The conference will consider how social identity, broadly defined, impacts politics in both advanced and developing democracies. The invited speakers are:
Lindsay J. Benstead (Portland State University)
How do voters evaluate candidates’ intersecting identities in elections? Existing literature on voting behavior in western and non-western contexts takes a unidimensional approach, focusing on how single traits, such as religion, gender, ethnicity, or race, affect voters’ perceptions of candidates. Yet, in reality, voters weigh multiple factors when selecting candidates and sometimes must make difficult choices between identities they desire and others they find less appealing. To fill this gap, we draw on an original survey experiment conducted among 1,499 Jordanians as part of the 2014 Governance and Local Development (GLD) survey. We develop and test an intersectional theory of electoral behavior that draws on social identification, power relations, and role congruity theories to explain how gender, Islamism, and ethnicity either advantage or disadvantage candidates among certain voter groups. To test the intersectional impact of candidate gender, ethnicity, and opposition identity, respondents receive at random statements about a male or a female candidate who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood or a coethnic and are asked to rate how likely they would be to vote for the candidate. We find that that candidate electability is intersectional, not additive, with some candidate combinations faring in complex ways that require gender role congruity, power relations, and social identity theories–in tandem–to explain. Male candidates (where no other candidate information is given) and male candidates who are also members of the respondent’s tribe candidates do best, followed by female candidates (where no other candidate information is given) and female candidates who are also members of the respondent’s tribe. Male and female candidates who are also Islamists are least electable. Consistent with gender role congruity and power relations theories, candidates who look like the candidates of the past (that is, non-Islamist males) are most successful, while minority candidates (that is, Islamists and females) draw support primarily from their social in-groups. We show that women can leverage an intersecting identity (Islamism or co-ethnicity) to be equally electable as men with these same traits. Our model extends literature on electoral politics and policy by developing an intersectional theory of electoral politics and offering a sufficiently general theoretical framework to explain candidate electability across a broad range of intersecting identities–such as religiosity and race–and western and non-western contexts.
Melani Cammett (Harvard University)
“The Political Utility of Fear: Assessing the Material and Non-material Determinants of Political Behavior in Lebanon” (with Sami Atallah and Dominika Kruschewska)
What explains voting and other forms of political behavior in developing countries, especially where religion, ethnicity or other identity-based cleavages are deeply politicized? In this project, we aim to move beyond the current prevailing conceptualization of elections in developing countries as short-term clientelist transactions to consider a range of alternative or additional material and non-material factors in explaining political support for candidates. In particular, we focus on the political utility of fear in the context of instability, violence and the regional erosion of political order. The relative importance of protection against real or constructed threats by extremists is then benchmarked against a range of other possible motivations, including the receipt of distinct levels and types of clientelist handouts, programmatic policy preferences, shared identity with candidates, the personal attributes of candidates, and endorsement by religious and other types of community authority figures in shaping voting behavior and the propensity to participate in a demonstration organized by the candidate.
The research design includes a conjoint survey experiment in Lebanon to test the relative importance of this range of factors in shaping citizen political behavior. In addition, we will randomly assign some respondents to an exercise that induces a state of fear in order to test whether voters who live in politically volatile environments prioritize different aspects of the candidate’s background and rhetoric. The data for the paper will be derived from a nationally representative sample of approximately 2,000 households to be fielded in June 2017. The findings promise to contribute to diverse bodies of research on political behavior, the dynamics of clientelism, and political violence that resonate far beyond Lebanon and the Middle East and help to build a growing research agenda on the role of fear in driving political behavior in developing countries.
Sara Wallace Goodman (University of California, Irvine)
“National Belonging and Majority Support for Multiculturalism” (with Hannah M. Alarian)
Why do individuals support multiculturalism? Specifically, what role do conceptions of national identity play in shaping policy attitudes? This paper sets up a novel theory of national belonging as redistribution policy to explore ways in which achievable (versus ascriptive) conceptions of identity lead to support for diversity-preserving practices for immigrants and minorities. To investigate, we draw on cross-sectional data from the 1995, 2003, and 2013 International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) Nationality Identity survey waves. Our analysis finds significant and positive support that (1) when members of the variety of cleavages that make up the “majority” see themselves in an achievable qua inclusive national identity and (2) hold positive views of immigrants, they are more likely to support policies that enable an outsider’s similar inclusion through diversity, i.e., maintaining tradition and cultural differences. However, through multi-level moderation analysis, we see national identities are filtered through perceptions of immigrants whereby xenophobia reduces support for multiculturalism specifically among the more inclusive national identifiers. We conclude with thoughts on the construction of national identity and the challenges of achieving social solidary in contemporary, immigrant-receiving societies, where populism and polarized national politics actively undermine intergroup ties.
John D. Huber (Columbia University)
“Group inequality and Civil Conflict” (with Laura Mayoral)
We explore empirically the role of economic inequality and civil conflict. Our analysis, which focuses on economic attributes of ethnic groups, emphasizes the distinction between conflict onset and conflict intensity. Existing studies have argued that inequality between groups — “horizontal inequality” — creates incentives for groups to start civil conflicts, and has provided evidence of a relationship between such inequality and conflict onset. And previous theoretical research argues that groups that are unequal have both the labor and capital necessary to sustain fighting. Thus, within-group inequality should be related to the intensity of civil wars, an argument that has not been previously tested. Drawing on a new data set using individual-level surveys to measure inequality at the group level, we provide evidence of a strong and robust relationship between within-group inequality and the intensity of civil wars. We find no evidence, however, using either our data or existing spatial data, of a robust relationship between horizontal inequality and the onset of civil war. Our findings therefore support theories of civil conflict emphasizing the capacity to fight rather than those emphasizing a causal role of economic grievances between groups.
Rahsaan Maxwell (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
Immigration is one of the most divisive issues in contemporary European politics. One of the biggest divisions is between Europeans who live in large cities and those who live elsewhere. Residents of large cities are more likely to support continued (or increased) immigration and believe that immigrants are a positive contribution to society. In contrast, Europeans who do not live in large cities (and especially those who live in rural areas) are more likely to support immigration restrictions and believe that immigrants have negative effects on society. This geographic divide is well documented and much discussed, but (to my knowledge) there has been no research on why people in large cities are more likely to have favorable opinions about immigrants and immigration. There are two plausible explanations. The first accounts for geographic variation in attitudes by geographic differences on key demographic factors like education, occupation, age, and foreign origins. The second accounts for geographic variation in attitudes by geographic differences in values and cultural norms, irrespective of any demographic differences. In this paper, I evaluate these two explanations with data from the European Social Survey and the Swiss Household Panel. My results support the demographic explanation because they indicate that there is more variation in immigration attitudes across individuals with different demographic characteristics (even within the same type of geographic area) than across individuals in different geographic areas. This has several implications for our understanding of immigration attitudes and geographic divides in Europe more generally.
John F. McCauley (University of Maryland)
This study evaluates the relative divisiveness of ethnicity and religion as political identities in West Africa. Based on results from a variant of the Dictator Game conducted in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, the findings point to the following conclusions. First, religious divisions appear to be greater than ethnic ones. Those divisions cannot be attributed to Islam, however, since Muslim participants mirrored the behavior of non-Muslims. Instead, the divisiveness of religion can be attributed almost entirely to the political context, since in-group/out-group religious differences appear strong where religion has been politicized in the course of conflict but effectively absent where it has not. These findings lend support to context-dependent arguments for identity salience and cast doubt on studies suggesting that either ethnicity or religion has particularly divisive features.
Sam Whitt (High Point University)
“Risk Tolerance during Conflict: Evidence from Aleppo, Syria” (with Vera Mironova)
We examine risk preferences among rebel combatants and civilians in Aleppo Syria using a variation of the Eckel-Grossman Risk Game. Field work in Syria was conducted in 2013 with a total 232 participants to include both Syrian civilians and active rebel fighters. Compared to Syrians in other locations, people in rebel-held territory of Aleppo are significantly more risk tolerant. We consider plausible explanations for elevated risk preferences in Aleppo based on self-selection, adaptive learning, future prospects, grievances, and social solidarity. We find that risk tolerance is most clearly mediated by optimist wishful thinking about the present and future. This suggests that a strong sense of self-efficacy may explain higher propensity for risk-taking. Overall, our results speak to plausible sorting mechanisms during conflict where risk averse individuals self-select out of conflict, while highly risk tolerant individuals are more prone to discount the inherent dangers of remaining in conflict zones.
You can find the conference program here.