What Motivates Reasoning? A Theory of Goal‐Dependent Political Evaluation

The forthcoming article “What Motivates Reasoning? A Theory of Goal‐Dependent Political Evaluation” by Eric Groenendyk and Yanna Krupnikov is summarized by the author(s) below. 

Political science has long struggled with the question of motivation.  In the economic sphere, sound decisions pay off, so individuals have a clear incentive for accuracy. But, within the political sphere, decision-making occurs collectively, undermining democratic citizens motivation to devote effort to accurate evaluation (Downs 1957). To address this problem, scholars often look to motivated reasoning theory (Kunda 1990), but what we really need is a theory of what motivates reasoning in politics.   

We theorize that information processing is motivated by the goals salient in a given context.  What goals, then, are salient in the context of politics?  We argue that, if politics feels conflictual, like debate, the goal will be to “win” by counterargue against the opposition in defense of one’s own position. But, if politics feels cooperative, like deliberation, the goal will be to find consensus through open-minded discussion.   

We test our theory through three experiments. In the first experiment participants were each asked to describe what came to mind when they thought of a randomly assigned treatment word: politics, disagreement, debate, deliberation, democracy, or sports.  We find that, like disagreement and debate, and unlike deliberation and democracy, people associate politics with conflict and not consensus.  

While it may be common for people to defend their prior opinions in the context of politics, our theory suggests this motivation is not inherent to politics, but rather conditioned on this association between politics and conflict. Our second experiment tested this hypothesis by manipulating whether policy statements were labeled as potentially disagreeable information“political” information, or simply “additional” information.  In the first two conditions, study participants argued against information that conflicted with their prior attitudes.  But, absent an expectation of conflict, participants in the third condition displayed no such effort.    

Given the lack of incentive to reach accurate evaluations in the political sphere, we designed our third experiment to test whether it is possible to motivate open-minded reasoning as an end unto itself, not simply as a means to achieve accuracy.  In our treatment group, participants were told about a (fictitious) study linking open-mindedness with various measures of life success, thereby providing a psychological incentive to want to believe they were open-minded.  The control group received no such information. Compared to the control group, participants told of the link between open-mindedness and life success devoted more effort to open-minded evaluation of counter-attitudinal information.  At the same time, however, theshowed no increase in their ability to discern between strong and weak arguments, suggesting their goal was open-mindednessnot accuracy.      

These findings suggest that, while accuracy-motivated reasoning may not be common in politics, directional motivations need not lead people to reject counter-attitudinal information.  Rather, there is an important role for context: how people respond to new information depends on what they imagine politics to be.    

Works Cited
Downs, Anthony. (1957)An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper Row.
KundaZiva. (1990). “The case for motivated reasoning.” Psychological Bulletin 108 (3):480-98. 

About the Author(s): Eric Groenendyk is an Associate Professor at University of Memphis and Yanna Krupnikov is an Associate Professor at Stony Brook University. Their research “What Motivates Reasoning? A Theory of Goal‐Dependent Political Evaluation” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Earned Income and Women’s Segmented Empowerment: Experimental Evidence from Jordan

The forthcoming article “Earned Income and Women’s Segmented Empowerment: Experimental Evidence from Jordan” by Carolyn Barnett, Amaney A. Jamal and Steve L. Monroe is summarized by the author(s) below.  

Though international development agencies champion women’s economic participation as a means to promote gender equality, the link between women’s employment and women’s empowerment is neither simple nor inexorableSome research demonstrates that earning income can empower women in the public and private sphere.  Other research proposes that patriarchal norms can suppress, constrain, or reverse the empowering effects of paid labor, and inhibit women’s access to income-earning opportunities.   

We examine the relationship between earned income and women’s empowerment in Jordan, a country with one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world. We conducted two original experiments that reveal how patriarchal norms can constrain the empowering effects of earned income on women’s bargaining power, and their preferences for paid employment opportunities.  

The first experiment was a lab experiment where we randomized participants’ relative earned income and measured its effect on female participants’ efficacy and influence—two behavioral dimensions of empowerment—in bargaining games involving same-sex and mixed-sex pairs. Our lab experiment demonstrates the complex relationship between earned income and women’s empowerment. We find that while earning more than one’s partner promotes women’s efficacy in bargaining situations, it has no effect on women’s influence over bargaining outcomes when they are paired with men as opposed to women. 

Stepping outside the lab, we then investigated whether patriarchal norms affect Jordanian women’s preferences toward income-earning opportunities. We presented hypothetical job opportunities to a separate sample of Jordanian women in a conjoint survey experiment. We find that though a range of material and socio-cultural factors influence women’s employment preferences, working alongside men is a particularly strong deterrent to women’s interest in paid employment opportunities. Jordanian women are 19% less likely to accept a job if it involves working alongside men. Our analysis suggests that mixed-sex work spaces are a stronger deterrent to accepting a hypothetical job opportunity for Jordanian women than below-average wages.  

Our experiments expose two ways patriarchal norms segment the empowering effects of earned income: by constraining the influence of relatively higher-earning women, and by rendering many paid employment opportunities unattractive to women. Together, these findings add new empirical support to research that questions the prospects for women’s empowerment via employment in contemporary societies with strong patriarchal norms.  

These findings invite further analysis on the policy implications of women’s strong preference for and greater assertiveness in same-sex settingsOn the one hand, policies that promote same-sex work spaces may lower barriers to women’s employment in patriarchal societies. By facilitating employment, same-sex work spaces can help women acquire new skills, gain confidence and autonomy, and earn income. On the other hand, female empowerment through same-sex work spaces may remain confined to same-sex spaces that may disadvantage women in the long run. Given that most economic, social, and political power remains male-dominated, female empowerment that is bound to same-sex settings risks preserving gender inequalities beyond the realm of work. 

About the Author(s): Carolyn Barnett is a Ph.D Candidate at Princeton University, Amaney A. Jamal is the Edwards S. Sanford Professor at Princeton University and Steve L. Monroe is an Assistant Professor at Yale‐NUS College. Their research Earned Income and Women’s Segmented Empowerment: Experimental Evidence from Jordan” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Does Transparency Inhibit Political Compromise?

The forthcoming article “Does Transparency Inhibit Political Compromise?” by Jeffrey J. Harden and Justin H. Kirkland is summarized by the author(s) below. 

The public’s ability to see the workings of its government has a surprisingly short history in the United States. The open government debate was not a central element of early American institutional discussion, and several Framers suggested that many of the compromises reached to help ratify the Constitution would have been impossible with open meetings and transparent deliberation. Beginning in the early 20th Century, however, institutional reformers began to push for greater transparency in policymaking across the country, leading to a variety of “sunshine laws. Much like the Framers’ arguments about transparency, opponents of these reforms suggested then, and continue to suggest now, that excessive public oversight of legislative business makes compromise between political parties much more difficult, and entrenches disagreements. The implication is that transparent deliberation rules like open meetings laws lead to break downs in legislatures’ capacity to negotiate compromise and ultimately relieve policy gridlock.  

We set out to test these arguments by delving into state legislative histories in the U.S., focusing specifically on when statefirst passed open meetings laws for state governments. Importantly, in the years following the passage of those open meetings laws, several state legislatures granted themselves (and only themselves) exemptions from the laws. That is, these exemptions required all other legislative bodies in a state (e.g., city councils, county commissions, school boards) to conduct opendoor meetings, exposing their deliberations to public attendance and oversight, but allowed all or some of the state legislature to hold closeddoor meetings. We then pair the timing of the adoption of these laws and their exemptions with several measures of policy gridlock and compromise in state legislatures. 

Using a variety of methods to examine panel data, we find virtually no meaningful effects of open meetings laws on compromise or policy production in state legislatures. These negligible effects are precisely estimated and consistent across multiple measures and models. Moreover, we find little evidence of heterogeneity in the effects across states. Said simply, we find essentially no empirical support for the arguments of opponents of open meetings laws. States with open meetings are no more or less likely to pass budgets on time than they were before passing those laws, are no more or less polarized or bipartisan, and pass roughly the same number of bills before and after the institutional reforms.  

Opponents of open meetings laws paint something of a dire picturethat the public must choose between an effective government and a transparent one. The public can either monitor the behavior of its representatives and hamstring their efforts to produce policy, or it can leave representatives to their own devices and trust that representatives are working for the common good behind closed doors. Our work suggests that this pessimistic view is an overstatement. Open meetings laws may have a variety of effects on the policymaking process, but we have little reason to suspect that they create an excessively difficult policymaking environment.   

About the Author(s): Jeffrey J. Harden is Andrew J. McKenna Family Associate Professor at University of Notre Dame and Justin H. Kirkland is Associate Professor, at University of Virginia. Their research “Does Transparency Inhibit Political Compromise?” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Multidimensional Representation

The forthcoming article “Multidimensional Representation” by Fabio Wolkenstein and Christopher Wratil is summarized by the author(s) below. 

It is widely thought that the quality of democracy is closely bound up with the quality of representation. This is why generations of political scientists have studied representation empirically. Broadly speaking, the quantitative political science literature that has emerged over the last three decades has engaged with two different concepts of representation that are typically associated with the canonical theoretical work of Hanna Pitkin––substantive and descriptive representation. 

Important though this scholarship is, political representation is not limited to its substantive and descriptive forms. Cutting-edge research in political theory, notably the work of Jane Mansbridge, Andrew Rehfeld and Michael Saward, has recently uncovered additional dimensions of representationUsing a bibliometric analysis, we show that these have, however, made virtually no inroads into quantitative empirical political science. This is a missed opportunity to better understand the complex representative processes that are central to our democracies. Reacting to this, our article aims at translating the theoretical insights of MansbridgeRehfeld and Saward into operationalizable conceptions of representation that are both faithful to political theorists’ impulses and useable for quantitatively-oriented empiricists. By empiricizing and further systematizing some key ideas in recent theoretical research, we also make a contribution to representation theory more generally. 

In a first step, we identify four “dialogue stoppers for why the new theoretical work on political representation by MansbridgeRehfeld and Saward is notoriously difficult to operationalize for empiricists. The first is what we call “expansionism,” meaning a tendency among theorists to argue for an all-encompassing understanding of representation that goes way beyond traditional electoral representation. This, we suggest, creates enormous data demands, as well as difficulties regarding sampling strategies. A second dialogue stopper are problems with the observability of some of the more central phenomena representation theorists describe. As we show, some of these phenomena can neither be observed directly nor generate clear observable implications, creating insurmountable obstacles for quantitative research. The third impediment for quantitative scholars is theorists’ focus on constructing ideal types of representative relationships or practices. This is problematic because those ideal typeswhile useful for purposes of illustration, tend to be over-specified and hence less useful empirically. Finally, some of the more influential theoretical concepts are shaped primarily by the distinctive political realities of the U.S. and its single-member district electoral systemThis considerably limits how far theorists’ conceptual apparatuses can travel, and are received as helpful by scholars. 

In a second step, we develop four conceptions of representation that are not plagued by these problems but remain sensitive to MansbridgeRehfeld and Saward’s key innovations. We call these (1) surrogation (claiming and choosing constituents and representatives); (2) justification (providing and demanding reasons for actions); (3) personalization (viewing the representative role as that of an individual vs. party agent); and (4) responsiveness (acting out of and expecting sensitivity to electoral sanctions). These depart from conventional conceptions that are used in quantitative scholarship (e.g. ideological congruence, policy responsiveness, or descriptive representation), in that they do not compare citizens’ policy-related wishes or their descriptive characteristics with representatives’ actions or characteristics, but focus on how citizens want to be represented and whether representatives meet these expectations. This relational understanding of representation takes heed of the constructivist turn in representation theory, which encourages us to re-think the representative-represented relation as co-constituted by both sides. We discuss how these novel conceptions of representation can be measured using quantitative methodologies and illustrate the feasibility of such research designs with findings from a “proof-of-concept” study conducted in the context of the 2019 United Kingdom general election.  

In sumwith our paper, we hope to provide the basic conceptual toolkit for a refined research agenda on representation that does greater justice to the full complexity of representative practices.  

About the Author(s): Fabio Wolkenstein is Associate Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University and Christopher Wratil is Lecturer in European Politics at University College London. Their research “Multidimensional Representation” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

The Dictator’s Power‐Sharing Dilemma: Countering Dual Outsider Threats

The forthcoming article “The Dictator’s Power‐Sharing Dilemma: Countering Dual Outsider Threats” by Jack Paine is summarized by the author below. 

Dictators have no friends. Even seemingly close allies pose threats of overthrow. Thus, rulers face a critical choice: does they want to face a particular elite faction on the “inside”—that is, sharing greater power and spoils—or the “outside”? The standard idea is that very strong outsider threats compel rulers to share power at the center, despite the downside of providing insiders with quick-strike ability to overthrow the government in a coup. Yet, the logic of the powersharing dilemma is considerably more complicated than that. Four conditions are key for explaining the strategic interaction between dictators are elites.

First, rulers vary in their ability to guard against coup attempts, and rulers are better-placed when they personally control officer promotions or there are broader political institutions in place that make coups difficult. However, rulers with weak coup-proofing institutions face an intractable dilemma. For example, Portugal refused to grant independence to Angola. Rather than participate in elections and build inter-ethnic institutions, fractured Angolan factions instead had to fight for power. The faction that gained control at independence knew that, by excluding rival groups, it would almost certainly face continued rebellion. But sharing power would have instead risked an insider coup attempt, amore imminent threat. As a result, the Angolan government fought a decades-long civil war rather than share power.

Second, some rulers face elite factions that are entrenched in power. For example, in many ex-colonies, members of ethnic minority groups with better access to educational opportunities dominated the military officer corps—but not civilian political positions—at independence. Attempting to exclude entrenched elites will likely trigger a countercoup or rebellion. This helps to explain cases such as Nigeria immediately after independence where the government tolerated a tenuous powersharing agreement with members of an ethnic minority group, despite viewing them as rivals.

Rulers face threats not only from rival elite factions, but also from the masses. Dictators cannot share power with politically organized masses in any meaningful way without transitioning to democracy. Thus, maintaining the incumbent authoritarian regime requires expanding the military to repress the public more effectively. However, this reaction simply recreates the powersharing dilemma with elites because additional elite factions incorporated into the military themselves pose a coup threat. This tradeoff underpins the final two conditions.

Third, a strong mass threat eliminates the ruler’s power sharing dilemma if the elites harbor low affinity toward mass rule, such as Malaysian business elites that feared communist rule, or whites in apartheid South Africa that feared African majority rule. In such cases, elites fearful of mass rule will not attempt coups if they are included in government. They want to present a unified front against the mass threat, rather than weaken the center through internal struggles.

Elites shying away from challenging the ruler yields another consequence—stronger mass threats can increase a ruler’s security in office. Not only do elites pose a minimal threat when they fear mass rule, but their cooperation with the ruler can generate a strong state that can withstand overthrow by the masses. This is the fourth condition, high returns to elite coalitions. In cases like Malaysia and South Africa, mass threats held together dictatorships rather than tore them apart.

Overall, studying these conditions using a game-theoretic model deepens our understanding of how dictators resolve their powersharing dilemma. Such understanding is a prerequisite for developing effective policies to mitigate political violence.

About the Author: Jack Paine is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science at University of Rochester. Their research “The Dictator’s Power‐Sharing Dilemma: Countering Dual Outsider Threats” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Competing Principals? Legislative Representation in List Proportional Representation Systems

The forthcoming article “Competing Principals? Legislative Representation in List Proportional Representation Systems” by Peter Buisseret and Carlo Prato is summarized by the author(s) below.

Over two-thirds of the world’s legislators are elected under list proportional representation (PR). Under closed lists, party leaders control the order in which seats are filled. Under open lists, this order is determined by each candidate’s share of preference votes. The prevailing scholarly wisdom holds that closed list systems encourage cohesive parties, while open list systems promote better representation of local interests.

Many real-world systems, however, combine elements of both: under flexible lists, both a party’s rank assignment and preference votes determine the order in which seats are filled. Our paper conceptualizes list flexibility as a continuum, ranging from the two extremes of closed lists and open lists. Increasing list flexibility—i.e., increasing the relative importance of preference votes for an incumbent’s reelection—transfers electoral control away from party leaders and towards constituency voters.

We develop a new theoretical framework that asks: how does flexibility shape legislators’ incentives to balance the competing interests of their party leaders and their local voters?

We find that higher flexibility may weaken local representation. Higher list flexibility intensifies competition for preference votes, encouraging representatives to demonstrate to their voters that they prioritize local interests over party interests. In an effort to build a reputation, representatives pander by opposing their party’s agenda even when it benefits their local voters. These concerns are more likely to arise in political systems where voters have weak partisan attachments—for example, in contexts where competition is largely personalistic or clientelistic, or in countries with a relatively short experience of democracy.

Our theory identifies a “sweet spot” degree of list flexibility that maximizes the representation of local interests and depends on district magnitude and voters’ ideological heterogeneity and partisanship.

Our analysis also considers how changes in district-level ideological heterogeneity affect party cohesion. The answer depends critically on list flexibility. In high-flexibility contexts, more heterogeneous districts make parties less cohesive. In low-flexibility contexts, they make parties more cohesive.

Finally—and once again contradicting conventional scholarly wisdom—we show that under closed, open and flexible lists, higher district magnitude can reduce the value of cultivating a personal reputation through obstruction. Even when a party’s ranking has no direct consequence for the order in which seats are awarded, district magnitude nonetheless shifts the balance of power from voters towards party leaders.

About the Author(s): Peter Buisseret is assistant professor at Department of Government, Harvard University and Carlo Prato is assistant professor at Department of Political Science, Columbia University. Their research “Competing Principals? Legislative Representation in List Proportional Representation Systems” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

Good Times and Bad Apples: Rebel Recruitment in Crackdown and Truce

The forthcoming article “Good Times and Bad Apples: Rebel Recruitment in Crackdown and Truce” by Kolby Hanson is summarized by the author below. 

Rebellion is a dangerous business, but some times are more dangerous than others. During periods of government crackdown, life for rebel soldiers is dangerous and difficult, deterring would-be rebels from taking up arms. In many separatist conflicts, however, governments have allowed rebels to operate and recruit freely for years as part of a long-term truce like those in Senegal, Georgia, and Myanmar. Counterinsurgents often worry that these periods of toleration encourage would-be rebels to take up arms, attracted by newfound safety and comfort. Even when rebel groups have few material resources, periods of toleration enable a modicum of comfort: a soft bed, a warm meal, and a few dollars at the end of the week. 

In this paper, I argue that government toleration actually weakens rebel groups in the long run by unraveling an important screening process in rebel recruitmentWhen life for rebels is dangerous and difficult, only the most community-oriented, committed recruits take up arms. Safety and comfort, by contrast, attract many self-oriented low-commitment recruits who later prone to desert on the battlefield, defect to the enemy, or abuse civilian supporters. Limited by weak disciplinary institutions and active recruitment competition, rebel leaders often struggle to maintain discipline and cohesion with these self-oriented recruits. 

I explore rebel recruitment with experimental and qualitative evidence inside five rebel movements in Northeast India. First, I explored how potential rebel recruits evaluate rebel organizations using a conjoint survey experiment. By speaking to young men in local hotspots of rebel recruitment – such as ethnic volunteer organizations, tea shops, and moonshiners – my team surveyed nearly 400 likely rebel recruits, testing what factors make them more likely to join a rebel group. This survey shows that community-oriented recruits from ethnic volunteer organizations care about very different factors than do self-oriented recruits from other gathering places. While the community-oriented recruits will join rebel groups even during the danger and difficulty of open conflict, self-oriented recruits will join only when doing so requires few sacrifices, as in times of toleration. 

Second, the paper explores how government crackdown and toleration have shaped the trajectories of Northeast India’s two longest-running and largest rebel movements. Through dozens of in-depth interviews with current and former rebels (and civilians in the area), I explore how the government’s long-running truce in Nagaland has actually weakened Naga rebel groups. Even as rebels in Nagaland have gained resources and recruits, they have simultaneously have eroded into indiscipline and fragmentation. 

Cases like those in Northeast India illustrate that leniency against rebels may ultimately play into the hands of the state. Counterinsurgency, by contrast, can be counterproductive for governments even when it is implemented “correctly,” screening out low-quality recruits and strengthening rebel organizations. 

About the Author: Kolby Hanson is a Strategy and Policy Postdoctoral Fellow at the U.S. Naval War College. Their research “Good Times and Bad Apples: Rebel Recruitment in Crackdown and Truce” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming of the American Journal of Political Science. 

People Haven’t Had Enough of Experts: Technocratic Attitudes among Citizens in Nine European Democracies

The forthcoming article “People Haven’t Had Enough of Experts: Technocratic Attitudes among Citizens in Nine European Democracies” by Eri Bertsou and Daniele Caramani is summarized by the author(s) below. 

In the run up to the UK’s referendum on EU membership in 2016, Justice Secretary Michael Gove, a leading figure in the “Leave Campaign” claimed that “people in this country have had enough of experts” in an effort to rebuke economic expert opinions regarding the repercussions of Brexit. The validity of his claim remains doubtful, especially in the light of experts’ role during the Coronavirus crisis. 

In this article, we assess the extent to which technocratic attitudes, that is, the public’s beliefs that an independent knowledge elite can provide effective and responsible governance based on expertise, exist among citizens and can be measured. We also investigate how technocratic attitudes oppose populist ones 

First, we conceptualize and confirm empirically technocratic attitudes at the mass level across nine European countries using a novel survey battery to measure dimensions of Elitism, Expertise and Anti-politics. 

Second, we investigate in what numbers there are citizens harbouring technocratic attitudes in established democracies. Using latent class analysis, we identify groups of citizens that follow a Technocratic, Populist or Party-democratic profile and show how they overlap and contrast. Across the nine European countries, approximately 12% of citizens fall into the Technocratic profileThis group can be found across Europe but is larger in Southern and Eastern European countries (13-20%). This finding adds force to the claim that the model of responsible party government, which has dominated in Western democracies in the second half of the 20th century, is challenged not only by populism but also by technocracy.  

We also find that technocratic and populist attitudes share a common Anti-politics stance, while they contrast on Elitismin line with our theoretic expectationsA surprising finding from our research concerns the Expertise dimension. We find that beliefs around the superiority of skillful, knowledgeable and scientific experts over politicians abound across countries. Citizens with technocratic attitudes register strong preferences for expertise and science in politics. At the same time, however, citizens with populist attitudes also showcase strong preferences for more expertise. In other words, there is no Populism without Expertise.  

Finally, we explore the differences among citizens who fall in the Technocratic, Populist and Party-democratic profiles in terms of demographic characteristics and attitudes. While citizens with technocratic attitudes are dissatisfied with current representative systems, they are distinct from citizens with populist attitudes; they are more educated and interested in politics, they have higher political trust, and they are not attracted to the extremes of the left−right ideological spectrum. 

Being able to distinguish between populist and technocratic attitudes vastly increases our ability to understand the current challenges faced by mainstream parties and governments in established democracies on the demand side. Given that, so far, no political force has tried to mobilize this segment of the electorate, the potential implications for political behaviour and party competition are considerable. 

About the Author(s): Eri Bertsou is Senior Researcher, Department of Political Science, University of Zurich and Daniele Caramani is Ernst B. Haas Chair of European Governance and Politics at the European University Institute. Their research “People Haven’t Had Enough of Experts: Technocratic Attitudes among Citizens in Nine European Democracies” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming issue of the American Journal of Political Science. 

The Divide Over Independence: Explaining Preferences for Secession in an Advanced Open Economy

The forthcoming article “The Divide Over Independence: Explaining Preferences for Secession in an Advanced Open Economy” by Maria Jose Hierro and Didac Queralt is summarized by the author(s) below. 

The number of states facing self-determination claims has increased steadily since 1960. Self-determination, common in the postcolonial world, regained momentum after the breakup of the USSR. In recent decades, referenda on independence have also reached advanced economies. Far from exceptional, demands for self-determination are expected to proliferate because international economic integration reduces the relevance of country size.  

To date, the study of individual-level preferences for secession has largely focused on nonmaterial traits, including identity and language. This contrasts with aggregate analyses of secession demands that emphasize the importance of economic factors. Inspired by the latter approach, we examine here the leverage of material considerations in forging pro-secession preferences. We claim that exposure to anticipated trade, insurance, and fiscal shocks structure support for (and opposition to) independenceWe test our argument in Catalonia, an advanced economy deeply integrated in international marketsWe draw on an original online survey conducted before the December 2017 regional election, which followed the declaration of independence by the Catalan Parliament and the suspension of autonomy by the Spanish governmentThe election was read by many as a covert referendum on independence.  

Using different instruments of support for independence, we provide robust evidence showing that anticipated trade shocks following secession exert differential effects depending on market specialization. Respondents working in sectors and at firms exporting to the host country disproportionally oppose secessionBy contrast, respondents specializing in foreign markets show no aversion to independence. We offer three nonmutually exclusive explanations for the different effect of domestic and foreign trade relationshipsthe relative size of the host country and foreign markets, anticipated boycott by domestic consumers, and relatively low competitiveness of producers specializing in the domestic economy.  

Exploring material considerations further, we find no systematic relationship between income levels and preference for secession; however, we show that exclusion from welfare strengthens support for independence among the long-term unemployed, a result that sheds light on the upsurge of secession support during the harshest years of the economic crisis, 20082014.  We offer suggestive evidence that the long-term unemployed favored secession not because of reemployability considerations but in expectation of generous social insurance in the new state. 

Our analysis also reveals that support for independence increases with skill levels. We investigate further this result that seemingly challenges the expectations derived from the Heckscher-Ohlin trade model; that is, if secession is followed by (short-term) international economic disintegrationhigh-skilled individuals in capital-intensive economy should oppose secession. Wdismiss an explanation based on anticipated economic returns from independence. Instead, we find that education masks differences in “fiscal knowledge, namely understanding of the institutional design of interterritorial transfers. In a context of autonomy retractionshighly educated individuals show disproportional skepticism about the accommodation of regional demands and the fulfillment of central government promises.  

Our findings contribute to the literature of secession politics by uncovering individual-level economic drivers of support for and opposition to independence, holding nonmaterial considerations constantThe results speak to ongoing secessionist movements in open economies, including Quebec, Scotland, Flanders, New Caledonia, and arguably, Hong Kong. Likewise, our findings shed light on the connection between grievances derived from autonomy retractions and preference for secession. Provided that high-skill, high-knowledge individuals have disproportional access to and influence over regional political elitessustained autonomy retraction by the central government might leave little room for a negotiated solution.  

About the Author(s): Maria Jose Hierro is Lecturer, Department of Political Science, Yale University and Didac Queralt is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Yale University. Their research “The Divide Over Independence: Explaining Preferences for Secession in an Advanced Open Economy” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming article of the American Journal of Political Science. 

The Organizational Voter: Support for New Parties in Young Democracies

The forthcoming article “The Organizational Voter: Support for New Parties in Young Democracies” by Mathias Poertner is summarized by the author(s) below. 

Across much of the democratic world, political parties are experiencing a critical moment: trust in established parties has decreased in recent decades and new parties are emerging. While new parties arise even in many well-established, historic democracies, this happens even more frequently in young democracies. Whereas most of these new parties remain short-lived and disappear quickly, some manage to secure substantial electoral support surprisingly quickly and to maintain support over repeated elections.  

In order to understand the success and failure of new parties, this article explores how voters come to support them. This question is critical for understanding the quality and stability of democratic representation and accountability especially in young democracies, yet little studied in the literature, which tends to focus on well-established parties.  

While researchers have predominantly explained variation in success by focusing on direct ethnic or personalistic appeals that parties make to voters, I show that organizationally mediated appeals—those that engage voters through civil society organizations—can secure electoral support more effectively and durably. Locally organized, participant-based civil society organizations—such as neighborhood associations, informal sector unions, and indigenous movements—formed around a broad range of political identities and interests are particularly widespread in the developing world: in most Latin American countries, for example, about one third to one half of citizens regularly attend meetings of such organizations. 

Using a randomized experiment in Bolivia—one of the most unstable party systems in the regionpresenting voters with campaign posters, I demonstrate that endorsements by such organizations hold considerable sway over the vote preferences of organization members and other people in their wider social networks. Endorsements can even counteract policy and ethnic differences between candidates and voters. Finally, I find suggestive evidence that repeated endorsements for the same party have lasting effects and lead voters to become attached to party itself. 

The findings suggest an important, understudied route to partisan support in new democracies and have important implications for research on political accountability. The findings dovetail with other recent research that has highlighted that voters, even the most informed voters, typically make choices not on the basis of policy preferences or ideology” (Aachen and Bartels 2016, 4). At the same time, it expands on this work, by illustrating how group identities influence electoral politics outside the context of established democracies with stable party systems and by demonstrating how organized civil society groups can overcome diffuse group identities (e.g., ethnic identities). Finally, the article sheds light on how marginalized populations, such as indigenous people or informal sector workers, who in many developing countries have historically been largely excluded from representation through traditional parties, can achieve representation in electoral politics.  

About the Author: Mathias Poertner is Assistant Professor, Bush School of Government & Public Service at Texas A&M University. Their research “The Organizational Voter: Support for New Parties in Young Democracies” is now available in Early View and will appear in a forthcoming article of the American Journal of Political Science. 


The American Journal of Political Science (AJPS) is the flagship journal of the Midwest Political Science Association and is published by Wiley.