"Governance Quality, Fairness Perceptions, and Satisfaction with Democracy in Latin America" (Accepted at Latin American Politics and Society)
How do individuals’ fairness judgments affect support for the political system? I argue that when citizens perceive high levels of distributive unfairness in society, they will be less satisfied with the way democracy functions. Yet, good governance – i.e., impartiality in the exercise of political authority – should mitigate the negative influence of perceived distributive unfairness on satisfaction. Using a cross-national analysis of 18 Latin American countries from 2011 to 2015, I demonstrate individuals are significantly less satisfied with democracy when they perceive their country’s income distribution as unfair. Yet, good governance – as indicated by a country’s level of corruption – significantly offsets this negative relationship, even in a region with the highest level of inequality in the world. These findings imply that policymakers can bolster democratic satisfaction, even in places where citizens perceive the income distribution as fundamentally unfair, by committing to good governance and fair democratic procedures.
"Sex and Ideology: Liberal and Conservative Responses to Scandal." Journal of Elections, Public Opinion, and Parties, Forthcoming (with Tiffany D. Barnes).
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Research finds citizens are far less likely to penalize politicians when they are implicated in sex scandals as compared to corruption. Still, observational data reveals that some politicians have better luck surviving sex scandals than others. Do voters punish politicians for sex scandals? We argue that yes—some voters do. Whereas liberals are inclined to view a sex scandal as a personal matter—unrelated to a politician’s job performance—conservatives are more likely to view sex scandals as moral outrages that disregard traditional values and threaten the social order. Conservatives are thus less forgiving of sex scandals than liberals, especially when women politicians are implicated. Using evidence from a survey experiment designed to isolate the effect of scandal type (corruption vs. sex) and candidate sex, we investigate heterogeneous effects by political ideology. We find that liberals tend to be forgiving of sex scandals, but not corruption. Conservatives, by contrast, punish men’s sex scandals on par with men’s involvement in corruption. And, conservatives assign women a penalty bonus. Although they are more likely to punish women for involvement in corruption than for sex scandals—they are significantly more likely than liberals to punish women for involvement in either type of scandal.
"Sex and Corruption: How Sexism Shapes Voters' Responses to Scandal." Politics, Groups, and Identities 8 (1): 103-121, 2020 (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu).
- Featured in the Washington Post Monkey Cage
Conventional wisdom suggests that voters rarely punish politicians for involvement in sex scandals. Yet, we argue that some voters are likely to hold politicians accountable for their moral transgressions. We theorize that both hostile and benevolent sexists are more likely than non-sexists to punish women for involvement in a sex scandal—but each for different reasons. We posit that women politicians involved in sex scandals activate traditional gender norms and challenge men’s dominant position in society, thus provoking hostile sexists to punish female politicians more severely than men. Benevolent sexists are likely to punish women who fail to comply with stereotypical expectations of being pure and moral, and the men who fail to safeguard those virtues. To test our theory, we rely on a survey experiment that manipulates politician sex and scandal type. We find strong support for our expectations, indicating that sexism continues to structure evaluations of female politicians and shapes voter reactions to political scandals.
"Working-Class Legislators and Perceptions of Representation in Latin America." Political Research Quarterly 72 (4): 910-928, 2019 (with Tiffany D. Barnes).
- Invited presentation at "The Public and Democracy in the Americas" conference, Universidad de Los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.
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How does the near-exclusion of working-class citizens from legislatures affect citizens’ perceptions of representation? We argue that when groups of people are continually denied access to representation, citizens are less likely to believe that their interests are represented by the legislature. By contrast, more inclusive institutions that incorporate members of the working class foster support for representative bodies. Using a multilevel analysis of 18 Latin American countries—a region plagued by disapproval of and disenchantment with representation—we find that greater inclusion of the working class is associated with better evaluations of legislative performance. These findings have important implications for strengthening democracy in Latin America, as they indicate that more diverse political institutions may be key to deepening citizens’ attachments to representative bodies.
"Restoring Trust in the Police: Why Female Officers Reduce Suspicions of Corruption." Governance 31 (1): 143-161, 2018 (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Emily Beaulieu).
- Featured in Democracy Speaks
Recent studies have shown a clear link between women in government and reduced concerns about corruption. Until now, it has remained unclear what underlying attitudes about women explain the perception that they will reduce corruption. Using a survey question about adding women to a police force, with an embedded experimental treatment, we examine three distinct stereotypes that might explain the power of women to reduce concerns about corruption: gender stereotypes of women as more ethical and honest; the perception of women as political outsiders; and beliefs that women are generally more risk-averse. We find that people do perceive women as more effective at combating corruption, and these perceptions are greatly enhanced when information about women’s outsider status and risk aversion is provided.
Selected Working Papers:
"Do Voters Recognize Class? Visualizing the Descriptive Representation of Working Class Politicians" (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Yann P. Kerevel)
The incorporation of descriptive representatives from politically marginalized groups has important consequences for how voters evaluate the legitimacy of the policy-making process and the quality of representation more generally. That said, descriptive representation based on observable characteristics like gender, race, or ethnicity is commonly thought to be more easily visible to voters, than descriptive representation based on shared experiences, such as social class. We argue the social class status of politicians is more visible than commonly thought within the literature, and voters do not necessarily need to rely on campaign rhetoric, media coverage, or even become deeply engaged in politics to discern representatives’ class. To test our argument, we carry out two nationally-representative survey experiments in Argentina and Mexico where respondents are shown a series of photographs of elected officials and asked to classify each individual as upper class or working class. We find respondents can correctly identify the class background of the individuals in the photographs at a rate significantly better than chance. The results are robust to both color and black and white images and the findings hold when we exclude individuals who report recognizing one of the images in the sample. The ability of voters to recognize the class backgrounds of politicians has important implications for how voters perceive the credibility of campaign promises from politicians, especially those who do not appear to be from the working class.
"Does Descriptive Representation of the Working Class foster Political Trust? Evidence from Mexico and Argentina" (with Tiffany D. Barnes and Yann P. Kerevel)
Many labor-based parties have historic ties to the working class, yet we know very little about how the mechanisms used to incorporate working class representatives into the legislature influences citizens’ perceptions of representation. We argue for working class legislators to effectively foster trust in institutions they should have strong relationships with the disadvantaged group they represent and be committed to advocating for their policy interests. Where parties nominate working class candidates in order to control the working class and prevent labor conflict, we anticipate working class representatives will decrease trust in the legislature and political parties. In contrast, where parties nominate labor representatives in order to cultivate working class support and represent workers’ policy interests, we posit that working-class politicians will increase trust. To test our theory, we develop an original dataset on the occupational backgrounds of Argentine and Mexican national deputies over a 20-year period. We then merge these data with Latin American Public Opinion Project survey data from 2006-2017 to examine the link between variation in working class representation and trust in congress and trust in political parties.