Emotion, Mobilization, and Institutional Manipulation: The Behavioral Effects of Gerrymandering in the United States (Dissertation chapter)*

This project explores the relationship between citizen behavior and undemocratic institutions. I argue that behavior is conditioned on whether or not a person is advantaged or disadvantaged by a suppressive electoral institution and anger is a key factor in explaining variation in citizen engagement. Through a survey experiment using the case of American gerrymandering, I find that learning about the effects of skewed district lines causes people whose votes are being under-weighted to get angry and boost their engagement. Those whose votes are over-weighted by manipulated district lines experience emotions of contentment and choose not to politically engage. This research has implications for voter mobilization and engagement among groups who are disadvantaged by undemocratic electoral rules.   

Counterfactual Apportionment: The effects of malapportionment in hybrid regimes with evidence from Malaysia. (With Daniel Magleby)*

Nominally democratic institutions may mute the influence of some groups even when those groups are not overtly denied the opportunity to participate in elections. In Malaysia, the clever delineation of district boundaries is one way the hybrid regime excludes particular groups that might otherwise present as a potential political threat. Identifying boundaries as the cause of undemocratic outcomes can be problematic though. In particular, the distribution of voters might constrain mapmakers to draw a set of districts that favors or disfavors a particular group. To overcome this challenge, we use a computer to randomly redraw Malaysia’s electoral map into a set of hypothetical, fair maps against which we can make valid comparisons. Using this approach and a new dataset containing information about the geographic distribution and ethnicity of Malaysia’s voters, we make valid inferences regarding the extent to which the malapportioned map of Malaysia systematically excludes and mutes the influence the urban Chinese vote. Our approach allows us to draw a clear connection between the regime drawn districts and electoral distortions in Malaysia. Moreover, our findings show that manipulation of boundaries within states (rather than malapportioned representation between) drives disparities in representation in Malaysia.

Can Electoral Suppression Mobilize?: Poll Burden, Emotions, and Political Participation in Georgia's 2020 Senate Elections (Dissertation Chapter)*

In this paper, I present a theory of emotions and political participation in undemocratic electoral institutions. I argue that when people learn they are being targeted by electoral suppression they participate more when they experience anger. Those groups who benefit from electoral suppression experience emotions like enthusiasm and demobilize because their group is already winning. I test my theory empirically in two different ways. First, I leverage a natural experiment existing in the data from the 2020 Georgia Senatorial election and runoff election both replete with reports of electoral suppression. Through a difference in difference design, I find that voters who were targeted by polling place closures and experienced longer lines ("poll burden") on election day were more apt to turn out again weeks later despite targeted institutional suppression. Because emotions are difficult to model from post hoc observational data, I conduct a survey experiment that explicitly randomizes poll burden; Interestingly, those respondents whose party is targeted by this type of electoral suppression exhibited strong levels of anger and were more likely to participate in the future. This research carries important implications for the study of emotions in undemocratic political contexts. I find that anger mobilizes but I also find that enthusiasm demobilizes (when the playing field is not level). This is something unexpected in foundational theories of emotions and political participation suggesting that future inquiry in American political behavior must also take into consideration the behavioral effects of democratic backsliding.  

Emotion and mobilization in illiberal regimes: A case study in Malaysian electoral politics

In this project I test my theory of the effects undemocratic institutions and electoral behavior in Malaysia. To show how voter participation hinges on emotion and a person's respective institutional (dis)advantage, this project implements a survey experiment gauging citizen response to the effects of malapportionment, endemic in Malaysian electoral politics. I theorize that those who are advantaged (e.g. ethnic Malay and rural dwellers) will not experience anger and will be less likely to engage in activities to make elections more fair when they learn of their institutional advantage. On the other hand, those disadvantaged (e.g. urban Chinese) by the same undemocratic institution will experience anger and increase their engagement. 

Angry White Parents: How Emotions Mobilize Participation in Local School Board Politics (With Francy Luna Diaz and Zoe Walker)*

National media has recently turned its attention to local school board elections and race has become a contentious issue in local education politics. Is increased attention to teaching race in schools changing participation rates among Whites in school board meetings? In this paper, we theorize that attention to teaching about white privilege in schools matters when it induces anger in respondents. We test this theory through a novel survey experiment conducted in October 2022. We randomly assign respondents to read one of three paragraphs about racial differences in unemployment under consideration for curricula in their district. We find that as anger increases among white parents so too does their propensity to participate. Furthermore, we find that parents who are the angriest do more than just attend the meetings: they are more likely to register a complaint to the board, make a comment in a public hearing,  join a group of like-minded parents, and volunteer to participate more in the future. Our findings have implications for the study of the relationship between emotions and Whites’ racial attitudes.

*Completed Manuscript