Mobilizing Collective Memory: A Field Experiment on the Effects of Priming Collective Threat on Voting Behavior

[latest version]

Locations of experimental conditions

Abstract:  Do messages of collective threat influence voters’ political behavior? If so, which groups of people are more likely to be influenced by such messages? This paper presents the first estimate of the effect of priming collective threat on actual electoral outcomes. This is done through a region-wide field experiment embedded in an organization’s leafleting campaign in the 2017 Catalan regional elections in Spain. In precincts assigned to receive a collective threat prime, the vote share of Catalan pro-secessionist political parties increased by between 1% and 1.7% compared to zero-increase of precincts that received a vote encouragement with either no prime of collective threat or no prime. Building on research suggesting that historical conflict influences the formation of preferences across generations, I propose a resonance theory of mobilization in which primes of collective threat will be more likely to mobilize communities more severely affected by old conflicts. The results show that the collective threat primes are particularly effective in those communities that were more heavily affected by the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing Francoist repression, with an increase of between 3.6% and 5.8% in the support for Catalan pro-secessionist parties. These findings have far-reaching implications for our understanding of how conflict history combined with the rhetoric of collective threat may enhance secessionist mobilization.

Are Western Educated Leaders Less Prone to Initiate Militarized Disputes?

British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming [paper][replication file]

The predicted probability of international disputes at different type of leaders’ education

Abstract: Recent theories on the causes of war focus on how institutional and structural factors shape leaders’ decisions in foreign policy. However, citizens, policy-makers, and a growing number scholars argue that leaders’ background experiences may matter for both domestic and foreign policy choices. This paper contributes to an emerging body of scholarship on leaders in international relations by showing how personal attributes influence the initiation of militarized disputes. Based on the soft power theory of international experiences and the impressionable-years hypothesis of socialization, I theorize that leaders with the experience of attending a university in a Western democratic country should be less likely than non-Western educated leaders to initiate militarized interstate disputes. I test this proposition by employing a new data set, building on Archigos and LEAD, that includes background attributes of more than 900 leaders from 147 non-Western countries between 1947–2001. The results strongly support the hypothesis, even when accounting for leader selection, time-variant country and leader-level controls, other leaders’ background characteristics, and country and year fixed effects. This finding lends credence to the soft power thesis of academic institutions on international sojourners, and highlights the value of considering leaders’ experiences in analyses about international relations.

Do Islamic State’s Deadly Attacks Disengage, Deter, or Mobilize Supporters?

with Elena Labzina

British Journal of Political Science, forthcoming [paper]

Predicted values of the number of followers depending on the number of cumulative deaths and the location of Islamic State terrorist attacks

Abstract: What are the consequences of committing violent attacks for terrorist organizations? Terrorist attacks might broaden the base of supporters by increasing the perceived group efficacy. However, terrorist attacks might also lead its supporters to believe that the organization is excessively violent or involvement may become too dangerous. This paper employs a unique dataset with 300,842 observations of 13,321 Twitter accounts linked to the Islamic State (IS), collected during a 127-day period, to empirically investigate the impact of terrorist attacks on the number of the organization’s supporters. By exploiting the exogenous timing of terrorist attacks as a natural experiment, we find that the number of followers of IS-related Twitter accounts significantly reduces in the aftermath of the attacks. Additionally, we provide some suggestive evidence to disentangle two mechanisms: disengagement—a change in supporters’ beliefs—and deterrence—de-mobilization due to fear. Because we do not find support for the latter, we conclude that the disengagement effect might explain our main result.

Deplorables: Emotions, Political Sophistication, and Political Intolerance

American Politics Research, forthcoming [paper]

The Marginal Effect of Anger on Political Intolerance Across Degrees of Political Sophistication.

Abstract: While scholars have shown strong and enduring interest in the role of emotions in politics, questions remain about the connections between emotions and political intolerance. First, it is not clear which emotion (if any) is likely to produce intolerance toward one’s disliked groups, with different studies favoring hatred, anger, or fear. Second, it is unclear whether these effects of emotion are moderated by sophistication, as some conventional political thought argues. Do the less-sophisticated, in other words, rely on emotions when making judgments, therefore being less tolerant than sophisticates, who rely on reason? Here, we test both hypotheses using a large representative sample of the American population. We find that hatred, anger, and fear are significantly but only modestly related to political intolerance. Moreover, the effects of emotions on intolerance are not consistently stronger among the unsophisticated. These findings provide little support for the conventional assumption that the less sophisticated rely on emotions in making political judgments.

Batons and ballots: The effectiveness of state violence in fighting against Catalan separatism

Research & Politics, 2018 [paper][replication file]

Geographic distribution of police deployment (Catalonia, Spain).
   October 1, 2017.

Abstract: What are the consequences of police brutality in fighting against the Catalan secessionist movement? While Spanish authorities resorted to violence with the hope that forceful action would deter further support for separatism, recent studies of repression argue that state violence tends to backfire. I test these two plausible arguments in the context of non-lethal police brutality to prevent an illegal self-determination referendum. For this, I combine data of the local distribution of police violence during the referendum and the official results of the subsequent regional elections. Because police forces were not deployed randomly, I employ a difference-in-differences estimation with matching to evaluate the electoral consequences of violence. The results show no clear evidence that police brutality affected support for separatism or electoral mobilization in the areas that it was deployed. The lack of a clear effect sets an agenda for future research in the investigation of the conditions under which state violence affects dissenting movements.

The Emotional Underpinnings of Attitudes Toward Transitional Justice

Political Studies, 2018 [paper]

Expected Values of the Desire for Justice Scale at Changes in the Predictors

Abstract: What explains citizens’ attitudes toward transitional justice (TJ)? Studies that examined the support for TJ mechanisms identified three sets of factors: individual, socialization and contextual. Building on the hot cognition theory, this paper argues that the past political regime is an emotionally charged sociopolitical object encoded with its evaluative history with consequences in people’s opinion-formation process. Drawing on a specialized survey in Spain, the results first suggest that negative emotions, especially anger and fear, significantly influence the support for stronger TJ measures, even after adjusting for relevant confounders such as ideology, religiosity, or victimization. Second, the findings show that those who lack an emotional engagement toward the past regime, so-called bystanders, hold attitudes toward TJ that are indistinguishable from those who report positive feelings (pride, patriotism, and nostalgia) toward the past regime. The effects of emotions are sizable relative to other important determinants, including ideology, religiosity, and family’s ideology.

The Long-Term Effects of War Exposure on Civic Engagement: Evidence from the Vietnam War


The geographic distribution of the bombs dropped during the Vietnam War.

[latest version]

Abstract: What are the legacies of war exposure on political behavior? I argue that exposure to such violence transforms people’s psychological makeup in a way that increases their long-term civic engagement. The Vietnam War offers a unique opportunity to test this proposition. Specifically, I exploit the distance to the arbitrarily drawn border at the seventeenth parallel as an instrument for conflict intensity. The results show that individuals who lived during the war in a province that was heavily affected by the conflict are more likely to be engaged in civic organizations in 2001, 26 years after the end of the conflict. I further find that this effect occurs because war exposure increases people’s participatory values and distrust in formal institutions, not because of postconflict development. This suggests that these psychological mechanisms offer the most plausible explanation for the persistent effect of war exposure on civic engagement.

The Ideological Legacy of Regime Transitions: Political Conservatism as a Response to Political Uncertainty

with Taishi Muraoka

[latest version]

The simulated effect of having experienced 1, 2, and 3 regime transitions when young on political conservatism

Abstract: Does experiencing a regime transition when young have a long-lasting effect on political preferences? This paper studies the legacies of regime transitions on political conservatism. We utilize repeated cross-sectional surveys between 1980 and 2016 across 90 countries from the World Value Survey and match the timing of the respondent’s early adulthood with that of regime changes in his or her country. We then test the relationship between the transitional experience and self-reported ideological placement as well as related questions on the role of government in social and economic matters. We present robust evidence that those who experienced a regime change during their impressionable years tend to show more conservative preferences even later in life. Our findings reveal that experiences in regime changes have a persistent impact on peoples’ conservative beliefs.

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