in global, national, and local health organizations and vaccine hesitancy. We conducted an online survey in seventeen countries/territories across five world regions between May 21, 2020 and June 24, 2020. Questions were designed to assess COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, confidence in public health organizations, and trust in key experts and leaders. A total of 17,158 surveys were completed. Our findings strongly suggest that confidence in the World Health Organization (WHO) combined with trust in scientists and domestic healthcare professionals is a strong driver of vaccine acceptance across multiple countries/territories. Survey respondents who expressed a lot of confidence in the WHO were almost three times less likely to express vaccine hesitancy compared to those who expressed no confidence in the WHO. Our global survey indicates that vaccine hesitancy is widespread and uptake is likely insufficient to achieve herd immunity. Our findings highlight that there is widespread confidence in how public health organizations, including the WHO, have responded to the current pandemic and that this is related to vaccine acceptance. Our results also highlight the important role of trust in domestic health care providers and scientists in reducing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy.
Global Adoption of Personal and Social Mitigation Behaviors during COVID-19: The Role of Trust & Confidence
with Allen Hicken, Pauline Jones, and Laura Rozek
Published online: 8 September 2021, PLOS ONE
What influences the adoption of SARS-CoV-2 mitigation behaviors – both personal, such as mask wearing and frequent handwashing, and social, such as avoiding large gatherings and physical contact – across countries? Understanding why some individuals are more willing to change their behavior to mitigate the spread of a pandemic will not only help us to address the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic but also to respond to future ones. Researchers have pointed to a variety of factors that may influence individual adoption of personal and social mitigation behaviors, including social inequality, risk perception, personality traits, and government policies. While not denying the importance of these factors, we argue that the role of trust and confidence has received insufficient attention to date. Our study explores whether there is a difference in the way trust and confidence in particular leaders and organizations affect individual compliance and whether this effect is consistent across different types of mitigation behaviors. Specifically, we utilize an original cross-national survey conducted during the first wave of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (May-June 2020) to investigate how trust in scientists, medical professionals, politicians, and religious leaders and confidence in global, national, and local health organizations affects individual compliance in 16 countries/territories across five world regions. Our analyses, which control for the aforementioned factors as well as several others, suggest that trust in politicians and confidence in national health ministries have the most consistent influence on whether individuals adopt both personal and social mitigation behaviors. Across our sample, we find that greater trust in politicians is associated with lower levels of individual compliance with public health directives, whereas greater confidence in the national health ministry is associated with higher levels of individual compliance. Our findings suggest the need to understand trust and confidence as among the most important individual level characteristics driving compliance when developing and delivering messaging about the adoption of mitigation behaviors. The content of the message, it seems, will be most effective when citizens across countries trust its source. Trusted sources, such as politicians and the national health ministry, should thus consider working closely together when determining and communicating recommended health behaviors to avoid contradicting one another.
Trust in Religious Leaders & Voluntary Compliance: Lessons from Social Distancing during COVID-19 in Central Asia
with Pauline Jones
Published online: 8 September 2021, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion
What is the relationship between trust in religious leaders and compliance with policies costly to the individual? Religious leaders often have the moral authority to affect individuals’ willingness to adopt pro-social behaviors. Yet, that influence can be either positive or negative because religious leaders face mixed incentives to encourage compliance and their leadership is often decentralized. We argue that greater trust in religious leaders will increase compliance in countries with a dominant religion and centralized religious authority because religious leaders will offer a coherent message that aligns with state directives. We test our hypotheses using data from surveys fielded in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan during the COVID-19 pandemic. We find a positive and significant relationship between trust and voluntary compliance only in Kazakhstan, where religious leaders reduced the costs of compliance by enabling adherents to practice their faith while social distancing. We thus identify an alternative mechanism whereby trust promotes compliance.
The Political Legacy of Forced Migration: Evidence from Post-WWII Germany
Featured on The Conversation
Comparative Political Studies (Conditionally Accepted)
Winner of the:
2020-21 Eldersveld Award (University of Michigan)
2022 Malcolm Jewell Award (SPSA)
2022 Best Paper in Political Behavior (MPSA)
2022 Best Paper by a Graduate Student(MPSA)
2022 Best Paper in European Politics & Society Section (APSA)
Do refugees reshape long-term political behavior in receiving areas? To investigate this question, I focus on the expulsion of ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe into West Germany at the end of World War II. Expellees were strangers to the cultural practices in their new surroundings. Tensions with natives forced expellees to rely on each other and helped foster a strong group identity. I argue that this shared group identity in combination with political circumstances specific to Germany engendered support for the radical right among the expellee community. Using district-level data from 32 elections spanning 100 years, I find that communities which received greater shares of expellees remain more supportive of the radical right in the short, medium, and long term. This legacy of forced displacement is driven primarily by districts that received greater shares of those expellees who experienced the most trauma.
The Columbian Exchange and Conflict in Asia
with Mark Dincecco and James Fenske
We study the impact of a major permanent productivity shock — the introduction of New World crops after 1500 — on violent conflict in Asia. Using difference in difference and event study frameworks, we show that greater caloric suitability due to the Columbian Exchange significantly increased conflict in this context. We argue that a rapacity effect — a rise in the gains from appropriation, which increased the attractiveness of certain locations to belligerents — explains this result. We show that areas that experienced greater caloric suitability became significantly more populated and urbanized, and were significantly more likely to be violently conquered by Britain.
The Wrong Winners: Anti-Corporate Animus and Attitudes Towards Trade
with Iain Osgood
Globalization creates losers and winners in society: how does this redistribution contribute to trade hostility? Recent developments in research on trade are strikingly aligned with popular critiques of globalization: large corporations are among the big winners from trade. We confirm that Americans hold these beliefs in a survey, and find that people who believe that `big firms win’ are more negative about trade. We then show in two experiments that informing citizens that large corporations benefit from trade and small firms are harmed makes them more hostile towards trade compared to a treatment emphasizing that firms in exporting industries benefit and firms in import-facing industries are harmed. Using subgroup and causal mediation analysis, we find that anti-corporate sentiment, particularly concern about corporations’ power in society, is driving this finding, not material concerns about jobs. Our findings illustrate how distributive effects and moral beliefs interact to shape attitudes over economic policy.
The gendered impact of COVID-19 on media consumption, disease-specific knowledge, and compliance with mitigation behaviors
with Allen Hicken, Pauline Jones, and Twila Tardif
Replication materials: data, code
Did the early impact of the COVID-19 pandemic differ by gender? Drawing on existing research, we hypothesize that women are likely to feel higher levels of anxiety than men and that this is associated with behavioral differences that have implications for slowing the virus’ spread: 1) media consumption; 2) information seeking; and 3) willingness to comply with mitigation behaviors. Specifically, we hypothesize that higher levels of anxiety are associated with increased media consumption and targeted information seeking aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. We hypothesize that this also corresponds with women being more knowledgeable than men about risk factors associated with contracting the virus. Moreover, the combination of greater anxiety and better knowledge, we hypothesize, translates into greater willingness among women to adopt mitigation behaviors. Our analysis of original survey data from 16 countries/territories across five world regions reveals strong support for most of our hypotheses.
(In)Equities in Directed Self-Placement
with Jason Godfrey, Andrew Moos, Laura Romaine, Michelle Sprouse, & Theresa Tinkle
Assessing Writing (Accepted)
Directed Self-Placement (DSP) refers to an increasingly utilized approach to writing placement in both two- and four-year institutions that both informs students of their writing course options and expectations at their institution and allows them to decide for themselves what course best fits their needs. One reason for its popularity as a method is its purported ability, when locally designed and maintained, to serve as a more equitable and antiracist form of writing placement than some alternatives. In order to test these claims, this study examines five years of placement, enrollment, and GPA data from first-year writing (FYW) classes. Descriptive data analysis reveals that DSP as locally administered has different social consequences for domestic under-represented minority (URM)minoritized students and women than for non-under-represented minority (non-URM)minoritized students and men. The data also reveal that student non-conformity to DSP placement recommendations does not result in significant underperformance in FYW. It would appear that at this institution “an admitted student is a qualified student.”
How do Filipinos Remember Their History? A Descriptive Account of Filipino Historical Memory
with Dean Dulay, Allen Hicken, & Ronald D. Holmes
How do Filipinos remember their history? To date this is a question with no systematic answer. This paper provides quantitative, descriptive results from two nationally representative probability samples that show how Filipinos view three of the country’s major historical events—the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, Martial Law under Ferdinand Marcos, and the 1986 People Power Revolution. The descriptive results include several takeaways, including: (i) the modal response towards all three events is indifference (versus positive or negative feelings), (ii) positive feelings toward Martial law are highest among those who were alive at that time, (iii) the distribution of feelings toward these historical events is similar across individuals with different educational achievement, and (iv) a surprising proportion of respondents express positive feelings toward both Martial Law and People Power. We discuss the potential limitations of our study and conclude by considering the implications of these results for contemporary politics.
Coalition, History, and Identity: Why Bongbong Marcos Won the 2022 Philippine Presidential Elections
with Dean Dulay, Allen Hicken, & Ronald D. Holmes (Featured on the Monkey Cage)
In May of 2022, Bongbong Marcos won a commanding 59% of the vote to become the President of the Philippines. His victory was, on some level, shocking to scholars and analysts of Philippine politics. As a result, a plethora of different theories have been proposed attempting to explain why Marcos won. In this paper, we use nationally representative survey data to explore which factors predict (and do not predict) voting intention for Marcos. We find that a) support for Duterte, b) positive perceptions of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and Martial Law, and c) ethnic (linguistic) identity are strong predictors of voting for Bongbong Marcos. On the other hand, age, education, and income are not. Consequently, theories based on continuity, coalition, history, and identity provide the most leverage on the question of why Bongbong Marcos won the election.
Health and Populism: A longitudinal study of individual health and support for populism over three decades
with Nolan M. Kavanagh
Health may have increasingly large political consequences in aging societies, especially in the wake of a pandemic. We examine whether declining health drives people toward populist parties that reject a “biased and broken system.” Using the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society panels, collected between 1992 and 2020, we follow the health and political behavior of thousands of individuals in the United Kingdom over nearly three decades, resulting in 175,663 respondent-years. Our findings show that declining health was associated with both increased populist attitudes and support for populist parties. Specifically, a decline in self-reported general health from “fair” to “poor” increased populist support by 0.5 percentage points, or 10% compared to the base rate of 5% populist support. In a cross-sectional analysis, we also find that individuals with worse health were considerably more likely to vote for Brexit. Our findings suggest that public health policies might help protect against growing threats to democracy.
Can Endorsement by Religious Leaders move the Needle on Vaccine Hesitancy?
with Allen Hicken, Pauline Jones, and Laura Rozek
Existing research, including work specific to COVID-19, suggests that endorsement by medical practitioners increases vaccine uptake. Yet, vaccine hesitancy persists even though health professionals have continued to widely endorse vaccination since the development of multiple vaccines to combat COVID-19 in late 2020. Could endorsement by other trusted leaders be utilized to decrease concerns regarding vaccine side effects, increase confidence in its effectiveness, and by doing so decrease vaccine hesitancy? Although some studies suggest that trust in religious leaders can influence individuals’ health attitudes and behaviors, the evidence is mixed. Our study aims to explore the potential added value of messaging by religious leaders – specifically, it asks whether their endorsement of the COVID-19 vaccine might increase vaccine uptake in an environment where health professionals are already endorsing vaccines. To investigate this question, we conducted an online survey experiment with 6,000 respondents across five countries that share many key similarities but have varying levels of baseline vaccine hesitancy: Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Philippines, Thailand, and Turkey. Respondents were randomly assigned to either a control group that only included the endorsement by medical practitioners (baseline) or one of two treatment groups that added either the endorsement by religious leaders or, for comparative purposes, the endorsement by political leaders. We found that neither endorsement by religious leaders nor by political leaders reduced vaccine hesitancy. Our findings, in conjunction with recent evidence for the positive impact of medical professional endorsement on vaccine uptake, suggest that medical practitioners remain the first and best line of defense to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Whose Critique Matters: Israeli Attitudes Toward International Criticism
with Yehonatan Abramson and Abir Gitlin
Maoist Era Upheaval and Political Interest in China
with Jiannan Zhao
This paper bridges research on political generations with work into the legacy of traumatic experiences. Specifically, we argue that periods of systemic societal upheaval engender durable political generations. We test this theoretical expectation in China, using 6 nationally representative surveys spanning 22 years. Our hierarchical age-period-cohort analyses reveal a distinct Maoist era generation, characterized by heightened political interest compared to pre- and post-Mao cohorts. This generational difference in political interest is absent across neighboring countries, providing additional confidence that our findings result from distinct political socialization environments of different cohorts. We also provide suggestive evidence for three channels that contribute to the generational effect: systemic state-led persecution, mass mobilization, and a political climate saturated with indoctrination, fear, and anxiety. Past research has emphasized the lasting impact of persecution and mobilization on political attitudes. Our findings demonstrate that enduring legacies can also manifest among peers not directly exposed to such experiences.
Varieties of Populists: Paths to Power and Implications for Regime Stability and Change
with Pauline Jones
Why do political actors like Vladimir Putin adopt populist platforms? To address this question, we conceptualize two dimensions that have been under-theorized to date: a political actor’s position within the political landscape (outsider versus insider) and level of ideological commitment (true believer versus opportunist). The resulting original typology of populists yields four ideal types: Pivot, Strategic, Classical, and Oppositional. It allows us to clearly distinguish among the myriad actors who have either laid claim to the populist mantle or been identiﬁed as such without focusing solely on their position along the political spectrum. This increased conceptual clarity, we argue, reveals fundamental differences among populist types concerning the electoral strategies they adopt, the aspirations they pursue once in ofﬁce, and their prospects for success. Finally, the typology also provides insight into why populists might evoke the past, how such evocations might differ across the different types, and why this matters.
Bringing Back the Good Old Days: The effect of evoking the past on political attitudes
Populist leaders often depict the past in a positive light and build their campaigns around the promise of returning to such halcyon times. However, academic discourse on the factors contributing to populist success largely ignores the rhetorical strategies employed by populist leaders. Their narratives are usually dismissed as epiphenomenal rationalizations, adopted by those who feel culturally and/or economically threatened, and are assumed to have no independent causal effect on support. The current paper attempts a systematic test of this proposition. Findings from a survey experiment provide cautious support for the effectiveness of such appeals to the past. Vague rather than specific appeals appear more efficacious in moving public opinion. The effectiveness of such appeals also appear more pronounced among those with less rigid ideologies and lower levels of education.
Selected Work in Progress
Your Past is my Present: The effect of evoking historical parallels on public opinion regarding foreign policy
with Yehonatan Abramson, Dean Dulay, and Pauline Jones
Climate Regulation’s Effects on Business and Public Support for Climate Action
with Katie Nissen & Iain Osgood
The Impact of Voting Rules on Mass Public Information and Voting Behavior
with Nicholas Valentino and George Tsebelis
David or Goliath: Changing landscape of American Jews’ support for Israel
with Yehonatan Abramson and Alon Yakter
Shadow of the Past: How the Troubles shape political thought and action in Northern Ireland