Book Manuscript in Progress
The Autocratic Citizen: Partisanship and Political Socialization under Dictatorship
Citizens living in autocratic regimes such as Cameroon face considerably more constrained choices when it comes to participating in political life than citizens of democracies. Given the danger of supporting the opposition and the unlikelihood of its success, why would an ordinary citizen ever choose to join the opposition? Inversely, given that democracy is a near-universal value and autocratic regimes face harsh criticisms about corruption and repression, why would a citizen choose to support the ruling party? In other words, under what conditions do citizens of authoritarian regimes participate in politics, and why do some become active in the opposition, while others actively support the regime?
The book project seeks to challenge traditional assumptions of political science in order to better understand the different ways in which Cameroonian citizens form their preferences for the regime in power, why they sometimes act on these preferences (either in support or defection), and the effect this collective behavior may have on the regime in power. More precisely, I argue that instead of focusing primarily on regime tactics such as patronage and repression, we must instead understand the social networks in which people are embedded, as well as processes of life-long political socialization in order to best understand why some people support the regime in power while others support the opposition.
Social Networks and Partisanship in Electoral Autocracies
In electoral autocracies, why do some people actively support political parties while others choose to not get in involved in politics? Further, what differentiates those who choose to support the ruling party from those who support the opposition? Existing research has proposed that people support ruling parties primarily to extract economic benefits from the state while people support opposition parties for ideological reasons stemming from higher levels of education and socioeconomic status. However, we lack a unified theory of partisanship more broadly, leading to indeterminant predictions about the individual predictors of partisanship. In order to fully explain partisanship under autocracy, we must better understand the roles that social networks play in producing political support for parties. This paper argues that partisan homophily-the extent to which one’s social network is populated by nonpartisans, ruling party partisans, or opposition partisans—is critical to explaining partisanship. Using data from multiple original surveys from Cameroon that measure partisan networks in different ways, the paper shows not only that these networks are important, but also, at least to some extent, that partisanship can be contagious through the process of political socialization.
Judge, Landlord, Broker, Watchman: Assessing Variation in Chiefly Duties in the Ghana-Togo Borderlands
(with Martha Wilfahrt)
In the past twenty years, political scientists have found a renewed interest in the role of traditional authorities in sub-Saharan Africa. In large part, this interest has been driven by the proliferation of public opinion data that consistently shows that chiefs are extremely popular amongst ordinary citizens. An overview of this literature reveals three assumptions about traditional authority that this paper seeks to interrogate: that chiefs generally perform the same jobs, that they have substantial authority in their communities, and that they derive this authority from similar sources. Using data from an original public opinion survey fielded in fifty rural villages along the Ghana-Togo border, we provide evidence to challenge these assumptions. Overall, we find surprising variation across villages. Further, explore one potential cleavage driving this variation: colonial legacy. We find that chiefs in Ghana (a former British colony ruled indirectly) in comparison to chiefs in Togo (a former French colony ruled directly) have more jobs, are perceived to be more effective at them, possess more legitimacy in the eyes of their subjects, and hold more upward power over local state officials.
Autocratic Legalism, Partisanship, and Popular Legitimation in Authoritarian Cameroon
(with Yonatan Morse)
Authoritarian regimes regularly turn to the law to justify repression. This paper examines how the response to ‘autocratic legalism’ is mitigated by partisanship. We argue that autocratic legalism is more likely to influence regime partisans and nonpartisans. However, the effects among nonpartisans differ based on whether they are closeted opposition supporters rather than apolitical. The paper uses a survey experiment conducted in authoritarian Cameroon. Respondents were presented with two scenarios that varied the intensity of repressive behavior. Treatment groups were primed with reference to an existing legal mechanism. The results partially sustain our conjectures. Autocratic legalism does not clearly help justify overt repression. However, legalism does increase regime partisan support for milder repression and reduces nonpartisan support. Closer examination of nonpartisans demonstrates differences based on underlying measures of political engagement. The paper clarifies when autocratic legalism can elicit support and elaborates on the role of nonpartisans in authoritarian settings.
Colonial Legacies, Collective Efficacy, and Rural Development: Evidence from the Togo-Ghana Border
(with Martha Wilfahrt)