Increasing Intergroup Trust: Endorsements and Voting in Divided Societies

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. Conditionally Accepted. [pdf]
Ethnic Bias in Judicial Decision-making: Evidence from the Kenyan Appellate Courts

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]
  • Winner, Fiona McGillivray Award for Best Paper, Political Economy Section, APSA, 2020
Navigating 'Insider' and 'Outsider' Status as Researchers Conducting Field Experiments

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]
The Hijab Penalty: Feminist Backlash to Muslim Immigrants

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]
  • Co-winner, Best Paper Award, European Politics and Society Section, APSA, 2021
  • Press Coverage: [Süddeutsche Zeitung]
Temperature and Outgroup Discrimination

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

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

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

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

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]

Working Papers

The Rejection of Election Results in Africa

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

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?

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

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) [paper][policy brief]
Wealth and Abortion: How Income Conditions Women Policymakers' Preferences in a Developing Country

Restrictions on access to legal abortion have created a public health crisis in many countries. But men and women policymakers often disagree on the expansion of reproductive rights. While most women policymakers are expected to support expanding abortion access, we argue that higher income reduces women politicians' support for liberalization because their wealth enables them to sidestep the restrictions created by abortion laws. We corroborate this expectation through a survey experiment conducted among more than 600 politicians in Zambia, a country with high rates of maternal mortality due to unsafe abortion. We show that only women politicians with lower incomes will increase their support for liberalization once exposed to the mortality costs of abortion restrictions. We further show that this effect is conditioned by income rather than education or marital status. Our findings underscore how income inequalities influence the substantive representation offered by women politicians.

  • with Leo Arriola (Berkeley), Justine Davis (Michigan), Melanie Phillips (Berkeley), Lise Rakner (Bergen)
Partisanship, Gender, and the Structure of Politician Networks in Zambia

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

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)