Working Papers

  1. Refugees and the Radical Right: Evidence from Post-WWII Forced Migrations [featured in the popular press]
    Show abstract
    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.
  2. Maoist Era Upheaval and Political Interest in China (with Jiannan Zhao)
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    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.
  3. Pre-Colonial Warfare and Long-Run Development in India (with Mark Dincecco, James Fenske, and Shivaji Mukherjee)
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    We analyze the relationship between pre-colonial warfare and long-run development patterns in India. We construct a new geocoded database of historical interstate conflicts on the Indian sub-continent, from which we compute measures of local exposure to pre-colonial warfare. We document a positive and significant relationship between pre-colonial conflict exposure and local economic development across India today. This result is robust to numerous checks, including controls for geographic endowments, initial state capacity, colonial-era institutions, ethnic and religious fractionalization, and colonial and post-colonial conflict, and an instrumental variables strategy that exploits variation in pre-colonial conflict exposure driven by cost distance to the Khyber Pass. Drawing on rich archival and secondary data, we show that districts that were more exposed to pre-colonial conflict experienced greater local pre-colonial and colonial-era state-making, and less political violence and higher infrastructure investments in the long term. We argue that reductions in local levels of violence and greater investments in physical capital were at least in part a function of more powerful local government institutions.
  4. Bringing Back the Good Old Days: The effect of evoking the past on political attitudes
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    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.
  5. Does Health Vulnerability Predict Voting for Right-Wing Populist Parties? (with Nolan M. Kavanagh and Justin E. Heinze)
    Review and Resubmit, American Political Science Review
    Show abstract
    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. 

Work in Progress

  1. Shadow of the Past: How the Troubles shape political thought and action in Northern Ireland
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    Based on extensive field research in Northern Ireland, this project investigates how individuals and communities are grappling with the legacy of the Troubles. I have, thus far, conducted nearly 100 interviews with individuals from diverse backgrounds (security services, politics, victims groups, civil society, education, paramilitaries, and media), many of them either intimately involved with the conflict or with the post-conflict processes.
  2. Varieties of Populists: Paths to Power and Implications for Regime Stability and Change (with Pauline Jones)
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    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.
  3. COVID-19 and Gendered Differences in Anxiety and Mitigation Behaviors (with Allen Hicken, Pauline Jones, & Twila Tardif)
  4. The Columbian Exchange and Conflict in Asia (with Mark Dincecco & James Fenske)
  5. David or Goliath: Changing landscape of American Jews’ support for Israel (with Yehonatan Abramson & Alon Yakter)
  6. Ostalgie: Does an East-West Divide in Germany manifest through semantic memory? (with Pedro L. Rodríguez & David Halpern)
  7. Integrated Book Review (with Kirill Zhirkov & Nicholas Valentino)
    • Uncivil Agreement (Lilliana Mason)
    • Enchanted America (Eric Oliver & Thomas Wood)
    • Them: Why We Hate Each Other – and How to Heal (Ben Sasse)
    • Identity Crisis (John Sides, Michael Tesler, & Lynn Vavreck)