Political bands

Kevin Lewis

July 03, 2019

Enlightened One-Party Rule? Ideological Differences between Chinese Communist Party Members and the Mass Public
Chengyuan Ji & Junyan Jiang
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

A popular view of nondemocratic regimes is that they draw followers mainly from those with an illiberal, authoritarian mind-set. We challenge this view by arguing that there exist a different class of autocracies that rule with a relatively enlightened base. Leveraging multiple nationally representative surveys from China over the past decade, we substantiate this claim by estimating and comparing the ideological preferences of Chinese Communist Party members and ordinary citizens. We find that party members on average hold substantially more modern and progressive views than the public on issues such as gender equality, political pluralism, and openness to international exchange. We also explore two mechanisms that may account for this party–public value gap — selection and socialization. We find that while education-based selection is the most dominant mechanism overall, socialization also plays a role, especially among older and less educated party members. Our findings caution against the simple, dichotomous characterization of political regimes and underscore an important tension between modernization and democratization in developing societies.

How Autocrats Manipulate Economic News: Evidence from Russia’s State-Controlled Television
Arturas Rozenas & Denis Stukal
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Conventional wisdom says that autocrats manipulate news through censorship. But when it comes to economic affairs — a highly sensitive topic for modern autocrats — the government’s ability to censor information effectively is limited, because citizens can benchmark the official news against their incomes, market prices, and other observables. We propose that instead of censoring economic facts, the media tactically frames those facts to make the government appear as a competent manager. Using a corpus of daily news reports from Russia’s largest state-owned television network, we document extensive evidence supporting this prediction. Bad news is not censored, but it is systematically blamed on external factors, whereas good news is systematically attributed to domestic politicians. Such selective attribution is used more intensely in politically sensitive times (elections and protests) and when the leadership is already enjoying high popular support—consistent with the existing theories of information manipulation.

The Risks of Election Observation: International Condemnation and Post-Election Violence
Inken von Borzyskowski
International Studies Quarterly, forthcoming

Research on international election observation shows that observation reduces fraud, encourages participation, and boosts confidence in the election. However, this conventional account misses the negative, violence-inducing potential of observer criticism. This is the first study examining how observer criticism influences post-election violence. Democracy depends on the loser’s consent, and the willingness of election losers to be governed by the winners can be influenced by observer criticism. When reputable observers criticize the credibility of an election, they can encourage losers to challenge the result. Observer criticism strengthens the electoral loser by legitimizing a challenge and serving as a focal point for mobilization. Using data on post-election violence in thirty-eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa since 1990, I show that internationally condemned elections are more likely to turn violent than not-condemned elections. These results are robust to various control variables (including observer presence and election fraud) and accounting for potential selection, spuriousness, endogeneity, and omitted variables.

The Promise and Pitfalls of Conflict Prediction: Evidence from Colombia and Indonesia
Samuel Bazzi et al.
NBER Working Paper, June 2019

Policymakers can take actions to prevent local conflict before it begins, if such violence can be accurately predicted. We examine the two countries with the richest available sub-national data: Colombia and Indonesia. We assemble two decades of fine-grained violence data by type, alongside hundreds of annual risk factors. We predict violence one year ahead with a range of machine learning techniques. Models reliably identify persistent, high-violence hot spots. Violence is not simply autoregressive, as detailed histories of disaggregated violence perform best. Rich socio-economic data also substitute well for these histories. Even with such unusually rich data, however, the models poorly predict new outbreaks or escalations of violence. "Best case" scenarios with panel data fall short of workable early-warning systems.

Satisfaction with Democracy and the American Dream
Richard Nadeau, Vincent Arel-Bundock & Jean-François Daoust
Journal of Politics, forthcoming

Many studies show that past and current economic conditions are strong determinants of citizens’ attitudes toward government and political institutions. In this article, we develop a forward-looking theory and argue that economic expectations also drive the level of satisfaction with democracy. Crucially, we contend that this relationship is conditional: hope for a better tomorrow matters more to the poor and to those who live in less affluent countries. We use survey data from 34 countries to study the conditional relationship between economic expectations and satisfaction with democracy and find that the allure of the “American Dream” can be more or less potent, depending on one’s place on the socioeconomic ladder. These findings contribute to our understanding of a fundamental aspect of political life: support for democracy may rest on a coalition between the wealthy and those who expect to become wealthy.

Traditional Political Institutions and Democracy: Reassessing Their Compatibility and Accountability
Kate Baldwin & Katharina Holzinger
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

This article revisits prominent frameworks for understanding traditional political institutions which make pessimistic assessments about their compatibility with democracy. Traditional political institutions are often assumed to be unaccountable because they are led by undemocratic leaders who are not subject to electoral sanctioning. However, drawing on new information from the TradGov Group dataset, an expert survey on the contemporary practices of more than 1,400 ethnic groups that currently have traditional political institutions, we show that these institutions contain their own distinct mechanisms of accountability. In a majority of cases, decision-making is consensual and leaders must account for their actions in various ways. We challenge the electoral accountability framework for understanding the quality of traditional leaders’ performance, instead arguing that traditional political institutions can be compatible with democracy and even accountable to their citizens insofar as they adopt inclusive decision-making processes and their leaders have strong nonelectoral connections to the communities they represent.

Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa: What Do the Data Show?
Sambit Bhattacharyya & Nemera Mamo
Economic Development and Cultural Change, forthcoming

The empirical relationship between natural resources and conflict in Africa is not very well understood. Using a novel geocoded dataset we are able to construct a quasi-natural experiment to explore the causal effects of oilfield and mineral discoveries on intra-state armed conflict in Africa at the grid-cell level corresponding to a spatial resolution of 0.5 x 0.5 degrees latitude and longitude. We find no evidence of resource discoveries triggering conflict after controlling for property rights institutions, past discoveries, grid-cell and year fixed effects, grid-cell specific trends, and country-year fixed effects. Resource discoveries are associated with improved local living standards and increased political patronage both of which reduce conflict. We observe little or no heterogeneity in the relationship across resource types, discovery size, distance to discovery and borders, and institutions. The relationship remains unchanged at higher grid-cell resolution, and regional and national levels.

Democratic Contradictions in European Settler Colonies
Jack Paine
World Politics, July 2019, Pages 542-585

How did political institutions emerge and evolve under colonial rule? This article studies a key colonial actor and establishes core democratic contradictions in European settler colonies. Although European settlers’ strong organizational position enabled them to demand representative political institutions, the first hypothesis qualifies their impulse for electoral representation by positing the importance of a metropole with a representative tradition. Analyzing new data on colonial legislatures in 144 colonies between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries shows that only British settler colonies — emanating from a metropole with representative institutions — systematically exhibited early elected legislative representation. The second hypothesis highlights a core democratic contradiction in colonies that established early representative institutions. Applying class-based democratization theories predicts perverse institutional evolution — resisted enfranchisement and contestation backsliding — because sizable European settler minorities usually composed an entrenched landed class. Evidence on voting restrictions and on legislature disbandment from Africa, the British Caribbean, and the US South supports these implications and rejects the Dahlian path from competitive oligarchy to full democracy.

Indirect Colonial Rule and the Salience of Ethnicity
Lachlan McNamee
Stanford Working Paper, June 2019

Why is ethnicity more salient in some contexts than in others? This paper provides new theory and evidence linking indirect colonial rule to the contemporary salience of ethnicity in sub-Saharan Africa. Using Afrobarometer survey data, I establish a substantively significant cross-national relationship between the indirectness of colonial rule and the strength of contemporary ethnic identification in sub-Saharan Africa. To show that this relationship is causal, I then exploit a sub national research design leveraging regional variation in direct and indirect colonial rule across the country of Namibia. I show that, controlling for location and ethnicity, indirect colonial rule is also associated with stronger ethnic identification within Namibia both across the country as a whole and within 50 km of the border dividing indirectly and directly ruled areas of Namibia. This paper then disentangles why indirect rule is so robustly associated with the salience of ethnicity. I theorize and provide evidence that the effects of indirect rule can be attributed to the greater importance of traditional leaders and ethnically demarcated customary land rights in formerly indirectly ruled areas. As such, this paper helps uncover the causes of important regional variation in the salience of ethnicity, advances our understanding of the institutional origins of ethnic conflict in parts of sub Saharan Africa, and thus why indirect colonial rule is so often associated with poor developmental outcomes.

Opposition Media, State Censorship, and Political Accountability: Evidence from Chavez's Venezuela
Brian Knight & Ana Tribin
NBER Working Paper, June 2019

This paper investigates the role of opposition media and state censorship in political accountability using evidence from the closing of RCTV, a popular opposition television channel in Venezuela. The government did not renew RCTV's license, and the channel was replaced overnight, during May 2007, by a pro-government channel. Based upon this censorship of opposition television, we have three key findings. First, using Nielsen ratings data, viewership fell, following the closing of RCTV, on the pro-government replacement, but rose on Globovision, the only remaining television channel for opposition viewers. This finding is consistent with a model in which viewers have a preference for opposition television and substitute accordingly. Second, exploiting the geographic location of the Globovision broadcast towers, Chavez approval ratings fell following the closing of RCTV in places with access to the Globovision signal, relative to places without access. Third, in places with access to the Globovision signal, relative to places without, support for Chavez in electoral data also fell following the closing of RCTV. Taken together, these findings suggest that opposition media and viewer responses to censorship can help to hold governments and incumbent politicians accountable.

Untold Story of Boko Haram Insurgency: The Lake Chad Oil and Gas Connection
Tochukwu Omenma
Politics and Religion, forthcoming

This article makes a case for the nexus between water resources and terrorism. Using Boko Haram activities in the Lake Chad region, I question the conventional arguments linking religion to the root cause of terrorism. I argue that there is an economic dimension of Boko Haram terrorism, which is based on two interrelated indicators: the attack on the Nigerian oil exploration team in the Lake Chad basin, and the continuous exploitation of oil and gas by Chad, Niger, and Cameroon in the region. Building on economic incentives and natural resources theoretical debates along with a historical enquiry into Boko Haram, the article concludes that economic interests, rather than religion, are partly the impetus to the activities of Boko Haram. The findings have significant implications for both the security of the Lake Chad region and counterterrorism at large.

Diamonds, Rebel’s and Farmer’s Best Friend: Impact of Variation in the Price of a Lootable, Labor-intensive Natural Resource on the Intensity of Violent Conflict
Anouk Rigterink
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming

This article investigates the impact of the world price of a “lootable,” labor-intensive natural resource on intensity of violent conflict. Results suggest that a price increase can have opposite effects at different geographical levels of analysis: a decrease in conflict intensity overall in resource-rich countries, but an increase in conflict intensity in resource-rich subnational regions. The article argues that intensity of violence decreases overall due to rising opportunity costs of rebellion but that violence concentrates in resource-rich areas as returns to looting rise. The article introduces a new measure of diamond propensity based on geological characteristics, which is arguably exogenous to conflict and can capture small-scale labor-intensive production better than existing measures. The stated effects are found for secondary diamonds, which are lootable and related to opportunity costs of fighting, but not for primary diamonds, which are neither.

Ethnic Violence in Africa: Destructive Legacies of Pre-Colonial States
Jack Paine
International Organization, forthcoming

What explains differential rates of ethnic violence in postcolonial Africa? I argue that ethnic groups organized as a precolonial state (PCS) exacerbated interethnic tensions in their postcolonial country. Insecure leaders in these countries traded off between inclusive coalitions that risked insider coups and excluding other ethnic groups at the possible expense of outsider rebellions. My main hypotheses posit that PCS groups should associate with coups because their historically rooted advantages often enabled accessing power at the center, whereas other ethnic groups in their countries — given strategic incentives for ethnopolitical exclusion — should fight civil wars more frequently than ethnic groups in countries without a PCS group. Analyzing originally compiled data on precolonial African states provides statistical evidence for these implications about civil wars and coups between independence and 2013 across various model specifications. Strikingly, through 1989, thirty of thirty-two ethnic group-level major civil war onsets occurred in countries with a PCS group.

Exporting democratic practices: Evidence from a village governance intervention in Eastern Congo
Macartan Humphreys, Raul Sanchez de la Sierra & Peter Van der Windt
Journal of Development Economics, forthcoming

We study a randomized Community Driven Reconstruction (CDR) intervention that provided two years of exposure to democratic practices in 1250 villages in eastern Congo. To assess impacts, we examine behavior in a later village-level unconditional cash transfer project that distributed $1000 to 457 treatment and control villages. The exercise provides opportunities to assess whether public funds get captured, what governance practices are employed by villagers and village elites and whether the intervention altered these behaviors. We find no evidence for such effects. The results cast doubt on current attempts to export democratic practices to local communities.

Will there be blood? Explaining violence during coups d’état
Erica De Bruin
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming

Although just under half of all coup d’état attempts involve fatalities, there has been surprisingly little attention to the conditions under which coups turn violent. Existing research emphasizes the incentives coup plotters have to avoid bloodshed but does not explain the conditions under which violence nonetheless occurs. This article develops a theoretical framework that predicts that the extent of violence that occurs during coup attempts will vary systematically with central features of incumbent regimes and coup plotters. It then tests these predictions using new data on the fatalities associated with 377 coup attempts between 1950 and 2017. Coups against military regimes are found to be less violent than those against civilian dictatorships. This is because military rulers are better able to estimate the likelihood of the coup succeeding and more sensitive to the costs associated with using violence to suppress a coup. Since their post-coup fates tend to be better than those of other authoritarian leaders, they also have fewer incentives to hang on to power at any cost. The analysis also demonstrates that coups led by senior officers involve less bloodshed than those by junior officers and enlisted men. However, coups against rulers that counterbalance their militaries are no more violent than those against rulers that do not. The results shed new light on the dynamics of coup attempts.

Bread and Circuses: Sports and Public Opinion in China
Dan Chen & Andrew MacDonald
Journal of Experimental Political Science, forthcoming

Sports victory constitutes an important part of propaganda in authoritarian states. The heavy state investment in sports industries and sports culture in China illustrates the political importance of sports. However, few studies have systematically examined the exact impact of sports propaganda on public opinion. Using a survey experiment conducted in two Chinese cities, this article finds that broadcast highlighting national sports achievements has significant positive effects on general satisfaction and compliance with the local governments. These results expand on the small, but growing, literature on the effects of sports on political opinions and help detail the specific ways in which sports can affect political attitudes.

The Lay of the Land: Information Capacity and the Modern State
Thomas Brambor et al.
Comparative Political Studies, forthcoming

This article presents new evidence on the efforts of states to collect and process information about themselves, their territories, and their populations. We compile data on five institutions and policies: the regular implementation of a reliable census, the regular release of statistical yearbooks, the introduction of civil and population registers, and the establishment of a government agency tasked with processing statistical information. Using item response theory methods, we generate an index of “information capacity” for 85 states from 1789 to the present. We then ask how political regime changes have influenced the development of information capacity over time. In contrast with the literature on democracy and fiscal capacity, we find that suffrage expansions are associated with higher information capacity, but increases in the level of political competition are not. These findings demonstrate the value of our new measure, because they suggest that different elements of state capacity are shaped by different historical processes.

Earthquakes and terrorism: The long lasting effect of seismic shocks
José Montalvo & Marta Reynal-Querol
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming

The literature on the effect of shocks on civil conflicts has grown rapidly over the last decade. In this paper, we study the relationship between earthquakes and terrorism. In the short run, the destruction generated by a medium-range earthquake reduces the opportunity cost of rebelling against the government. Since destruction of infrastructures in these cases is limited, the state keeps most of its coercive capacity, which reduces the chances of full-fledged conflict but leaves open the possibility of low intensity rebellious acts such as terrorism. In the medium run the destruction of tangible assets can lead to the closing down of weak firms, the introduction of new technologies, the improvement of productivity and the increase in wealth inequality. We propose a new algorithm to classify terrorism events as domestic or transnational, and show that the likelihood of a domestic terrorist event increases with the previous occurrence of an earthquake. Using earthquakes as an instrument for income, we also show that development has a positive and significant effect on the likelihood of terrorist events.


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