My research interests lie at the nexus of political institutions and behavior, with a focus on developing contexts and an expertise in Latin America. Specifically, I am interested in how context influences citizens’ political attitudes and participation, and the consequences of these cross-level relationships for democratic development. My forthcoming book with Oxford University Press, Protest State: The Rise of Everyday Contention in Latin America, asks why mass protest has become a normal, almost routine component of the participatory “repertoire” in certain democratic systems, but not others. Drawing on cross-national surveys from Latin America and a subnational analysis of Argentina, I argue that this often-sharp variation is the result of key differences in political institutions and trends in citizen engagement across and within developing democracies.
My second book, with co-author Jonathan Hiskey (Vanderbilt University), is entitled Erosion from Within: How Dominant-Party Enclaves Undermine Democracy in Latin America. This book builds on previously published research in Electoral Studies, and seeks to understand how subnational regime “unevenness” shapes political behavior in emerging democracies. Through a comparative analysis of the provinces and states of Argentina and Mexico, we find distinctive patterns of political attitudes and participation between citizens living in “dominant-party enclaves”—reminiscent of the subnational authoritarian regimes of the U.S. South decades ago—and those living in competitive multiparty systems. By fostering a political culture characterized by tepid support for democracy, limited electoral accountability, and participation repertoires oriented toward maintaining the status quo, dominant-party enclaves can erode democracy at the national level.
In addition to my book projects, I am also involved in ongoing research on topics that include clientelism’s link to protest behavior, targeting strategies for political parties engaged in vote buying, and the pivotal role that poor public service provision plays in inciting grassroots mobilization efforts, drawing on recent events in countries like Brazil and Venezuela. My paper with Ryan Carlin (Georgia State University) on clientelistic vote buying and democratic attitudes was published in the Journal of Politics in 2015, and we currently have another piece under review that introduces a theory of voter retaliation in response to clientelistic rewards targeting, arguing and demonstrating empirically that individuals with democratic attitudes often punish vote trafficking parties by supporting rival candidates or casting invalid ballots.
Below are links to some of the papers I have published and the abstracts. I hope you find these to be useful to your own research.
Abstract: Why has protest participation seemingly exploded across much of Latin America in recent years? How do individual- and country level characteristics interact to explain the rise of contentious politics in countries like Argentina, Brazil, and Venezuela? I contend that the recent wave of protests in Latin America is the result of trends in community engagement and institutional development across the region’s young
democracies. Specifically, I argue that low-quality institutions in democratic regimes push an increasingly large number of civically active Latin Americans toward more radical modes of political participation, as governments’ abilities to deliver on citizens’ expectations fail to match the capacity for mobilization of active democrats. Drawing on cross-national surveys of Latin America, I test this argument, finding that an interactive
relationship between community engagement and ineffective political institutions helps explain the recent spike in protest activity in certain cases and the vast differences in protest participation observed throughout the region.
Abstract: Who do parties target for clientelistic vote buying? Existing research looks almost exclusively at individuals’ socioeconomic and, especially, electoral profiles—which parties and candidates they support, professed ideological leanings, past voting turnout, and choice. We argue party brokers also consider democratic attitudinal profiles. Specifically, they are more likely to avoid full-fledged democrats and target citizens who are ambivalent to or reject core democratic principles. We test this proposition with the 2010 Argentina AmericasBarometer. To address selection bias on observables and unobservables, respectively, we preprocess the data with entropy balancing and employ instrumental variables regression. Results from both strategies are consistent with the notion that democrats are less likely votebuying targets than their less democratic counterparts. Effect sizes are on par with or exceed other theoretical variables, and the results are robust to a variety of checks and specifications.
Abstract: The confluence of Latin America’s volatile economic development patterns and transition to democracy has given rise to a proliferation of work on the national-level political causes and consequences of economic shocks and recovery rates. We explore the subnational electoral determinants of crisis recovery through analysis of growth rates in Mexico’s thirty-one states and Argentina’s twenty-three provinces following their economic declines of 2000–2002. Consistent with a theory that views intra-national variations in democracy as critical to understanding broader development patterns, we find that subnational electoral “regimes” significantly affect provincial recovery rates. Provinces that have an established electoral legitimacy prior to the onset of an economic shock, and those in which the governor enjoyed a substantial margin of victory, had significantly stronger recovery rates than those provinces stuck in a subnational regime transition with a sitting executive who lacked any claim to an electoral mandate.