The Social Media Impact of Democratic Backsliding: Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire
How does democratic backsliding mobilize the opposition? We leverage a common episode of democratic backsliding in Africa – incumbents running for a 3rd term despite a term limit – to examine its effects on opposition behavior on social media. Through computational text analysis, we analyze over 1 million public posts in groups supporting political actors in Côte d’Ivoire in the run-up to the 2020 elections. We find that prior to the incumbent’s announcement, opposition supporters were preparing to participate in what they perceived as a competitive and viable election. However, once the incumbent announced his third term run, opposition rhetoric shifted to expressions of disillusionment with democracy, concerns about election integrity, and appeals for peace (and violence) rooted in condemnation of the incumbent. We show how examining social media can provide insight into the processes underpinning democratic disillusionment in the wake of backsliding.
Democratization by NGOs in Africa: Ethnic Favoritism in Civil Society (under review)
This paper puts forth a mechanism for how governments can control dissent within civil society through ethnic favoritism in non-governmental organization (NGO) registration processes. Applying name-based ethnicity classification derived from the census to NGO registration from Côte d’Ivoire (2000-2016), this paper presents evidence that there is disproportionate representation of leaders from ethnic groups aligned with the current president after he was elected, particularly among organizations that purport to contribute to democracy and peace. Drawing from interviews, I further provide support that the state practices discretion in who receives key registration documents, while NGO leaders feel discriminated against during the process due to their ethnicity. This paper shows that even within ostensibly neutral sectors such as civil society, national leaders can ensure their preferred groups receive immediate access to aid, potentially affecting the unbiased distribution of crucial public goods, shaping representation in the public sphere, and determining who cultivates democratic culture.
Women’s Income and Abortion Policy Preferences: Evidence from Zambian Politicians, with Leonardo Arriola, Danny Choi, Melanie Phillips, and Lise Rakner
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.
Partisanship, Gender, and the Structure of Politician Networks in Zambia, with Leonardo Arriola, Danny Choi, Melanie Phillips, and Lise Rakner 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.