Papers on democratic stability



2022. Military Culture and Institutional Trust: Evidence from conscription reforms in Europe
American Journal of Political Science (first view) with Vincenzo Bove and Riccardo Di Leo

[Working paper] [Data]

Abstract. Does military conscription reduce the distance between the ordinary citizen and the state? Decades after its abolition, numerous European policymakers from across the political spectrum advocate the reintroduction of conscription to foster civic virtues, despite a lack of empirical evidence in this respect. Leveraging quasi-random variation in conscription reforms across 15 European countries, we find that cohorts of men drafted just before its abolition display significantly and substantially lower institutional trust than cohorts of men who were just exempted. At the same time, ending conscription had no effect on institutional trust among women from comparable cohorts. Results are neither driven by more favourable attitudes towards the government, nor by educational choices. Instead, this civil-military gap unfolds through the formation of a homogeneous community with uniform values. We argue that reintroducing a compulsory military service may not produce the e ects anticipated by its advocates.

2022. Wait and See? Public Opinion Dynamics after Terrorist Attacks
Journal of Politics (first view) with Mariaelisa Epifanio and Ria Ivandic

[Working paper] [Data]

Abstract. We use the occurrence of the London bombings in July 7 2005 during the fieldwork period of the British Social Attitudes Survey to analyse the dynamics of public support for measures curbing core freedoms. We observe no changes of public stances in the first week after the attack. Approval of infringements on privacy and procedural rights surges in the following weeks before stabilizing at an increased level in the medium run. Our findings indicate that the public adopts a wait-and-see attitude when it comes to restrictive counter-terrorist measures. These results run against the hypothesis of an over-reactive citizenry driven by fear. People do not seem to spontaneously demand liberticidal policies, but appear to follow elite cues. Ancillary analyses point to the media as the main source of persuasion.

Abstract. Major crises can act as critical junctures or reinforce the political status quo, depending on how citizens view the performance of central institutions. We use an interrupted time series to study the political effect of the enforcement of a strict confinement policy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, we take advantage of a unique representative web-based survey that was fielded in March and April 2020 in Western Europe to compare the political support of those who took the survey right before and right after the start of the lockdown in their country. We find that lockdowns have increased vote intentions for the party of the Prime Minister/President, trust in government and satisfaction with democracy. Furthermore, we find that, while rallying individuals around current leaders and institutions, they have had no effect on traditional left–right attitudes.

2021. It's a (coarsened exact) match! Non-parametric imputation of European abstainers' vote
Political Science Research and Methods 9(2): 445-450 with Damien Bol

[Working paper] [Data]

Abstract. There is a long tradition of imputation studies looking at how abstainers would vote if they had to. This is crucial for democracies because when abstainers and voters have different preferences, the electoral outcome ceases to reflect the will of the people. In this paper, we apply a non-parametric method to revisit old evidence. We impute the vote of abstainers in 15 European countries using Coarsened Exact Matching (CEM). While traditional imputation methods rely on the choice of voters that are on average like abstainers, and simulate full turnout, CEM only imputes the vote of the abstainers that are similar to voters, and allows to simulate an electoral outcome under varying levels of turnout, including levels that credibly simulate compulsory voting. We find that higher turnout would benefit social democratic parties while imposing substantial losses to extreme left and green parties.

2015. Electoral Competition through Issue Selection
American Journal of Political Science 59(1): 71-90 with Enriqueta Aragonès and Micael Castanheira

[Working paper] [Supplementary appendix]

Abstract. Politics must address multiple problems simultaneously. In an ideal world, political competition would force parties to adopt priorities that reflect the voters' true concerns. In reality, parties can run their campaigns in such a way as to manipulate voters' priorities. This phenomenon, known as priming, may allow parties to underinvest in solving the issues that they intend to mute. We develop a model of endogenous issue ownership in which two vote-seeking parties (a) invest in policy quality to increase the value of their platform and (b) choose a communication strategy to prime voters. We identify novel feedback between communication and investment. In particular, we find that stronger priming effects can constrain parties to invest more resources in all issues. We also identify the conditions under which parties prefer to focus on their "historical issues" or to engage in "issue stealing."

Papers on discrimination and inequality


2022. Household Education Gaps and Gender Role Attitudes
Political Science Research and Methods (first view) with David Hope and Øyvind Skorge

[Working paper] [Data]

Abstract. Individuals' attitudes about gender roles have been shown to be associated with a wide range of political outcomes. It is therefore crucial to better understand what shapes these attitudes. This note takes advantage of a randomized survey experiment embedded in the 2018 wave of the European Social Survey (ESS) to investigate how differences in education levels between partners influence the “gender childcare bias”—the extent to which individuals disapprove more of women working full time with children under three than men. Although male and female respondents exhibit an equally strong gender childcare bias on average, we find clear-cut evidence that the bias varies asymmetrically across the household education gap for women and men. In particular, positive household education gaps lead to a smaller gender childcare bias for female respondents, whereas the opposite holds for male respondents. Our findings are more in line with a resource-bargaining approach than a gender identity approach to the formation of gender role attitudes.

Abstract. Highly educated individuals tend to be less supportive of redistribution by most accounts because they have more to lose and less to gain from it. In this article, we use European Social Survey data to develop the argument that university education reduces support for redistribution in large part independently of the improved material circumstances with which it is associated. While university encourages a range of progressive ideas related to cultural inclusivity, it simultaneously encourages conservative redistribution preferences that are reinforced—but only partly explained—by the economic security it tends to provide. In short, European universities foster norms of cultural inclusion, while simultaneously eroding norms of economic solidarity.

2021. Global Racist Contagion following Donald Trump's Election
British Journal of Political Science 51(3): 1332-1339 with Pierre-Guillaume Méon

[Working paper] [Data]

Abstract. Exploiting the coincidence between the timing of U.S. presidential elections and the fieldwork period of the European Social Survey, we show that Donald Trump's win significantly increased self-reported racial bias in policy attitudes outside the U.S. We document that the opposite occurred following Barack Obama's first election in 2008, while no effect occurred when he or George W. Bush were reelected in 2012 and 2004. We show that the increase in self-reported racial bias is not driven by welfare-related immigration concerns, campaign effects, or bandwagon effects, suggesting a decrease in the social desirability of racial equality.

2021. Fear without Prejudice in the Shadow of Jihadist Threat
Comparative Political Studies 54(6): 1058-1085

[Working paper] [Data]

Abstract. Because the prejudice of the ingroup builds into fear of the outgroup, jihadist terrorism is expected to strengthen the politicized link between security and immigration. I use a causal inference in a clustered cross-country analysis to test the simultaneous short-run causal impact of the jihadist threat on security fear and ethnic prejudice of the public in Israel, the Netherlands, Russia, Sweden, France, and Germany. In line with common wisdom, jihadist attacks significantly increase security fear. Against it, jihadist attacks non-significantly decrease ethnic prejudice. This empirical pattern holds in across different types of immigration attitudes, ethnic groups, intervals of time and terrorist events, and is robust to placebo treatments, placebo policy preferences, fake and failed terror attacks. These findings challenge extant consensus, and suggest that jihadist attacks, particularly at the local level, induce risk-aversion rather than desire for retaliation.

2021. Terrorist Attacks and Minority Perceived Discrimination
British Journal of Sociology 72(2): 286-299 with Luca Merlino

[Working paper]

Abstract. A growing strand of the literature finds a causal negative impact of terrorism on undifferentiated discriminatory attitudes toward Muslims, migrants, and other minorities. In this paper, we argue that jihadist terrorism threatens first and foremost Muslims. To evaluate this claim, we estimate the causal effect of jihadist terrorism on the perceived discrimination among Muslims through a 2×2 quasi-experimental design. Exploiting “natural experiments” driven by exogenous variation in terror threat caused by jihadist attacks that unexpectedly occurred during the fieldwork of a large survey, we compare the perceived ethoracial discrimination of the relevant minority (Muslims) against other minorities (non-Muslims) before and after five different terror attacks in five different European countries. We find that jihadist attacks increase perceived ethnoracial discrimination among Muslims while reducing it among non-Muslims, and that individual-level factors including social status and economic insecurity mitigate public opinion responses to a greater extent than group-level factors do. Hence, while in-group attitudes toward out-groups tend to be undifferentiated, the experience of out-groups in the aftermath of jihadist attacks depends on the specific identity of the respondents.

Working papers


2022. Education and the Cross-group Discrimination Paradox
OSF Working Paper with Margarita Gelepithis

Abstract. Scholarly emphasis on dominant group attitudes results in an optimistic picture of education as a motor of reduced prejudice and improved intergroup relations. In this paper we examine the perceived discrimination of subordinate groups and reach rather different conclusions. We present causal evidence demonstrating that education decreases discriminatory attitudes while increasing perceived discrimination, and show that these asymmetric effects underpin a paradoxical phenomenon whereby discriminatory attitudes and perceived discrimination are negatively correlated at the country level. While our micro level claims are based on analysis of ethnoracial and gender discrimination in Europe, we show that the “intergroup discrimination paradox” describes patterns of discrimination on grounds as diverse as disability, sexual orientation and religion, in geographic contexts spanning the whole globe. Our findings suggest that education may increase awareness of existing discrimination among victims more than it decreases prejudice among perpetrators, thereby worsening rather than improving intergroup relations.

2021. Does Diversity Undermine Trust and Cooperation?
QPE Working Paper with Shaun Hargreaves Heap and Dimitris Minos

Abstract. It is often argued that diversity depletes the social capital of trust and cooperation. We argue there is no compelling theoretical reason for supposing that trust and cooperation will move together in response to diversity; and we provide new causal evidence that they do not. While diversity undermines trust, we find that people in more diverse societies are, surprisingly, better able to cooperate in both new aggregate and individual level observational data and in laboratory experiments. These results caution against the suggestion that diversity creates trade-offs for society: e.g. between innovativeness and solidarity or between freedom of movement and welfare state generosity.

2017. Disentangling True from Self-Reported Attitude-Behavior Consistency: a Survey Experiment
ECARES Working Paper with Juan Carlos Muñoz-Mora and Philip Verwimp

Abstract. Quantifying the level of Attitude-Behavior consistency is one of the rationales behind the progressive incorporation of attitudinal questions in childcare surveys. We argue that questionnaire design, and in particular the order and timing of questions on attitudes (attitudes toward behavior) and practices (behavioral intentions), may induce efforts to reduce cognitive dissonance, thereby biasing the estimated level of unobservable “true consistency” in an asymmetric way. In a randomized survey experiment we ran in Burundi, a sample of households is surveyed with four different designs of a KAP questionnaire (Knowledge, Attitude and Practice): (i) Questions on practices precede questions on attitudes within the same subsection (control group); (ii) Questions on attitudes precede questions on practices within the same subsection (control group. (Treatment I); (iii) Questions on practices precede questions on attitudes in different subsections (treatment II); and, (iv) Questions on attitudes precede questions on practices in different subsections (treatment III). The most important result is that behavioral self-reports predict attitudinal self-reports more than the opposite, independently of the timing imposed by the questionnaire. Higher aggregate consonance induced by behavioral questions suggests that the strength of attitudes is relatively weak in the specific context of rural Burundi. We offer a cognitive-dissonance reduction based explanation, but low accessibility of the studied attitudes in the memory, low frequency at which they are evoked or low extent to which they are grounded in direct experience are also compatible with the described effect. Several alternative specifications are presented and encompass various levels of aggregation. The implications for KAP questionnaire design and for information campaigns in developing countries are discussed.

Abstract. I test several hypotheses on the relationship between ideological preferences and participation of both politicized and depoliticized individuals in three multilevel models across several modes of political action using the last round of the European Social Survey (2012). Novel (i) positive,(ii) normative and (iii) methodological insights concerning (i) the participation levels of depoliticized individuals;(ii) the extent to which participatory inequality entails biased policies under heterogeneous degree of individual politicization and aggregate polarization and (iii) the appeal of category-specific dummy variables in best incorporating some otherwise neglected but potentially important categories of non-respondents.