Dearest Leaders

Kevin Lewis

April 01, 2021

Electoral Manipulation and Regime Support: Survey Evidence from Russia
Ora John Reuter & David Szakonyi
World Politics, April 2021, Pages 275-314


Does electoral fraud stabilize authoritarian rule or undermine it? The answer to this question rests in part on how voters evaluate regime candidates who engage in fraud. Using a survey experiment conducted after the 2016 elections in Russia, the authors find that voters withdraw their support from ruling party candidates who commit electoral fraud. This effect is especially large among strong supporters of the regime. Core regime supporters are more likely to have ex ante beliefs that elections are free and fair. Revealing that fraud has occurred significantly reduces their propensity to support the regime. The authors' findings illustrate that fraud is costly for autocrats not just because it may ignite protest, but also because it can undermine the regime's core base of electoral support. Because many of its strongest supporters expect free and fair elections, the regime has strong incentives to conceal or otherwise limit its use of electoral fraud.

International Attention and the Treatment of Political Prisoners
Jamie Gruffydd-Jones
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming


Does international attention to political prisoners make them more likely to be released? The political science literature provides theoretical reasons to believe that widely publicizing a case may make regimes both more and less likely to free their prisoners, but to date there has been no systematic examination of this issue. An analysis of political prisoners in China from 1994 to 2017 shows that international publicity of a political prisoner's case will make regimes 70 percent more likely to release them early before sentencing, but has no effect once the prisoner has been sentenced - and may even be counterproductive. This "resistance" to international efforts appears to be more closely related with demonstrating the regime's strength to an international audience rather than to a domestic one. The study shows how fine-grained data on individuals can illuminate the domestic mechanisms behind why states comply with or resist transnational activism and human rights diplomacy.

Adapting in Difficult Circumstances: Protestant Pastors and the Xi Jinping Effect
Sarah Lee & Kevin O'Brien
Journal of Contemporary China, forthcoming


To understand the consequences of Xi Jinping's rise, one must look down as well as up. Even in the face of increased repression, people have a say over how it unfolds and the shape it takes. Many Chinese pastors are adapting to harsher policies and new ideological narratives by striving to lessen the threat Protestantism is perceived to pose. They reduce ideological competition, by not preaching about politics, dissociating from dissidents, and supporting the China Dream; security concerns, by becoming financially self-sufficient, severing ties to missionaries, and building a Chinese church; and collective action fears, by dividing congregations, avoiding networking, and viewing small churches as part of God's plan. By adjusting Protestant practice and incorporating the Party ideologies into their faith, pastors aim to show they can live with and are being steeled by repression.

The Rise of Communism in China
Ting Chen & James Kai-Sing Kung
University of Hong Kong Working Paper, December 2020


We show that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) experienced significantly faster growth in counties occupied by the Japanese Army than those garrisoned by the Kuomingtang (KMT) during the Sino-Japanese War (c. 1940-45), using the density of middle-to-upper rank Communist cadres (5.4%) and the size of the guerilla base (10.3%) as proxies. The struggle for survival and humiliation caused by wartime sex crimes are the channels through which the CCP ascended to power. We also find that people who live in former Japanese-occupied counties today are significantly more nationalistic and exhibit greater trust in the government than those who reside elsewhere.

Memes and the Moroccan Far-Right
Cristina Moreno-Almeida & Paolo Gerbaudo
International Journal of Press/Politics, forthcoming


Facebook meme pages in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) have flared-up in the past decade. Since 2017, some Moroccan pages have started sharing exclusively patriarchal, ultra- and ethnonationalist, misogynist, and racist content shaped to look in line with "alt-right" online aesthetics. Self-identifying as right-wing, these pages have memetized an entire ecosystem of scapegoats as enemies of the nation. Furthermore, they have rescued symbols from the past, such as the late King Hassan II or the Marinid flag, to formally establish the Moroccan Right. In view of this trend, this paper examines Moroccan Facebook meme pages that share ultranationalist content and build on a scapegoating strategy to understand how Far-Right ideologies have been adapted in the MENA. Through multimodal discourse analysis of memes posted since 2017 until April 2020, this paper studies the ways in which the revival of Far-Right tropes is contributing to reshaping local digital political landscapes and pushing toward an Arab Right. By examining a collection of over 1,600 memes, our paper argues that this new online Moroccan Far-Right discourse is adapting Far-Right views, particularly in terms of gender and race, to local politics. This research contends that internet memes are effectively acting as an entry point in the creation of a Moroccan Far-Right. As a newly formed trend, however, the Moroccan Far Right is still negotiating its main tenets.

Islamic constitutions and religious minorities
Moamen Gouda & Jerg Gutmann
Public Choice, March 2021, Pages 243-265


This study examines the effects of formal institutions, specifically constitutions that prescribe Sharia law as a source of legislation, on discrimination against religious minorities. We hypothesize that countries in which the supreme values of Islam are entrenched in the constitution exhibit more discrimination against religious minorities than otherwise comparable countries. In our empirical analysis, we find that religious minorities are indeed likely to face more religious discrimination under Islamic constitutions, even if the relevance of Islam in society is separately taken into account, for example, in terms of the Muslim population share. Instrumental variable regressions support our hypothesis of a causal effect of constitutional rules on de facto social outcomes. However, we find no evidence that Islam encourages discrimination against minorities when it is not entrenched in the constitution. Our results support the grave dangers inherent in the constitutionalization of supreme values.

Genocide, Politicide, and the Prospects of Democratization since 1900
Gary Uzonyi et al.
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


Why do some autocracies democratize? A country's violent past has received little attention. We argue that genocide and politicide undermine democratization by binding the elites' supporters more tightly to the governing power, while cementing in-group/out-group animosities, and helping preserve the elites' status quo position within the state. We test this argument on a new dataset of government atrocity and democratization since 1900. These novel data allow us to capture many important instances of atrocity missed by others, and thus take a longer look at democratization and violence throughout history. We find that episodes of genocide and politicide are associated with a lower likelihood of democratization in both the short and long run. These effects are larger and more consistent than other common explanations for democratization. They also differ from the effects of non-genocidal civil war violence.

Foreign Aid and State Legitimacy: Evidence on Chinese and US Aid to Africa from Surveys, Survey Experiments, and Behavioral Games
Robert Blair & Philip Roessler
World Politics, April 2021, Pages 315-357


What are the effects of foreign aid on the perceived legitimacy of recipient states? Different donors adhere to different rules, principles, and operating procedures. The authors theorize that variation in these aid regimes may generate variation in the effects of aid on state legitimacy. To test their theory, they compare aid from the United States to aid from China, its most prominent geopolitical rival. Their research design combines within-country analysis of original surveys, survey experiments, and behavioral games in Liberia with cross-country analysis of existing administrative and Afrobarometer data from six African countries. They exploit multiple proxies for state legitimacy, but focus in particular on tax compliance and morale. Contrary to expectations, the authors find little evidence to suggest that exposure to aid diminishes the legitimacy of African states. If anything, the opposite appears to be true. Their results are consistent across multiple settings, multiple levels of analysis, and multiple measurement and identification strategies, and are unlikely to be artifacts of sample selection, statistical power, or the strength or weakness of particular experimental treatments. The authors conclude that the effects of aid on state legitimacy at the microlevel are largely benign.

Propaganda, Presumed Influence, and Collective Protest
Haifeng Huang & Nicholas Cruz
Political Behavior, forthcoming


Political propaganda can reduce citizens' inclinations to protest by directly influencing their preferences or beliefs about the government. However, given that protest is risky in authoritarian societies and requires collective participation, propaganda can also reduce citizens' inclination to protest by making them think that other citizens, rather than themselves, may have been influenced by propaganda and are, as a result, unwilling to protest. We test this indirect mechanism of propaganda using a survey experiment with Chinese internet users from diverse backgrounds and find that they do believe propaganda affects other citizens' support for and beliefs about the government more than their own support and beliefs. Moreover, they believe that propaganda reduces other citizens' willingness to protest, which in turn reduces their own willingness to protest. Therefore, the power of propaganda may sometimes lie more in the social perceptions and uncertainty it creates than in its direct individual effects.

Capital Meets Democracy: The Impact of Franchise Extension on Sovereign Bond Markets
Aditya Dasgupta & Daniel Ziblatt
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


By giving political rights to poor voters, do democratic political institutions pose a risk to concentrated wealth held in the form of financial capital? This article draws lessons from the reaction of sovereign bond markets to franchise extensions between 1800 and 1920. If franchise extension transferred political power from economic and financial elites to workers, as redistributive theories of democratization suggest, then this should have resulted in a fall in the market price (increase in the yield) of a country's bonds. Exploiting the asynchronous timing of franchise reforms across countries, we provide evidence that franchise extension contributed to large increases in the premium demanded by investors to hold sovereign debt, reflecting investor fears of default. However, bond markets became less sensitive to franchise extensions over time, a pattern potentially due to the structure of inequality and the strategic adoption of institutions which protected financial interests.

Foreign Education, Ideology, and the Fall of Imperial China
James Kai-Sing Kung & Alina Yue Wang
University of Hong Kong Working Paper, December 2020


It has long been accepted that education is an important determinant of economic growth. What is less often observed is that, through indoctrination, education can also shape preferences and ideology. Using the 1911 Chinese Revolution as example, we demonstrate how the Qing government's intention to acquire knowledge useful for state building by sending students to study in Japan led to unexpected political consequences. By using the number of Chinese students in Japan as a proxy for the effects of foreign education, we show that counties with a higher density of overseas students had significantly higher participation in political parties, greater representation in electoral politics, and were more likely to declare independence from the Qing government. The content of education also mattered; political activism was significantly stronger in counties where more students studied arts and social sciences subjects. Schools and newspapers were the channels through which the ideology of nationalism was diffused.

The Fiscal Economy of Good Government: Past and Present
Richard Blanton et al.
Current Anthropology, February 2021, Pages 77-100


We demonstrate that good government, similar to modern liberal democracies, emerged apart from Western history or influence. This finding is counter to the conventional understanding that democratic state building is an expression of Western-inspired modernity. Yet, we argue, irrespective of cultural context or time period, good government policies and practices will be instituted when revenues that underpin governance are jointly produced, as predicted by collective action theory. We also find that good government will be relatively weakly expressed when private wealth plays an uninhibited role in political agency and when leaders have direct, discretionary control over fiscal economy. These research findings, derived from an extensive comparative study of past societies, provide theoretical support for scholars who argue that contemporary democracies are threatened by economic and political forces that undercut the fiscal foundations of good government while strengthening the link between concentrated private wealth and the political process.


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