Research

Economic context, public opinion, policy preferences, and political behavior

Inequality, Immigrants, and Selective Solidarity: How Economic Disparity Fuels Cultural Conflict (under review)
Does economic inequality make people less generous toward immigrants? This article explains that inequality triggers selective solidarity. Individuals exposed to inequality grow more supportive of welfare benefits for native citizens but not for immigrants. As a result, economic inequality increases the gap between support for natives and support for immigrants. This happens because inequality erodes beliefs in social mobility, which in turn intensifies ingroup favoritism. I first provide evidence with survey data from 13 OECD countries, which I link to a measure of regional economic inequality that accounts for within-country variation. I then present an original survey experiment with a nationally representative sample of Italian residents to generate causally identified measures and a behavioral task. Bridging work on inequality, identity and redistribution from political economy and political psychology, I show that economic inequality intensifies culturally exclusionary reactions.

Natives, Immigrants, and Hard Work: The Link between Welfare Chauvinism and Welfare Deservingness (under review)
Who is deserving of welfare support? Does working hard matter more or less than being a native citizen? While the literature on welfare deservingness and the attribution theory of poverty focus on recipients’ laziness vs. bad luck, extensive scholarship emphasizes the importance of identity in the politics of welfare. Existing work, however, often neglects the interplay between identity and work attitude and confounds several attributes of welfare recipients. To unpack these conditions, I run original survey conjoint experiments in Italy and France with nationally representative samples. Nationality emerges as the most important determinant of welfare deservingness. Immigrants are judged less deserving than individuals who are not looking for a job, rely on welfare despite being fit and healthy, or have never had regular jobs. Citizens prioritize even “lazy” natives over hardworking immigrants.

It’s the Emotions, Stupid! Anger about the Economic Crisis, Low Political Efficacy, and Support for Populist Parties (Electoral Studies, 2017) (article)
This article examines the impact of anger about the economic crisis on turnout and vote choice. I argue that the impact of anger about the economy is moderated by feelings of political efficacy. Among citizens with low efficacy, anger decreases electoral participation and fuels support for populist parties. In contrast, angry voters with high efficacy do not vote less often; they also increase support for mainstream opposition parties. I test the theory with the 2005-2010 British election panel study, which allow me to address endogeneity concerns and control for pre-crisis political engagement and other negative emotions.

The Economic System is Unfair! Economic Unfairness, Education, and Political Participation
Survey data from Europe and the US depict a public deeply and increasingly unsatisfied with the unfairness of the economic system. How does economic unfairness influence political participation? This study shows that perceptions of economic unfairness lead to a decrease in conventional participation, especially in costly forms of political engagement. This is because individuals who consider society unfair question the legitimacy of traditional channels as means of interest representation. On the other hand, economic unfairness increases unconventional participation, but only among individuals with high education. The analysis relies on the 2013 German Election Study and adopts structural equation modeling with latent variables, which allows me to simultaneously consider different forms of participation, address measurement errors that often affect reported indicators of participation, and test the causal mechanism hinging on perceived legitimacy of the political system.

Identity and political representation

Candidate Sexual Orientation Didn’t Matter (in the Way You Might Think) in the 2015 UK General Election (with Andrew Reynolds) (American Political Science Review, FirstView Online) (article)
After building an original dataset with constituency variables and individual-level data on more than 3,000 candidates in the 2015 UK election, we show that LGBT candidates did not decrease party vote share – even in conservative constituencies. To deal with compositional data, we adopt seemingly unrelated regressions with logistic ratio transformation of the dependent variable, and we control for candidate education, political experience, and campaign spending. This is the first quantitative investigation of the electoral impact of candidate sexual orientation.

Gender, Legislators and Political Responsiveness: Field Experiments from Europe and Latin America (with Zoila Ponce de Leon) (under review) (paper)
We conducted an audit experiment on gender and representation conducted with 3,685 members of parliament from 11 countries in Europe and Latin America. In the experiment, a citizen alias – whose gender is randomized – sends an email to members of parliament inquiring about unemployment benefits in Europe and healthcare services in Latin America. The countries in the experiment allow for variation in electoral systems, which influence extrinsic motivations of elected officials, and proportion of female members of parliament, which could affect the link between gender and responsiveness. We find that legislators are overall significantly more likely to respond to women (+3%), especially in Europe (+4.3%). In Europe, this result is driven by the behavior of female legislators, who consistently reply more to women than men (+8.4%).

Career Politicians: Motivations, Attitudes, Behavior (with Donald Searing and Nicholas Allen)
The project clarifies, systematizes, and measures the concept of “career politicians.” We use unique longitudinal career data and interviews of members of the UK House of Commons, who were interviewed in the 1970s and re-interviewed between 2012 and 2015. We quantitatively explore the psychological traits that define career politicians, including need for power, need for achievement, need for affiliation, status, and public service motivation.

Homophobic and Transphobic Voting Behavior in Established Democracies (with Andrew Reynolds)
Do voters in established democracies treat lesbian, gay, and transgender candidates differently from straight and cisgender candidates? Do they penalize HIV-positive candidates? To answer these questions, we use conjoint experiments embedded in nationally representative surveys in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and New Zealand.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like any additional information on my ongoing research projects.

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