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.
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.
Endogenous Democracy: Causal Evidence from Adoption of Potatoes in the Old World. (with Guillermo Rosas) Under Review
Despite a strong cross-country correlation between development and democracy, it is difficult to
gauge the impact of economic development on the likelihood of autocracies to transition toward
democratic regimes because of endogeneity, especially due to reverse causation and omitted
variable bias. Hence, whether development causes democratization remains a contested issue.
We exploit exogeneity in the regional variation of potato cultivation along with the timing of
introduction of potatoes to the Old World to identify a causal effect of economic development
on transition to democracy. Our results suggest the existence of a causal effect of economic
development on democratization with a magnitude that is larger than previously quantified. This
constitutes the best possible evidence to date in favor of endogenous democratization.
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.
While scholars have shown strong and renewed interest in the role of emotions in politics, questions remain about the connections between emotions and political intolerance. Some conventional political thought argues that, because the less-sophisticated rely on their emotions when making judgments, they are less willing to tolerate their political enemies. Sophisticates, by contrast, rely on reason, and are therefore more tolerant. Here, we challenge that hypothesis using a large representative sample of the American population. We find that emotions are significantly related to political intolerance, but only weakly. Moreover, the effects of emotions on intolerance are not consistently stronger among the unsophisticated. We conclude by comparing our findings to research in other contexts, as well as speculating about how the nature of the cleavage structure in society – and hence the nature of threat perceptions – might influence the role emotions play in the production of political intolerance.