Donghyun Danny Choi

Assistant Professor of Political Science · Brown University · dannychoi@brown.edu

I am an assistant professor of political science at Brown University. My research focuses on two broad themes: political parties and identity politics.

My first (coauthored) book project, Native Bias: Overcoming Discrimination Against Immigrants, examines the extent to which common norms, identities, and ideas can reduce prejudice and discrimination against immigrants and ultimately facilitate their inclusion in democratic societies. This book project is forthcoming at Princeton University Press in the Princeton Studies in Political Behavior series.

My second book project, Severed Connections: Intraparty Politics and Representation in Kenya, investigates how political parties and the nature of candidate selection institutions influence the relationship between elected representatives and their constituents in new democracies. This project won APSA’s Juan Linz Prize for Best Dissertation in the Comparative Study of Democracy presented by the Democracy and Autocracy Section of APSA in 2020.

My work on these two themes have been published or are forthcoming in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, and Political Analysis, among others.

I received my PhD in Political Science from UC Berkeley in 2018. Prior to joining Brown, I was an assistant professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh and a pre/postdoctoral fellow at the Identity & Conflict Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.


Books

Native Bias: Overcoming Discrimination Against Immigrants

Donghyun Danny Choi, Mathias Poertner, and Nicholas Sambanis
Summary

In the aftermath of the refugee crisis caused by conflicts in the Middle East and an increase in migration to Europe, European nations have witnessed a surge in discrimination targeted at immigrant minorities. To quell these conflicts, some governments have resorted to the adoption of coercive assimilation polices aimed at erasing differences between natives and immigrants. Are these policies the best method for reducing hostilities? Native Bias challenges the premise of such regulations by making the case for a civic integration model, based on shared social ideas defining the concept and practice of citizenship.

Drawing from original surveys, survey experiments, and novel field experiments, Donghyun Danny Choi, Mathias Poertner, and Nicholas Sambanis show that although prejudice against immigrants is often driven by differences in traits such as appearance and religious practice, the suppression of such differences does not constitute the only path to integration. Instead, the authors demonstrate that similarities in ideas and value systems can serve as the foundation for a common identity, based on a shared concept of citizenship, overcoming the perceived social distance between native and immigrants.

Addressing one of the most pressing challenges of our time, Native Bias offers an original framework for understanding anti-immigrant discrimination and the processes through which it can be overcome.

Endorsements

"Native Bias offers a compelling and hopeful analysis of the challenges facing countries grappling with increasing cultural diversity. Focusing on the integration of Muslims in Germany, a series of clever experiments reveals what it takes for majorities to stop discriminating against minorities. Indispensable reading for anyone interested in immigrant integration and multicultural politics!"— Rafaela M. Dancygier, author of Dilemmas of Inclusion: Muslims in European Politics

"This excellent book addresses one of the most important issues of our time: how to overcome the discrimination of immigrants and, ultimately, how to secure their successful integration into new societies. This is a major contribution not only to the study of immigrant discrimination and integration, but also to intergroup relations more broadly."― Peter Thisted Dinesen, University of Copenhagen

"Setting a new standard for theoretically guided fieldwork, Native Bias presents an array of elegant experiments staged in dozens of cities and involving thousands of bystanders. These unobtrusive studies of discrimination do more than simply document the fact that natives look down on immigrants; they illuminate the conditions under which anti-immigrant discrimination diminishes, underscoring in particular the importance of challenging stereotypes that portray immigrants as hostile or indifferent to the values of the native majority."— Donald P. Green, Columbia University

"This is a terrific book―one of the best I’ve read in a long time. Polished, theoretically sophisticated, and logically structured, it brings to bear new evidence and approaches on a critical contemporary topic."― Daniel N. Posner, University of California, Los Angeles

"Based on an impressive battery of original field experiments and surveys, this work holds a powerful message: bias and discrimination against Muslim immigrants are widespread and persistent in Europe. Native Bias shows that these shortcomings can be overcome by shared civic norms and identities."― Christian Joppke, University of Bern

Forthcoming, Princeton University Press

Severed Connections: Intraparty Politics and Representation in Kenya

Donghyun Danny Choi
Juan Linz Prize for Best Dissertation in the Comparative Study of Democracy, Democracy & Autocracy Section, APSA 2020
Summary

How does intraparty politics shape the quality of representation in new democracies? This question has seldom been addressed in existing work on political parties in the developing world, which has traditionally emphasized the weakness of the party system and partisan attachments, as well as mobilization strategies based on ascriptive loyalties or clientelistic relationships as the key barriers to representation. My first book project studies this important question by reorienting our focus to the interaction between elected representatives and their party leadership, whose support is critical for their electoral survival. I show that the party leadership is motivated to capture the candidate selection process to cultivate the ideal slate of representatives that allows them to simultaneously pursue their party's electoral success while diffusing threats against their position within the party's ranks. The party leadership's machinations, combined with an electoral geography that often amplifies the centrality of candidate selection, culminate in the emergence of two disparate pools of elected representatives; a majority mostly disinterested in being responsive to their constituents, and a smaller minority who remain steadfast in their commitment to their democratic sovereigns. Drawing on 18 months of fieldwork in Kenya, my project combines insights from in-depth interviews of more than 80 past and current elected representatives and senior party officials, analyses of original surveys, census data, election returns, archival materials, ethnographic observation within party organizations, a series of experiments conducted on more than 3000 primary voters in Kenya, and a text analysis of a corpus of 51000 newspaper articles.

My argument begins from a simple premise: that to understand the relationship between intraparty politics and representation is to understand what types of demands are placed on elected representatives, and by whom. In addition to demands voters place for constituency service, representatives face pressures from their respective political parties. Moving beyond the simplistic assumption that parties are singularly motivated by the need to win elections, however, I posit that the party leadership --- a select group of individuals including the party leader herself who control the party organization --- is also motivated by the need to preserve and maintain their power over the party hierarchy. The need to manage and balance these two divergent goals underpins the logic by which the party leadership engineers the ideal "roster" of individuals that are nominated as party candidates; privileging "loyalists" at the expense of constituency-oriented "performers" in constituencies where the electoral repercussions of such a strategy is minimal and privileging "performers" in places where electoral success of the party hinges on nominating popular candidates with a proven track record of constituency service. The strategies deployed by the party leadership in turn structure the incentives of representatives to invest effort in serving their constituents, ultimately shaping the quality of representation.

Substantively, these findings contribute to the emerging consensus that democratic elections are necessary but insufficient to foster better representation and responsiveness for the people. However, while the dominant narrative in comparative politics has focused on structural-institutional factors such as ethnicity, clientelism, or electoral systems to understand this deficit, I shift the attention back to political parties. My project shows that the ideal of representative democracy is likely to remain elusive unless democracy within political parties is realized. When power and authority over party institutions and decision-making processes accumulate to a single individual or a small group of elites, these actors have the potential to effectively become autocrats within their domain; manipulating elected representatives who should primarily be interested in tending to their constituents to serve their political ambitions, thereby derailing the democratic process that they should protect.

In Progress

Publications

Increasing Intergroup Trust: Endorsements and Voting in Divided Societies
[abstract] Can endorsements persuade voters to transcend politicized identity cleavages to support candidates from other groups? We argue that the persuasive power of cleavage-bridging endorsements depends on the ability of politicians to elicit ingroup trust on behalf of outgroup candidates. The activation of ingroup trust increases the likelihood of voting for outgroup candidates by changing both instrumental and affective assessments about the nature of the voter-candidate relationship. To assess these claims, we provide evidence from Kenya, where simulated radio news segments experimentally manipulated the ethnic relationship among voters, endorsers, and candidates. We find that voters who hear endorsements from ingroup politicians are significantly more likely to vote for outgroup candidates and view them as trustworthy. We further find that the trust premium transferred from ingroup endorsers to outgroup candidates leads voters to regard them as non-discriminatory representatives who care about their wellbeing.
  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley) and Matthew Gichohi (Bergen)
  • Journal of Politics. Forthcoming. [pdf] [appendix]
Navigating 'Insider' and 'Outsider' Status as Researchers Conducting Field Experiments
[abstract]

From textbooks and articles to seminars and online resources, advice on how to successfully design and conduct randomized controlled trials (RCTs) abounds. We agonize over the research design, practitioner partnerships, and participant recruitment to name just a few concerns. But we rarely talk about those who conduct the field experiments—us. Even rarer is a discussion on how the researcher’s identity have methodological consequences, particularly when a researcher is from a background traditionally underrepresented in academia. We the co-authors, all researchers of color, have found that our identity has posed additional challenges—with our expertise, objectivity, status doubted, occasionally followed by muted enthusiasm for participating in experiments. When researcher identity defies the expectations of a typical profile of an academic affiliated with North American or European-based institutions (white and male, in particular), it has important implications for the inferences we draw from field experiments. In this article, we reflect on these challenges and the potential biases that can arise from a researcher’s identity, highlighting our own experiences in the field.

  • with Sumitra Badrinathan (Oxford), Sabrina Karim (Cornell), Eunji Kim (Vanderbilt), and Yang-Yang Zhou (British Columbia)
  • PS: Political Science & Politics. Forthcoming. [pdf]
Ethnic Bias in Judicial Decision-making: Evidence from the Kenyan Appellate Courts
[abstract]

Understanding sources of judicial bias is essential for establishing due process. To date, theories of judicial decision-making are rooted in ranked societies with majority-minority group cleavages, leaving unanswered which groups are more prone to express bias and whether it is motivated by in-group favoritism or out-group hostility. We examine judicial bias in Kenya, a diverse society which features a more complex ethnic landscape. While research in comparative and African politics emphasize instrumental motivations underpinning ethnic identity, we examine the psychological, implicit biases driving judicial outcomes. Using data from Kenyan criminal appeals and the conditional random assignment of judges to cases, we show judges grant coethnic appeals at a 3--5 percentage points higher rate than noncoethnic appeals. To understand mechanisms, we use word embeddings to analyze the sentiment of written judgments. Judges use more trust-related terms writing for coethnics, suggesting that in-group favoritism motivates coethnic bias in this context.

  • with Andy Harris (NYU Abu Dhabi), Fiona Shen-Bayh (William & Mary)
  • American Political Science Review. Forthcoming. [pdf] [appendix][dataverse]
  • Fiona McGillivray Award for Best Paper, Political Economy Section, APSA, 2020
The Hijab Penalty: Feminist Backlash to Muslim Immigrants
[abstract]

Is opposition to Muslim immigration in Western societies driven by perceptions of a cultural threat? Can shared ideas between natives and immigrants mitigate discrimination against immigrants? We hypothesize that natives' bias against Muslim immigrants is shaped by the belief that Muslims hold conservative attitudes about women’s rights and that this ideational basis for discrimination is more pronounced among native women. We test this hypothesis in a large-scale field experiment conducted in 25 cities across Germany, during which 3,797 unknowing bystanders were exposed to brief social encounters with confederates who revealed their ideas regarding gender roles. We find significant discrimination against Muslim women, but this discrimination is eliminated when these women signal that they share progressive gender attitudes held by natives. Through an implicit association test and a follow-up survey among German adults, we further confirm the centrality of ideational stereotypes in structuring opposition to immigration. Our findings have important implications for reducing conflict between native-immigrant communities in an era of increased cross-border migration.

  • with Mathias Poertner (LSE) and Nicholas Sambanis (Penn)
  • American Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming. [pdf] [appendix] [dataverse]
  • Best Paper Award, European Politics and Society Section, APSA, 2021
  • Press Coverage: [Süddeutsche Zeitung]
Temperature and Outgroup Discrimination
[abstract]

High temperatures have been linked to aggression in humans and recent literature has established a connection between climate change and violent inter-group conflict. Previous studies have emphasized economic mechanisms in explaining the effect of climatic conditions on conflict. Using data from two large-scale field experiments, we show evidence of a direct causal effect of high temperatures on nonviolent inter-group conflict, proxied by discrimination in helping behavior toward an ethno-religious outgroup. In our experiments, as temperatures rise, individuals faced with a choice to provide help to strangers in every-day interactions disciminate more against ethno-religious minorities. In light of expected increases in the frequency of temperature shocks due to global warming, our findings suggest that inter-group conflict of all forms will become more prevalent in the future.

  • with Mathias Poertner (LSE) and Nicholas Sambanis (Penn)
  • Political Science Research and Methods. Forthcoming. [pdf] [appendix] [dataverse]
Paying to Party: Candidate Resources and Party Switching in New Democracies
[abstract]

Party switching among legislative candidates has important implications for accountability and representation in democratizing countries. We argue that party switching is influenced by campaign costs tied to the clientelistic politics that persist in many such countries. Candidates who are expected to personally pay for their campaigns, including handouts for voters, will seek to affiliate with parties that can lower those costs through personal inducements and organizational support. Campaign costs also drive candidate selection among party leaders, as they seek to recruit candidates who can finance their own campaigns. We corroborate these expectations with an original survey and embedded choice experiment conducted among parliamentary candidates in Zambia. The conjoint analysis shows that candidates prefer larger parties that offer particularistic benefits. The survey further reveals that parties select for business owners as candidates; the very candidates most likely to defect from one party to another.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley), Justine Davis (Michigan), Melanie Phillips (Berkeley), Lise Rakner (Bergen)
  • Party Politics. Forthcoming. [pdf] [appendix]
Linguistic Assimilation Does Not Reduce Discrimination Against Immigrants: Evidence from Germany
[abstract]

Many western liberal democracies have witnessed increased bias against immigrants and opposition to multiculturalism. Prior research suggests that ethno-linguistic differences between immigrant and native populations are a key cause of that bias due to the perception of cultural threat. Linguistic assimilation has been proposed as the key mechanism to reduce bias and mitigate conflict between natives and immigrants. Using a large-scale field experiment in Germany—a country with a high influx of immigrants and refugees—we show that linguistic assimilation does not reduce bias. We find that Muslim immigrants are no less likely to be discriminated against if they appear to be linguistically assimilated. However, we also find that ethno-linguistic differences do not cause bias among German natives, suggesting that Germany may have already reached a relatively high level of tolerance to multiculturalism.

  • with Mathias Poertner (LSE) and Nicholas Sambanis (Penn)
  • Journal of Experimental Political Science. 2021. 8(3), 235-246.[pdf] [appendix] [dataverse]
Parochialism, Social Norms, and Discrimination against Immigrants
[abstract]

Ingroup bias and outgroup prejudice are pervasive features of human behavior, motivating various forms of discrimination and conflict. In an era of increased cross-border migration, these tendencies exacerbate inter-group conflict between native populations and immigrant groups, raising the question of how conflict can be overcome. We address this question through a large-scale field intervention conducted in 28 cities across three German states, designed to measure assistance provided to immigrants during everyday social interactions. This randomized trial found that cultural integration signaled through shared social norms mitigates – but does not eliminate – bias against immigrants driven by perceptions of religious differences. Our results suggest that eliminating or suppressing ascriptive (e.g. ethnic) differences is not a necessary path to conflict reduction in multicultural societies; rather, achieving a shared understanding of civic behavior can form the basis of cooperation.

Fuzzy Sets on Shaky Ground: Parameter Sensitivity and Confirmation Bias in fsQCA
[abstract]

Scholars have increasingly turned to fuzzy set Qualitative Comparative Analysis (fsQCA) to conduct small- and medium-N studies, arguing that it combines the most desired elements of variable-oriented and case-oriented research. This article demonstrates, however, that fsQCA is an extraordinarily sensitive method whose results are worryingly susceptible to minor parametric and model specification changes. We make two specific claims. First, the causal conditions identified by fsQCA as being sufficient for an outcome to occur are highly contingent upon the values of several key parameters selected by the user. Second, fsQCA results are subject to marked confirmation bias. Given its tendency toward finding complex connections between variables, the method is highly likely to identify as sufficient for an outcome causal combinations containing even randomly generated variables. To support these arguments, we replicate three articles utilizing fsQCA and conduct sensitivity analyses and Monte Carlo simulations to assess the impact of small changes in parameter values and the method’s built-in confirmation bias on the overall conclusions about sufficient conditions.

  • with Christopher Krogslund and Mathias Poertner (LSE)
  • Political Analysis. 2015. 23(1), 21-41. [pdf]

Ongoing Projects

The Rejection of Election Results in Africa
[abstract]

Election results in Africa are more likely to be rejected by opposition parties than anywhere else in the world. This rejection rate has remained nearly constant since the renewal of multiparty elections in the early 1990s. We hypothesize that the persistence of this pattern can be explained, in part, by the victory-legitimacy tradeoff that incumbent leaders must negotiate each electoral cycle. Incumbents who rely on violent tactics to secure their hold on power and demonstrate their strength as political actors should be expected to provoke the rejection of election results. Yet, at the same time, incumbents understand that complete rejection of an election can undermine their legitimacy. We theorize that incumbents in such situations can induce greater acceptance of election results by appointing some of their opponents to post-election governments. An analysis of nearly 200 African elections shows that opposition parties are less likely to accept election results when campaign periods are tainted by violence, regardless of the constraints on executive power or the quality of electoral institutions. The analysis further shows that opposition acceptance of election results systematically shapes post-election government formation in Africa: more parties enter the executive cabinet as more opponents accept the results.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley) and Staffan Lindberg (Gothenburg)
  • Revise and Resubmit at African Affairs
Mobile Communication Technology and National Identity in Sub-Saharan Africa
[abstract]

We examine how the expansion of mobile internet infrastructure affects national identity in sub-Saharan Africa. In diverse societies where elections are contested along ethno-communal lines, we argue that access to mobile internet undermines national identity because it facilitates voter exposure to the polarizing tendencies of internet-based social media and communication platforms. Applying a difference-in-differences design on mobile coverage maps and geocoded survey data of more than 50,000 African citizens, we show that access to mobile internet reduces identification with the nation by up to 5-7 percentage points. To establish support for our electoral mechanism, we exploit as-if random variation in the timing of individuals' survey interviews relative to presidential elections, during which we argue divisive and polarizing forces are at their peak. Our analysis shows that electoral proximity intensifies the negative effect of mobile internet. These findings highlight how technological innovations can inhibit the process of state-building in diverse societies.

  • with Benjamin Laughlin (NYU Abu Dhabi) and Anna Schultz (Independent Researcher) [pdf]
Do Voters Respond to Cross-Ethnic Campaigning in Divided Societies?
[abstract]

Are voters receptive to direct campaign appeals from non-coethnic candidates? Candidates competing for office in ethnically divided societies often seek to win national support by reaching out to voters from different groups. In this context, we argue that candidates may inadvertently dampen their support when personally campaigning among non-coethnic voters. Drawing on the logic of group threat, we claim that the physical presence of a candidate in a non-coethnic constituency, usually through campaign rallies, can heighten voters’ perceptions of intergroup competition. We corroborate this expectation by leveraging a natural experiment that exploits the timing of an unscheduled campaign rally held by a presidential candidate in a non-coethnic constituency during Kenya’s 2017 elections. The logic of group threat becomes evident when comparing survey respondents before and after the rally: the candidate’s post-rally favorability decreases among non-coethnic voters and the proportion of voters identifying in ethnic rather than national terms simultaneously increases.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley), Matthew Gichohi (Bergen), and Ken Opalo (Georgetown) [pdf]
Can Americans Depolarize? Assessing the Effects of Reciprocal Group Reflection on Partisan Polarization
[abstract]

Overcoming America's deep partisan polarization poses a unique challenge: Americans must be able to disagree on policy while nonetheless agreeing on more fundamental democratic principles. We study one model of depolarization--reciprocal group reflection--inspired by marital counseling and implemented by a non-governmental organization,''Braver Angels.'' We randomly assigned undergraduate students at four universities either to participate in a Braver Angels workshop or simply to complete three rounds of surveys. The workshops significantly reduced polarization according to explicit and implicit measures. They also increased participants' willingness to donate to programs aimed at depolarizing political conversations. These effects are consistent across partisan groups, though some dissipate over time. Using qualitative data collected during the workshops, we inductively generate a new theory of depolarization that combines both informational and emotional components such that citizens, moved to empathize with an outgroup, become more likely to internalize new information about outgroup members.

  • with Hannah Baron (Brown), Robert A. Blair (Brown), Laura Gamboa (Utah), Jessica Gottlieb (TAMU), Amanda L. Robinson (OSU), Steven C. Rosenzweig (Boston U.), Meghan M. Turnbull (Georgia), Emily A. West (Pitt) [pdf][policy brief]
  • Under Review
Women Policymakers’ Abortion Preferences: Understanding the Intersection of Gender and Wealth
[abstract]

When do women policymakers support liberalizing access to legal abortion? While early scholarship on substantive representation showed that women in politics often sought to expand reproductive rights, more recent research indicates that their policy preferences are also shaped by other social identities. We argue that wealth, in particular, will affect women politicians’ support for liberalizing abortion reform when their personal resources determine the extent to which they are constrained by existing laws. We corroborate this expectation through an analysis of a survey and embedded experiment conducted among more than 600 political candidates in Zambia. We show that women candidates with less wealth increase their support for liberalization once exposed to the human cost of abortion restrictions. We show that this effect is conditioned by wealth rather than marital status or education. Our findings underscore how economic inequalities can influence the substantive representation offered by women politicians.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley), Justine Davis (Michigan), Melanie Phillips (Berkeley), Lise Rakner (Bergen)
  • Under Review
Democratic Backsliding on the Legislative Floor: Evidence from Zambia
[abstract]

How does democratic backsliding affect the behavior of incumbent party and opposition legislators in parliament? We investigate this question in the context of Zambia, which experienced a significant spate of oppression against the opposition party during the Presidency of Edgar Lungu. Using computational text analysis on a corpus of 1,292 parliamentary sessions from 2001—2021, we systematically analyze how legislative debates between incumbent and opposition players evolved during a period of democratic turmoil compared to periods of relative democratic stability. We specifically examine changes in the composition of legislators who speak up during these debates, the topics raised, as well as the extent of incivility across party lines. Our findings reveal how democratic backsliding manifests in the legislative arena, which has implications for freedom of speech and democratic discourse.

  • with Fiona Shen-Bayh (William and Mary)
LGBT+ Tolerance: Assessing the Impact of Judicial Decisions and Social Campaigns in Africa
[abstract]

Although LGBT+ individuals in some countries around the world are enjoying the gradual expansion of civil liberties and fundamental protections, in many other countries they are experiencing increasing government repression and social sanctions. In this context, it remains unclear to what extent popular attitudes are conditioned by the decisions of state institutions like courts or the social campaigns of civil society organizations -- in either conservative or liberal directions. We assess such dynamics through a three-wave panel survey conducted among a nationally representative sample of Kenyans throughout 2019. Respondents were asked about their attitudes toward LGBT+ individuals, including criminal penalties and social sanctions, before and after Kenya's High Court issued a decision upholding the country's colonial-era anti-sodomy law. Respondents were also randomly exposed to informational and empathy treatments modeled after those employed by LGBT+ rights organizations in Kenya. Our analysis shows that while the information and empathy treatments about LGBT+ individuals did have some sizable short-term effects consistent with prejudice reduction, the effects did not persist beyond the single survey round. Furthermore, results from the post-court decision survey round show that even when respondents were nudged to recall the experience of the information and perspective-taking treatments, they were no less likely to exhibit prejudicial attitudes towards LGBT+ individuals. Taken together, our findings provide evidence for how social campaigns and state institutions may constrain the effectiveness of prejudice-reducing interventions.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley), Matthew Gichohi (CMI), Siri Gloppen (Bergen), Malcolm Langford (Oslo)
Partisanship, Gender, and the Structure of Politician Networks in Zambia
[abstract]

Although women have entered government in African countries at an unprecedented rate over the past three decades, it remains unknown to what extent they have acquired the influence necessary to shape policymaking. Are women able to exercise personal influence to the same degree or in the same ways as their male counterparts? We argue that women tend to be less influential than men due to the structure of their personal networks with other politicians. Prior scholarship on African politics has demonstrated that political outcomes depend on the personal ties that connect politicians to one other. Based on a novel network survey among Zambian candidates, we demonstrate that women tend to be peripherally situated within networks. We find that women are systematically less likely to be connected to others in social or work networks among politicians. We also demonstrate that, while having fewer connections than men, women have connections with more important people in both social and work networks.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley), Justine Davis (Michigan), Melanie Phillips (Berkeley), Lise Rakner (Bergen)
Accountability Under Devolved Government: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Kenya
[abstract]

Political decentralization in African countries has the potential to transform the relationship between citizens and their representatives. But scholars have yet to fully understand whether or how voters adapt to the accountability demands imposed by having to elect representatives at multiple levels of government. Do voter assessments of local politicians depend on coethnicity, as prior studies have shown with national politicians? Are voters willing to update their assessments of incumbent performance based on new information? To answer such questions, we examine how voter evaluations of local incumbents are conditioned by information and partisanship. An experimental survey design presented respondents in two Kenyan counties, Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia, with randomized positive versus negative information about the performance of incumbent county governors in the run-up to the 2017 elections. The results show that some voters are willing to update their vote preference based on positive information about incumbent performance. However, these effects are found almost exclusively in Trans Nzoia, where exposure to positive information significantly increases the likelihood of voting for the incumbent even among non-coethnics, non-copartisans, and respondents with prior negative evaluations of the incumbent. In Uasin Gishu, by contrast, we find no such effects. We postulate that the differences between the two counties may be driven by distinct patterns in the distribution of political support for the two incumbents.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley), Matthew Gichohi (Bergen), and Ken Opalo (Georgetown)

Teaching

Institution Class Name Level Offered Syllabus
Pittsburgh Dissertation Overview G F2020, S2021 [F2020]
Pittsburgh Identity Politics Seminar G F2020 [F2020]
Pittsburgh Capstone: Democratic Erosion UG S2020 [S2020]
Pittsburgh Coding and Computational Social Science UG S2020 [S2020]
Pittsburgh Introduction to African Politics UG F2019, S2021 [S2021]