When Grievances Do Not Mean Violence

By Bethany Lacina

The vast majority of political violence is within rather than between states. How do national politics—that is, the central government’s attempts to stay in office—make civil violence more or less likely? Social science has ignored that question in favor of debate, catalyzed by scholars at the World Bank, over whether “greed’’ or ‘’grievance” most motivates militants. There, governments are not actors but background conditions. To challenge that approach, I studied violence during one of the largest and most complicated domestic policy reforms in recent history, the reorganization of the Indian federation in the 1950s. Activists’ decisions to engage in violence were related to how they expected the government to act. Those expectations depended on electoral politics. Ironically, the most militant ethnic groups were not the most aggrieved groups. Instead, militants were from reasonably large, powerful ethnic groups that needed violence to overcome a modest disadvantage in partisan politics.

In the 1950s, Indian states’ borders were redrawn to roughly conform to (some) language borders. In theory, any language that had an area of territorial concentration could have had a new state boundary drawn around that area. The majority language group in the new state would be able to set the state language, be powerful in state politics, and thus be privileged in education, civil service, and state-run firms there. Other interests would be losers: some people would end up as linguistic minorities and/or the new state would siphon off resources from an existing state. Thus, each possible change to the federation defined a unique coalition of ethnic interests in favor and opposed.

The central government was controlled by the Indian National Congress (INC). The strength of the party’s organization and its popularity among voters varied across ethnic groups and regions of the country. The national government was happy to endorse new states where statehood proponents were a valuable INC constituency and statehood opponents were either too few to matter much to the INC’s future electoral fortunes or were firmly in the column of a rival party. Regional elites knew whether they had this kind of advantage with the INC government. If they did, they had no reason to mobilize their followers for violence. I show that these “peacefully accommodated” statehood proponents had recently elected a large number of INC representatives relative to the number sent by rival anti-statehood interests.

Other regional elites did not mobilize violent statehood campaigns, but for opposite reasons. These elites were from ethnic groups that could have benefitted from a newly carved federal state. However, the group’s representation in the INC compared very unfavorably to the representation of anti-statehood groups. Statehood proponents could not expect to succeed through violence. The national executive would put down militancy rather than compromise at the expense of a valuable INC constituency.

Thus, there was no such direct relationship between unhappiness with existing federal borders and violence. Instead, some of the most disadvantaged ethnic groups in the country—particularly the “tribes” of central India—were not militant because they happened to be located where a powerful Congress bloc favored the status quo.

Violent statehood movements did succeed in parts of India. Statehood proponents mobilized for violence and won concessions in regions where they were not too disadvantaged in the Congress party relative to opponents of statehood. Violence transformed parochial statehood disputes into national crises. With crisis underway, the center compromised with the pro-statehood militants.

A connection between violence and domestic politics almost certainly exists outside India and beyond the realms of ethnic or territorial conflict. Part of the logic is intuitive: some interests are peacefully accommodated because of their political importance to the national government. A more provocative claim is that there are ethnic groups, economic classes, and interests that are not violent because the constituencies opposed to their goals are so close to the central executive. Anticipation of government repression deters violence. The ironic implication is that the interests that use militancy are not that much weaker, politically, than the opponents of their policy goals. There is no linear relationship between objective measures of grievance and militancy because domestic politics gives governments a credible threat of repression against the most marginalized.

About the Author: Bethany Lacina is an assistant professor at the University of Rochester and a research associate at the Centre for the Study of Civil War at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo. Her article, “How Governments Shape the Risk of Civil Violence: India’s Federal Reorganization, 1950–56” appeared in the July 2014 issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Social Esteem and Participation in Contentious Politics

By Gwyneth McClendon

Why do individuals participate in non-voting forms of collective political action? The last few years have been rife with examples of rallies, protests and demonstrations: from student protests in Hong Kong, to the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations in the United States, to mass rallies in the Ukraine. While we can ask questions about why such contentious events happen in some places and times and not in others, we might also want to understand more about the motivations pulling individuals into the fray. What motivates an ordinary citizen to join in?

It can be difficult to answer this question empirically. Individual participation in rallies and protests is usually not systematically recorded. Unlike voter turnout or campaign donations, lists of individual participants are rarely compiled. Individuals may also not be reliable narrators about their own motivations for participating or not participating. Observational differences between those who take to the streets and those who do not may be spurious rather than direct causes of participation.

With these challenges in mind, I took an experimental approach to investigating factors pulling individuals into collective political events. Specifically, I worked closely with a U.S.-based non-governmental advocacy organization that was organizing a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) rally for marriage equality and other LGBT issues in 2011. We randomly assigned potential participants to receive differently-worded email invitations to attend the rally and then compared rates of intended, actual and reported participation across treatment conditions. We came up with novel ways of capturing intended participation (through RSVPs to an Evite) and actual participation (through participants’ registering for raffle tickets as they entered the rally) that allowed us both to be systematic and to respect individuals’ expectations of confidentiality. Reported participation was measured through an online survey circulated after the event.


The primary hypothesis under investigation was that individuals are more likely to participate in contentious political events when doing so will win them social rewards. That is, people care about what others think of them and are willing to pursue the high-regard of their peers even if winning that kind of admiration is materially costly. Thus, ordinary citizens may be more likely to sacrifice their scarce time and effort to participate in contentious politics if they anticipate that their participation will be socially celebrated.

To test this hypothesis, some individuals in the study received invitations to the rally simply informing them of the time, place and purpose of the event; others, by contrast, received that information plus an explicit promise of social admiration – either through the promise of recognition of rally participants in the group’s newsletter or, alternatively, through the promise of “likes” on Facebook. I found that either promise of social admiration significantly boosted attendance at the rally in comparison to the information-only invitation.

The study thus provides new experimental evidence that our concern for others’ opinions matters for the political activities in which we engage. Who has the courage and will to engage in contentious political events? Commitment to a cause and information about how to participate likely matter, but even holding those factors constant, the promise of social rewards can make the difference between showing up and staying home.

About the Author: Gwyneth McClendon is an Assistant Professor of Government and Social Studies at Harvard University. Her article, “Social Esteem and Participation in Contentious Politics: A Field Experiment at an LGBT Pride Rally” appeared in the April 2014 issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

Dollars on the Sidewalk: Should U.S. Presidential Candidates Advertise in Uncontested States?

Carly Urban, Montana State University
Sarah Niebler, Dickinson College

Why do individuals contribute to political campaigns? There are many reasons people may give—ranging from the warm glow they feel after contributing to a cause they care about to perceived access to political candidates. Presidential campaigns thrive on individual campaign contributions to keep their messages present with advertisements, radio slots, and get-out-the vote campaigns. With these goals in mind, candidates should aim to maximize the amount of money they can bring in. But how can they do this?

We show that by running advertisements in non-battleground states, presidential candidates could earn additional money, meaning that there are currently “dollars on the sidewalk.” Because of the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College, U.S. presidential candidates tend to only compete, and therefore advertise, in “battleground” states.  However, in some areas of non-competitive states, media markets overlap with battleground states. For example, Boston is often uncontested, but receives presidential advertisements because its media market overlaps with part of New Hampshire. Our work examines the effect of those “accidental” televised campaign ads on individuals’ likelihood of contributing financially to either of the two major-party U.S. presidential candidates.

We ground our analysis in previous work finding that televised campaign advertisements can have an effect both on voter turnout and on persuasion. We use data on the location, timing, and content of political ads from the Wisconsin Advertising Project in combination with data on who is contributing to presidential candidates from the Federal Election Commission.  Examining these two sources together, and looking only at zip codes in non-battleground states, we are able to isolate the effects of televised campaign ads on contributions.  We match zip codes of non-battleground states where there is no political advertising to zip codes of non-battleground states that are exposed to advertising – advertising really aimed at the neighboring battleground state.

Another example of the accidental advertising phenomenon can be seen by looking at advertising in Illinois in the 2008 presidential campaign. The only three media markets contained solely within Illinois (Rockford; Peoria; and Champaign) did not see any advertising during the 2008 general election campaign.  However, we found that all other media markets in Illinois did see advertising as they also cover areas of neighboring battleground states.  For instance, the Chicago media market covers area of Indiana; the Davenport market covers areas in Iowa; and the St. Louis market covers areas of Missouri.  In our study’s design then, zip codes in Champaign or Peoria were matched with zip codes of similar demographics and socioeconomic characteristics in Quincy or St. Louis.


We ultimately find that in 2008, zip codes that were exposed to accidental advertising contributed, on average, between $6,100 and $7,200 more than zip codes with similar characteristics that were not exposed to advertising.  We further examined whether these findings were likely unique to 2008 and found that they were not.  We estimate that while it was the case that zip codes contributed more, on average, in 2008 than in 2004, that being exposed to advertisements increases aggregate contributions at the zip code level.

Having found that accidental advertising can increase campaign contributions, we aimed to determine next if advertising in uncontested states could ever be economically fruitful for presidential candidates.  After calculating the optimum level of ads in each media market that was solely contained within a non-battleground state, multiplying it by the expected gains to advertising, and subtracting an estimated cost for airing those ads, we found that candidates might expect to raise an additional $3 million by airing ads in these markets.  While this may seem like a small amount of money in a campaign season in which presidential candidates raise, and spend, upwards of $1 billion, we ultimately conclude that targeting advertising not just in battleground states, but also in those media markets that have a high concentration of high-income individuals may prove profitable for future presidential candidates.

About the authors: Carly Urban is an Assistant Professor of Economics at Montana State University and Sarah Niebler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Dickinson College. Their article, “Dollars on the Sidewalk: Should U.S. Presidential Candidates Advertise in Uncontested States?” appeared in the April 2014 issue of the American Journal of Political Science.

What Emotions Fuel Racism in America?

The article, “Emotional Substrates of White Racial Attitudes” by Antoine J. Banks and Nicholas A. Valentino, appears in the April 2012 issue of the American Journal of Political Science. Here, Professor Banks summarizes its content:

Over the past 40 years, the belief that blacks are biologically different than, and inferior to, whites has precipitously declined in prevalence and influence in American society. Now the vast majority of whites believe that blacks and whites should be able to attend the same schools, get married, and live in the same neighborhoods. Despite the fact that a majority of whites endorse racial equality in principle, they do not support public policies designed to reduce racial inequality. Several explanations have been offered for the divergence in support for racial equality in principle and practice. One is that opposition to racial redistribution springs from a new, subtle form of racism – referred to as symbolic racism. The theory argues that this new form of animus is rooted in a synthesis of anti-black affect and the belief that blacks violate American traditional values such as the Protestant work ethic. Some scholars insist that symbolic racism theory overstates the role of racial animus in the U.S. They argue that the proper size and role of government, political ideology, and race-neutral values drive policy opinions. Studies testing these competing perspectives remain inconclusive because scholars have disagreed whether symbolic racism, old-fashioned racism, and race-neutral values are distinct.

In our article “Emotional Substrates of White Racial Attitudes”, we try to move the debate forward by theorizing about the emotional antecedents of each attitude dimension. Our research argues that the dominant emotional substrate of racism has evolved from a feeling of disgust to one of anger. The now antiquated belief that blacks are biologically distinct and racially inferior should have been linked strongly to disgust. In the contemporary period, racial rhetoric is characterized by claims that blacks possess an unfair advantage. This sentiment should be linked to pervasive anger toward government for giving blacks resources they do not deserve. If whites learn about race in this contemporary climate, these anger appraisals should be quite salient whenever they think about racial policies On the other hand, race-neutral values like individualism should not be strongly related to any of these emotions, since they are abstract and not linked to particular groups.

To test these propositions, we utilize two different methodological approaches – an experiment on an adult national sample and the 1985 American National Election Study. We find that anger, even when triggered by a completely apolitical process, boosts opposition to racial redistribution among whites high in symbolic racism. Fear does not have this effect. Meanwhile, no emotion heightens the power of non-racial values. These results suggest that symbolic racism, old-fashioned racism, and non-racial values are distinct belief systems rooted in different emotional processes. They imply that the link between anger and racial attitudes remains strong, and that moments of high anger, perhaps regardless of the source, may boost the influence of racism. One simply has to look at the emotion surrounding Barack Obama, his health care reform policy, and movements like the Tea Party to see how race in contemporary America is built primarily on anger.

About the authors: Antoine J. Banks is Assistant Professor of Government and Politics at University of Maryland and Nicholas A. Valentino is Professor of Political Science and Research Professor at the Institute of Social Research, University of Michigan.

State Welfare Reform — Race, Ethnicity… and Gender?

The article, “State Welfare Reform — Race, Ethnicity… and Gender?” by Beth Reingold and Adrienne R. Smith, appears in the January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Political Science. Here, Professors Reingold and Smith summarize its contents:

Under the guidelines of the U.S. Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (also known as the “Welfare Reform” Act), every state in the country undertook unprecedented efforts to “end welfare as we know it.” Previous research shows that African American and Latino state legislators were able to mitigate or ease some of the more stringent restrictions, demanding requirements, and harsher penalties associated with this wave of get-tough welfare reform.

In this study, we ask whether the presence and power of women in state legislatures had similar effects. What we find is that it depends on which women (and which African Americans and Latinos) you’re talking about.

Though few in number, legislative women of color had the strongest and most consistent countervailing effects on state welfare policy in the mid-1990s, doing more to alleviate the get-tough provisions of welfare reform than their white female, black male, or Latino colleagues. Thus, our research calls into question many overly broad assumptions about women and racial minorities in politics; and it demonstrates that a few, very committed and well-placed critical actors really can make a difference on major policy issues of the day.

About the Authors: Beth Reingold is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science and the Department of Women’s Studies at Emory University and Adrienne R. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Social Welfare and Evolved Intuitions about Helping

The article, “Social Welfare as Small-Scale Help: Evolutionary Psychology and the Deservingness Heuristic” by Michael Bang Petersen, appears in the January 2012 issue of the American Journal of Political Science. Here, Professor Petersen provides a summary of its content:

When people form opinions about social welfare programs they use a simple rule-of-thumb or heuristic: Are the recipients making an effort to get by on their own? If so, people tend to support providing extra help in the form of welfare. If a group of recipients, in contrast, are perceived has lazy and unwilling to contribute themselves, people strongly oppose providing welfare benefits. This has been documented in multiple studies of particular Americans but a question lingers: Why are people so preoccupied with the deservingness of welfare recipients?

Thirty years ago, psychologists predominantly referred to learning when explaining the origins of heuristics. This learning perspective also influenced how political scientists explained the origins of the deservingness heuristic. In particular, researchers have been describing it as a result of cultural learning in highly individualistic cultures with small welfare states such as the United States.

Yet, the problem of whether to provide other individuals with benefits is not a recent problem. Rather, it predates the emergence of modern culture and modern political institutions and must have been a constant feature of human social life for hundreds of thousands of years. In the small hunter-gatherer groups that have dominated human evolutionary history, our ancestors did not make decisions about food stamps and Medicare but they did make decisions about whether to share the meat they had just hunted or the roots they had just gathered. In such situations, it was a matter of life and death to share with the right individuals and, in an evolutionary perspective, the “right” individuals were those who were willing to return the favor when fortunes reversed. Being preoccupied with whether people are making an effort could, in other words, be an essential part of human nature, originally build for exchanges of help in small-scale groups.

To test this, I devised a sophisticated psychological measurement technique in nationally representative surveys in two countries that are highly different in terms of culture and welfare states: United States and Denmark. This technique – a memory confusion protocol – measures whether participants process two pieces of information by the same psychological process, by different processes or whether they do not attend to the information at all.

In a series of experiments, participants were presented with individuals who either received help from a friend in an everyday situation (equivalent to the kinds of help-giving situations our species have confronted for hundreds of thousands of years) or who received social welfare from the government. Furthermore, some of these individuals were clearly in trouble because they were lazy, others were in trouble because they had been victims of bad luck but where clearly making an effort to get back on their feet.

The analyses showed that both Americans and Danes – despite the vast differences between the countries – where equally paying attention to whether individuals were lazy or unlucky. Furthermore, they used the exact same psychological processes to do so independently of whether the individuals received help from a friend or from the government. In fact, participants fully stopped paying attention to whether the individuals were receiving help from one or the other. Psychologically speaking, the participants saw no difference between these situations.

This demonstrates that when people across cultures think about welfare recipients in terms of deservingness, they do so using psychological mechanisms designed to process generic help-giving situations. The psychology that guides our welfare opinions is not a psychology build for modern mass welfare politics but for making adaptive social investments decisions within small-scale groups. As such, there are reasons to be wary of our intuitions about what works and what does not work in the context of welfare programs. Most likely, the solutions that intuitively come to mind are solutions that worked ancestrally rather than today.

About the Author: Michael Bang Petersen is a Professor in the Department of Political Science & Government at Aarhus University (Denmark).


The American Journal of Political Science, like most other major journals in political science, takes a one-month break during the summer. During this period, no new manuscripts are accepted, although all other Journal operations continue unabated. For 2014, we are going to try something new: Rather than shutting down the office for a single one-month hiatus, we will take two shorter breaks. The first will occur May 21 through June 9, 2014. The second will take place from July 12 through July 28, 2014.

We believe these multiple short breaks have several advantages over a single longer hiatus. For example, authors who finish manuscripts during one of these breaks will now have a shorter wait until the paper can be submitted to the Journal. I can say from personal experience that preparing a paper for submission, only to find that I have to wait a month to do so, is extremely frustrating! Of course, a two-week wait will be frustrating too, but hopefully not as much so.

For the Editorial Staff and me, the shorter break means that we will be confronted with a smaller “rush” of submissions at the end of the hiatus period than would have been the case with a one-month break. But, that is really the only difference that we will experience. Remember, all other aspects of manuscript processing will continue as usual during the break periods. These activities include sending out reminders to referees, accepting incoming reviews, making editorial decisions, and preparing new issues of the Journal. All in all, there will be very little in the way of interruptions to the usual flow of manuscripts through the review process.

So, please remember to mark your calendars if you plan to send your work to the American Journal of Political Science sometime this summer: Again, the AJPS Editorial Office will be closed to new submissions from May 21 through June 9, 2014, and from July 14 through July 28, 2014.

Finally, please do not hesitate to let us know if you have preferences regarding the structure of the summer breaks. Our use of multiple shorter breaks this year is something of an experiment. If the process does not work well, or if reactions are overwhelmingly negative, then we may well return to a single longer break in 2015. So, once again, feel free to let us know what you think!

AJPS Author Jakana Thomas on The Monkey Cage

Jakana Thomas, an assistant professor in the Department of Political Science at Michigan State University, posted an article on The Monkey Cage, titled “Actually, sometimes terrorism does work.” Read Professor Thomas’ article at:


The posting on The Monkey Cage is based on Professor Thomas forthcoming article in the American Journal of Political Science, “Rewarding Bad Behavior: How Governments Respond to Terrorism in War” (Volume 52, Issue 2, April 2014). The full AJPS article is available free through May 22, 2014, at:


Blog posts by authors of forthcoming AJPS articles

Leonardo R. Arriola and Martha C. Johnson
Nicholas Carnes and Loam Lupu

Thomas König: How the EU Central Monitoring System Affects Compliance

The article, “The Strategic Nature of Compliance: An Empirical Evaluation of Law Implementation in the Central Monitoring System of the European Union,” by Thomas König and Lars Mäder, appears in the January 2014 issue of the AJPS. Here, Thomas König provides a summary of its content:

How does a central monitoring agency affect compliance in a multilevel system of governance, in which the lower level actors must implement the policy goals decided at the higher level? Do these implementers strategically anticipate the ability and willingness of this agency to enforce compliance? And what about the agency’s enforcement decision – does it strategically anticipate enforcement success and sanctioning costs? Using the example of the European Commission for a central monitoring agency, our study models and tests the strategic interaction in the compliance game of the European Union.

The member countries of the European Union are obliged to implement the policy goals of directives in a correct and timely manner, which is monitored and can, in case of non-compliance, be enforced by the European Commission. Even though this process establishes several interdependent implementation and enforcement decisions, the previous literature has studied separately the implementation from the enforcement stage. In a strategic game, however, the decision to implement can also be influenced by the anticipated decision to enforce compliance, which we thus integrate into a single strategic compliance model. This model postulates that a compliance conflict is determined by the probabilities for enforcement success and costs of sanctioning, which is statistically confirmed by our structural estimation model.

Although the central monitoring system of the European Union is praised for effectiveness, our findings reveal that the monitoring agency refrains from enforcing compliance when the probability of success is low and the sanctioning costs are high – promoting the outcome of a compliance deficit. The European Commission accordingly preselects non-compliance and only takes action against non-complying countries in situations, in which the probability of an enforcement success is high and/or the costs of sanctions are low. This finding might also explain a well-known puzzle in compliance research, according to which the European Commission is almost always successful in front of a court.


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