• Elections and Autocracy (book manuscript)


  • Data Manipulation and its Effect on Citizens' Views: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in China. With Handi Li.

    Governments enact a broad array of policies that affect the economy, influencing citizens’ welfare. They also provide information about the state of the economy to citizens. Given that governments manage the economy, but also manage the information what citizens know about the economy, there are obvious incentives for governments to lie through the provision of falsified data. Does manipulated data influence citizens’ evaluations of the economy and government? Does discovery of the government’s misinformation lead citizens to adjust their perceptions? Results from an online survey experiment in China show that citizens are not easily persuaded by manipulated economic statistics, but the discovery of intentional misinformation does lead some citizens to downgrade their assessments of local economic conditions and government.

  • Institutions and Democratization in Right-Wing Dictatorships. With Dulce Manzano.

How does the ideology and institutional organization of authoritarian regimes affect processes of democratization? Class-based analyses of democratic transitions focus on how the poor mobilize against the rich to press for democratization under right-wing authoritarian regimes (Boix 2003, Acemoglu and Robinson 2006). While these models do much to further our understanding of democratization, they neither empirically verify the uniqueness of their claims for right-wing regimes nor take into account the role of institutions in dictatorships. In this article, dictatorial institutions are brought to the fore in explaining patterns of regime transitions. Our theory establishes that the effect of these institutions will be conditional on the ideology of the regime. Faced with a high revolutionary threat posed by the poor, right-wing dictatorships endowed with political institutions (political parties and legislature) that enable lower-income sectors to secure redistributive policies are less likely to democratize (and more likely to survive). These institutions serve to maintain redistributive transfers even when the revolutionary threat of the poor diminishes. We provide evidence of these claims using original data on the ideological orientation of all dictatorships during the 1960-2008 period.

  • Legislatures and Legislative Politics without Democracy. With Ben Noble and Milan Svolik.

    What do authoritarian legislatures and legislators do? Would outcomes in dictatorships be different if they were absent? Why do dictatorships have legislatures in the first place? Virtually all contemporary dictatorships and hybrid regimes have a legislature. From the late nineteenth century to the present, legislatures were present in 80 percent of dictatorships with a non-elected executive (Przeworski et al., 2013); all hybrid regimes – by definition – have a legislature.These questions, therefore, represent central puzzles in the study of authoritarian politics and institutions. Yet students of non-democratic regimes have only recently begun to employ the empirical methods and theoretical rigor typically seen in the study of democratic legislatures to the study of their non-democratic counterparts. Research on legislative politics, meanwhile, has addressed legislative politics under dictatorship only incidentally. The result is a disparity in our understanding of legislative politics in about one-half of the world’s regimes over the past century.


  • Opposition Unity and Cooptation in Hybrid Regimes. With Grant Buckles.

Over one-third of African executives appoint an opposition leader to their cabinet after a presidential election. The incorporation of elites outside the ruling coalition is designed to improve incumbent prospects for survival in power. But who exactly gets coopted, and who, in turn, gets denied a seat at the table? We argue that parties that can threaten to join an opposition alliance prior to an election stand a higher initial chance of being included in the post-election government. However, if they fail to follow through, they hurt their prospects of receiving a ministry. Incumbents should use valuable resources to coopt parties only if they pose a consistent threat. We support our claims using a unique dataset of nearly 1,500 opposition parties in 96 presidential elections in 27 sub-Saharan African countries. Our results suggest that “divide and conquer” accounts place too much emphasis on parties’ incentives to play “spoiler” in elections.


  • Shoring up Power: Strengthening Regime Parties via Electoral Reform. With Abigail Heller and John Reuter.

Existing literature suggests that incumbents often manipulate electoral rules in order to disadvantage opposition parties, but they also make rule changes in order to discipline and strengthen their own parties. In order to create a coalition of electorally strong, yet legislatively compliant party members, sitting executives may alter the electoral formula for assembly elections. While the rule change may be good for the incumbent party as a whole, it has uneven distributional consequences for its members. Some legislators from the ruling party find their electoral fortunes helped by the rule change, while others are hurt by it. We examine the effects of the 2005 change in the electoral formula used to elect Russian Duma members on intra-party dynamics within United Russia. We also examine the conditions under which such rule changes are likely to happen with cross-national data from all electoral autocracies during the post-World War II period.