WORKING PAPERS Political apathy or "constrained optimism": Nigerian voter engagement in violent electoral environments, with Megan Turnbull (R&R at African Affairs)
How do ordinary citizens engage with politicians and their political environment where elections are frequently manipulated with fraud and violence? We explore this question with focus groups in Nigeria, a country that has some of the highest rates of election violence in Africa. While participants largely condemned violence, they were divided on whether they would continue to support their preferred candidate after hearing that they had engaged in violence, with some participants justifying support for violent candidates if they expressed remorse, use violence defensively, or when information about the veracity of violence use was dubitable. Despite participants expressing that violence discouraged participation, we show that they also felt a determination to elect a better government and a strong sense of a civic duty to vote and encourage others to do so as well. Taken together, we argue that voters in violent contexts operate with "constrained optimism" where they remain committed to democracy, but face constraints to who they support and how they participate. Our findings nuance expectations of the effects of electoral violence on political participation and better help us understand the challenges facing voters in contexts where violence is rife. Summary of focus group findings here.
Can Violence Narratives Shape Political Participation?: Evidence from Nigeria, with Megan Turnbull
Pre-Analysis Plan. How do ordinary citizens engage with politicians and their political environment where elections are frequently manipulated with fraud and violence? We explore this question with a survey and conjoint experiment in Nigeria, a country that has some of the highest rates of election violence in Africa. We argue that in contexts where violence is expected and where many candidates either implicitly or explicitly condone or justify it, voters still have preferences over candidate behavior and characteristics which condition their participation in politics generally. We pay special attention to the narratives candidates who use violence deploy by examining whether respondents are more likely to select candidates who express remorse, use violence defensively, or use violence exclusively as opposed to other electoral manipulation strategies. Going beyond traditional assessments of vote choice as an outcome, we also examine whether exposure to certain types of candidate narratives reduces or increases political participation beyond voting, such as mobilizing in support or in condemnation of violent candidates, volunteering to reduce violence, or joining political parties. Our findings nuance expectations of the effects of electoral violence on political participation and better help us understand the challenges facing voters in contexts where violence is rife.
Fear Factor: Mitigating the Unintended Consequences of Civic Education in Violent Contexts,with Leonardo Arriola, Aila Matanock, Manuela Travaglianti Pre-Analysis Plan Experiment 1 & Pre-Analysis Plan Experiment 2. Civic education programs in democratizing countries are intended to positively affect citizens’ attitudes and behaviors toward electoral competition. But the impact of such programs are not well understood in violence-affected countries. We claim that civic education programs in violent contexts can prime fear by inducing citizens to become more aware of prevailing political conditions, resulting in perceptions of unsafe voting conditions and increased support for political violence. We assess these claims in Côte d’Ivoire, where elections are regularly marred by violence. A field experiment shows that exposure to civic education induces voters to express greater fear of, and support for, political violence. A survey experiment refines these findings by showing that peace and rights-based messaging decreases support for political violence, particularly when delivered by the national electoral commission rather than local or international organizations. Our findings suggest the importance of carefully crafting civic education approaches to mitigate unintended negative consequences.
Trauma Exposure vs. Trauma Response: A Review of the Impact of Violence on Post-Conflict Outcomes, with Biz Herman
This paper presents a systematic review of the literature on trauma and its consequences in post-conflict and forced migration settings. Studies vary in whether they examine trauma exposure—the experience of living through an event that involves actual or threatened death or serious injury—or trauma response—the range of psychophysiological responses that emerge after trauma exposure. In this systematic review, we examine how different conceptualizations of trauma exposure and trauma response in conflict- and forced migration-affected populations produce consistent or disparate results across 164 papers. We examine variations in case selection, measurements used, identification strategy, and outcomes observed. This review comprehensively looks at the state of the emerging literature on the micro-level causes and consequences of violence, and offers paths forward in the conceptualization and measurement of trauma in studies seeking to better understand sociopolitical outcomes in trauma-affected populations.
Get Out the Vote with Violence: Online Mobilization in Violent Elections, with Irene Morse How do partisans use and respond to narratives of violence in contexts of violent elections? We develop a theory to explain when and why party supporters respond to violence narratives intended to galvanize their copartisans in electoral periods. We test this theory using computational text analysis on over 1.2 million posts from 175 public groups supporting major candidates and parties on Facebook in Côte d’Ivoire from 2019-2020. We examine whether narratives of past or current violence are more effective at incurring partisan support through reactions (e.g. likes, shares, comments) on social media. We show how leveraging social media data can provide real-time insight into the processes underpinning partisan use of violence information in elections.