Kevin Lewis

February 28, 2018

The Popularity Costs of Economic Crisis under Electoral Authoritarianism: Evidence from Russia
Bryn Rosenfeld
American Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


While a large literature recognizes that economic crises threaten the stability of electoral autocracies, we know relatively little about how citizens form economic perceptions and how they attribute blame for worsening conditions in these regimes. To gain traction on these questions, I exploit subnational variation in economic performance across Russia's regions during a recent downturn, combining regionally representative surveys of more than 67,000 voting-age respondents with data on growth and unemployment. Contrary to conventional wisdom that citizens are passive consumers of propaganda, I show that they extract objective economic information from personal experience and local conditions. Moreover, I find that they give greater weight to this information where regional party dominance makes economic performance a clearer indicator of the ruling party's competence and when they believe the media are biased. These results suggest limits on illiberal regimes' ability to exploit informational asymmetries to bolster popular support during economic downturns.

Who Is Afraid of the Chinese State? Evidence Calling into Question Political Fear as an Explanation for Overreporting of Political Trust
Daniela Stockmann, Ashley Esarey & Jie Zhang
Political Psychology, forthcoming


Public opinion polls show that political trust tends to be higher in authoritarian regimes compared to liberal democracies. Many scholars have argued that respondents may provide false answers out of fear about repercussions by the state, thereby skewing survey results in a positive direction. Using an unobtrusive measure based on affect transfer, we find that adult participants in experiments conducted in China transfer positive affect toward the state onto evaluations of television advertisements upon mere exposure to the name of a central party institution. Participants did not have incentives to lie because they did not associate the advertisements with the state. Furthermore, people who evaluated the ads more positively upon viewing the name of the state also reported more positive levels of trust in government. Together, these findings raise doubt that Chinese misrepresent political trust in surveys out of political fear.

Stalin’s terror and the long-term political effects of mass repression
Yuri Zhukov & Roya Talibova
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming


Repression has a long-term negative effect on political participation. Using millions of arrest records from archival documents, and polling station-level election results, we examine how exposure to Stalin-era repression affects voter turnout in Putin’s Russia. To estimate the effect of repression on voting, we exploit exogenous variation in repression due to the structure of mid-century Soviet railroads, and travel distances to prison camps. We find that communities more heavily repressed under Stalin are less likely to vote today. The electoral legacy of Stalin’s terror – decades after the Soviet collapse, and across multiple election cycles (2003–12) – is systematically lower turnout. To show that our result is not unique to the Putin regime, we replicate our analysis in Ukraine (2004–14), and find similar patterns. These results highlight the negative consequences of repression for political behavior, and challenge the emerging view that exposure to violence increases political engagement. While past research has emphasized the short-term effects of repression over several months or years, we show that these effects may be durable over generations and even changes of political regime. Our findings also demonstrate that repression need not be collective or indiscriminate to have community-level effects.

Colonial Legacy, State-building and the Salience of Ethnicity in Sub-Saharan Africa
Merima Ali et al.
Economic Journal, forthcoming


African colonial history suggests that British colonial rule may have undermined state centralisation due to legacies of ethnic segregation and stronger executive constraints. Using micro-data from anglophone and francophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa, we find that anglophone citizens are less likely to identify themselves in national terms (relative to ethnic terms). To address endogeneity concerns, we utilise regression discontinuity by focusing on observations near anglophone−francophone borders, both across countries and within Cameroon. Evidence on taxation, security and the power of chiefs also suggests weaker state capacity in anglophone countries. These results highlight the legacy of colonial rule on state-building.

African chiefs: Comparative governance under colonial rule
Liya Palagashvili
Public Choice, March 2018, Pages 277–300


This paper analyzes how British colonial rule altered the club-like and competitive features of chiefdoms and weakened the incentives of political leaders to be accountable to citizens. Political institutions in late pre-colonial West Africa aligned the incentives of the chiefs such that they were responsive to their people. Alignment arose because of a high degree of competition between governance providers and because political leaders were effectively the residual claimants on revenues generated from providing governance services. I identify the mechanisms by which colonialism severed the link that aligned the incentives of government with those of its citizens. British indirect rule did that by reducing political competition and softening the budget constraints of the chiefs. Toward the end of colonial rule, chiefs became less accountable to their people as evidenced by the widespread corruption and extortion by the chiefs and by their unprecedented constitutional violations and abuses of power.

Food Abundance and Violent Conflict in Africa
Ore Koren
American Journal of Agricultural Economics, forthcoming


Scholars debate whether climate change has a consistent effect on the likelihood of armed conflict in Africa. One major pathway by which climatic variability is hypothesized to increase conflict is by decreasing food availability. However, limitations on food access at both the local and national levels in many developing African countries force most armed groups and communities to depend on locally-produced food. These actors are therefore likely to use violence to establish control over more food resources or be stationed where more food is available, suggesting that food abundance might also be driving conflict. The present study employs novel data on wheat and maize yields in Africa measured at the very local level to empirically evaluate this hypothesis on a highly disaggregated conflict indicator. To account for the endogenous relationship between conflict and food production, average local levels of drought are used as an instrument. The findings show that, contrary to previous expectations, conflict is driven by higher yields, on average, and not by scarcity.

Disappearing dissent? Repression and state consolidation in Mexico
Javier Osorio, Livia Schubiger & Michael Weintraub
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming


Does violent repression strengthen the state? In this article we explore the legacies of repression by the Mexican government on subsequent patterns of state consolidation. We investigate how a particular form of state repression, forced disappearances of alleged leftist dissidents during the ‘Dirty War’ in 1960s and 1970s, had path-dependent consequences for different dimensions of state capacity nearly 50 years later. To do so, we rely on data gathered from suppressed Mexican human rights reports of forced disappearances which, to our knowledge, have not been analyzed by social scientists before. Controlling for a rich set of pre-disappearances covariates we find that forced disappearances are positively correlated with contemporary measures of fiscal, territorial, and bureaucratic capacity. However, historical forced disappearances do not help the state to provide security, to consolidate its monopoly over the use of force, or to provide welfare-related public goods in the long run. Moreover, disappearances are negatively correlated with various measures of trust in the government. Forced disappearances committed by the state appear to have long-term yet heterogeneous effects on state consolidation.

Social Media and Protest Participation: Evidence from Russia
Ruben Enikolopov, Alexey Makarin & Maria Petrova
Northwestern University Working Paper, January 2018


Do new communication technologies, such as social media, reduce collective action problem? This paper provides evidence that penetration of VK, the dominant Russian online social network, affected protest activity during a wave of protests in Russia in 2011. As a source of exogenous variation in network penetration, we use information on the city of origin of the students who studied together with the founder of VK, controlling for the city of origin of the students who studied at the same university several years earlier or later. We find that a 10% increase in VK penetration increased the probability of a protest by 4.6%, and the number of protesters by 19%. Additional results suggest that social media has affected protest activity by reducing the costs of coordination, rather than by spreading information critical of the government. In particular, VK penetration increased pro-governmental support and reduced the number of people who were ready to participate in protests right before the protests took place. Also, cities with higher fractionalization of network users between VK and Facebook experienced fewer protests. Finally, we provide suggestive evidence that municipalities with higher VK penetration received smaller transfers from the central government after the occurrence of protests.

Can Polarization Be Positive? Conflict and Institutional Development in Africa
Adrienne LeBas
American Behavioral Scientist, forthcoming


Can political polarization, typically viewed as detrimental for political development, have positive effects on institution-building and democratization in the long run? This article argues that the overall impact of polarization on a political system is determined by two factors: the character of preexisting identity cleavages and the balance of forces between groups on either side of the political divide. Where there exists a history of formal group exclusion or differential citizenship rights, political polarization is more likely to result in large-scale violence and democratic breakdown. Where power is strongly imbalanced, on the other hand, polarization is unlikely to be sustained, and the status quo ante will be retained. When these two conditions are absent, however, a relatively high degree of polarization can have surprising institution-building effects for new democracies. The article illustrates these arguments with reference to four key cases in sub-Saharan Africa.

Backdoor peacekeeping: Does participation in UN peacekeeping reduce coups at home?
Magnus Lundgren
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming


I advance and test a theoretical argument of how participation in UN peacekeeping affects the likelihood of coup attempts in troop-contributing countries (TCCs). The argument highlights the interplay between the economic incentives of militaries in poor TCCs and the UN’s preference for contributors with stable civil–military relations. Fearing the loss of UN reimbursement funds, militaries for which such funds are important will avoid visible acts of military insubordination, such as coup attempts, that would place their future participation in UN peacekeeping at risk. I test this proposition against time-series cross-sectional data on 157 countries in the 1991–2013 period using panel regression and matching. The data show that countries where the armed forces are more dependent on peacekeeping revenues experience fewer coup attempts than comparable peers, even when taking coup-proofing measures and other alternative explanations into account. I also find that the coup-restraining effect is only observed in periods where member states contribute enough troops to award the UN a real choice over alternative contributors. The study introduces a novel theoretic logic, presents empirical results at odds with the existing literature, and suggests important policy implications with regard to UN vetting and standards for troop-contributing countries.

Countering Boko Haram’s Violence: A Deterrence–Backlash Perspective
Adam Dulin & Jairo Patiño
Armed Forces & Society, forthcoming


This article examines efforts to counter Boko Haram’s campaign of terrorism in Northern Nigeria from a deterrence–backlash perspective. Drawing from previous research, the authors develop hypothetical expectations for deterrence and backlash effects when counterterrorism policies are conducted at governmental and community levels. Using parametric survival analysis, the authors conclude that government policies designed to curb Boko Haram attacks resulted in backlash. Conversely, community-based efforts resulted in deterrence.

Hired Guns: Using Pro-Government Militias for Political Competition
Clionadh Raleigh & Roudabeh Kishi
Terrorism and Political Violence, forthcoming


Pro-government militias (PGMs) are armed, political organizations that assist regime and state elites through illicit violence. This article considers how and where to situate militias within larger frameworks of political violence and its emerging contexts. Pro-government militias have increased in recent years, along with their participation in conflict events, including those resulting in fatalities. This is in step with increases in domestic political competition and regime fragmentation across developing states. Using a new PGM dataset that collects discrete events perpetrated by these groups across Africa from 1997–2016, two conclusions are reached: PGM groups are more active outside of civil war periods than within, and their actions and numbers have increased as more countries transition to democracy. Further, activity by PGMs is not well explained by government attempts to delegate violence for reputational reasons or low capacity. Political fragmentation at the national level and diffuse opposition threats better account for the spatial and temporal patterns of PGM activity.

Empirical linkages between good governance and national well-being
John Helliwell et al.
Journal of Comparative Economics, forthcoming


This paper brings together the largest available sets of national-level data, covering 157 countries over the years 2005–2012, to assess the extent to which governance quality contributes to life evaluations. Our most significant new finding is that changes in governance quality within a policy-relevant time horizon can lead to significant changes in the quality of life. For example, the ten most-improved countries, in terms of changes in government service delivery quality between 2005 and 2012, when compared to the ten most-worsened countries, are estimated to have average life evaluations higher by 0.4 points on a 0 to 10 scale. The results also confirm earlier findings that service delivery quality generally dominates democratic quality in supporting better lives until delivery quality has reached sufficient levels. The situation changes as development proceeds, with democratic quality showing a positive influence among countries that have already achieved higher quality of service delivery.

The origins of policing institutions: Legacies of colonial insurgency
Kristine Eck
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming


This article examines the impact of colonial-era armed conflict on contemporary institutions. It argues that when British colonial administrators were faced with armed insurrection they responded with institutional reform of the police, and that the legacy of these reforms lives on today. Violent opposition prompted the British colonial administration to expand entrance opportunities for local inhabitants in order to collect intelligence needed to prosecute a counterinsurgency campaign. This investment in human capital and institutional reform remained when the colonial power departed; as a result, countries which experienced colonial-era conflict have more efficient policing structures today. I demonstrate how this worked in practice during the Malayan Emergency, 1948–60. Archival data from Malaysia show that local inhabitants were recruited into the police force in greater numbers and were provided with training which they would not have received had there been no insurgency. This process was consolidated and reproduced upon independence in path-dependent ways. To expand the empirical domain, I statistically explore new archival data collected from the UK National Archives on police financing across colonial territories. The results show that armed insurgency during the colonial era is associated with higher percentages of police expenditure during the colonial era and higher perceived levels of contemporary policing capacity.

Spatial Rivalry and Coups Against Dictators
Adrian Florea
Security Studies, Winter 2018, Pages 1-26


Dictators' survival depends on the effectiveness of their coup-proofing tactics. Yet coup-proofing strategies can become ineffective in the presence of certain structural conditions that enhance the resources, organizational power, and coordination capacity of the army. One such structural condition is the presence of spatial rivalry, international rivalry over disputed territory. Autocratic incumbents invested in spatial rivalries need to strengthen the military in order to compete with a foreign adversary. The imperative of developing a strong army puts dictators in a paradoxical situation: to compete with a rival state, they must empower the very agency — the military — that is most likely to threaten their own survival in office. This logic suggests that authoritarian regimes engaged in spatial rivalries will be more vulnerable to coups. Indeed, relying on the most comprehensive coup dataset to date, this article reveals that rivalry over territory is a robust predictor of coups against autocrats. The findings carry implications for research on civil–military relations, international rivalries, and organizational dynamics within authoritarian regimes.

Voting for Trouble? Partisan Electoral Interventions and Domestic Terrorism
Dov Levin
Terrorism and Political Violence, forthcoming


What are the effects of partisan electoral interventions on terrorism in the intervened countries? Attempts by the great powers to affect the election results in other countries have been quite common in the postwar world with electoral interventions occurring in nearly one of every nine competitive elections between 1946 and 2000 as well as in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. However little research has been done on the possible effects such interventions can have on the target countries chances to suffer from domestic terrorism. In this paper I analyze the effects of electoral interventions on terrorism utilizing measures of domestic terrorism and of terrorist group emergence between 1970 and 2000 and 1968 and 2000 respectively. I find that while not all electoral interventions have terrorism inducing effects, overt interventions of this kind significantly increase the amount of domestic terrorism in the target as well as the probability of new domestic terrorist groups emerging.

Transparency, Protest and Democratic Stability
James Hollyer, Peter Rosendorff & James Raymond Vreeland
British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming


Democratic rule is maintained so long as all relevant actors in the political system comply with the institutional rules of the game – democratic institutions must be self-enforcing. We examine the role of transparency in supporting a democratic equilibrium. Transparency improves the functioning of elections: in transparent polities, elections more effectively resolve adverse selection problems between the public and their rulers. Transparency increases popular satisfaction with democracy and inhibits challenges to the democratic order. We provide a game-theoretic model, test these claims, and find they enjoy empirical support. Transparency is associated with a reduction in both the probability of democratic collapse and of the irregular removal of democratic leaders. Transparency stabilizes democratic rule.

Interstate rivalry, genocide, and politicide
Gary Uzonyi
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming


Interstate rivalry not only influences a country’s international behavior, but also its domestic conduct. Here, I focus on the connection between interstate rivalry and domestic government mass killing, specifically genocide and politicide. I argue that interstate rivalry has both direct and indirect influences on a government’s decision to use mass violence against its civilian population. Directly, countries engaged in rivalry experience a heightened state of military tension, which increases the likelihood that the country will resort to political mass killing when handling domestic dissent. Indirectly, rivalry increases the likelihood of both inter- and intrastate conflict, which also increases the likelihood of genocide and politicide. Statistical analysis of all country-years from 1955 to 2011 reveals that interstate rivals are more likely to engage in genocide and politicide than are other states. This research illustrates the way in which interstate rivalry influences a state’s domestic politics and shapes the interactions between government and population. It also highlights the importance of how the international threat environment affects a state’s willingness to engage in domestic political mass murder. These findings indicate that rivals do not only engage in the most violent interstate behavior, but also some of the deadliest domestic politics, as well.

Postdisaster Reconstruction as a Cause of Intrastate Violence: An Instrumental Variable Analysis with Application to the 2004 Tsunami in Sri Lanka
Kyosuke Kikuta
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


Despite growing concerns about the effects of environmental changes, we only have disparate and seemingly contradictory findings about the relationship between natural disasters and intrastate violence. This article addresses that problem by introducing postdisaster reconstruction as a primary explanatory variable for intrastate violence. I extend bargaining theory to predict that postdisaster reconstruction causes a commitment problem, which in turn incentivizes warring parties to fight for the strategic opportunities of reconstruction. Using an instrumental variable approach, I provide an empirical test with a subnational data set for Sri Lanka before and after the 2004 Tsunami. Consistent with my expectations, housing reconstruction increased the number of violent events, while housing destruction had no discernible impact on violence.

The Political Economics of the Arab Spring
Roland Hodler
Economic Inquiry, April 2018, Pages 821–836


There were large differences in the responses of Arab dictators to the Arab Spring protests. To understand these differences, I present a stylized model of how a dictator responds to mass protests for democratization in a polarized country with two ethnic or religious groups. In this model, the dictator's response crucially depends on oil revenues and his affiliation to either the majority or the minority group. I document that the model's predictions are consistent with the observed differences in the Arab dictators' responses. Hence, ethnic politics and religious divides may play an important role in political transitions and regime changes.

The build-up of coercive capacities: Arms imports and the outbreak of violent intrastate conflicts
Oliver Pamp et al.
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming


Do governments’ military build-ups foster the outbreak of intrastate violence? This article investigates the impact of governments’ arms imports on the onset of intrastate conflicts. There is scant empirical research on the role of the external acquisition of coercive technologies, and even fewer studies explore the respective causal mechanisms of their consequences. We argue that the existing literature has not adequately considered the potential simultaneity between conflict initiation and arms purchases. In contrast, our study explicitly takes into account that weapon inflows may not only causally induce conflicts but may themselves be caused by conflict anticipation. Following a review of applicable theoretical models to derive our empirical expectations, we offer two innovative approaches to surmount this serious endogeneity problem. First, we employ a simultaneous equations model that allows us to estimate the concurrent effects of both arms imports on conflict onsets and conflict onsets on imports. Second, we are the first to use an instrumental variable approach that uses the import of weapon types not suitable for intrastate conflict as instruments for weapon imports that are relevant for fighting in civil wars. Relying on arms transfer data provided by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute for the period 1949-2013, we provide estimates for the effect of imports on civil war onset. Our empirical results clearly show that while arms imports are not a genuine cause of intrastate conflicts, they significantly increase the probability of an onset in countries where conditions are notoriously conducive to conflict. In such situations, arms are not an effective deterrent but rather spark conflict escalation.

Rebel Natural Resource Exploitation and Conflict Duration
Justin Conrad et al.
Journal of Conflict Resolution, forthcoming


How does natural resource wealth influence the duration of civil conflicts? We theorize that the exploitation of natural resources can strengthen rebels’ “power to resist” the government, but this depends on how rebels earn funding from those resources. Distinguishing between the extortion and smuggling of natural resources, we posit that smuggling in particular is more likely to give rebels the flexibility and mobility needed to effectively resist government repression. We then test this proposition empirically using new data that identify not only whether rebels profit from resources but also how they do so. We find that only when rebels smuggle natural resources do civil conflicts last significantly longer. In contrast, conflicts in which rebel groups earn money from extorting natural resource production are not significantly more likely to endure. This finding is of special interest because past work has largely ignored how rebels earn income from natural resources and the implication this distinction might have on conflict processes.

Which groups fight? Customary institutions and communal conflicts in Africa
Tore Wig & Daniela Kromrey
Journal of Peace Research, forthcoming


Why are some ethnic groups embroiled in communal conflicts while others are comparably peaceful? We explore the group-specific correlates of communal conflicts in Africa by utilizing a novel dataset combining ethnographic information on group characteristics with conflict data. Specifically, we investigate whether features of the customary political institutions of ethnic groups matter for their communal-conflict involvement. We show how institutional explanations for conflict, developed to explain state-based wars, can be successfully applied to the customary institutions of ethnic groups. We argue that customary institutions can pacify through facilitating credible nonviolent bargaining. Studying 143 ethnic groups, we provide large-N evidence for such an ‘ethnic civil peace’, showing that groups with a higher number of formalized customary institutions, like houses of chiefs, courts and legislatures, are less prone to communal conflict, both internally and with other groups. We also find some evidence, although slightly weaker, that groups with more inclusive or ‘democratic’ customary institutions are less prone to communal conflicts.


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