Partisanship in patronage democracies: Experimental evidence from India (with Ankita Barthwal)
Partisanship plays an important role in most advanced democracies, but has received little scholarly attention in developing democracies, where party-voter linkages are thought to be more transactional and unstable. Recent research finds that self-reported party attachment abound in these contexts too, but we still know little about what motivates such attachments. In this paper, we draw on original survey data from India to explore the meaning of partisanship in a context rife with patronage politics and ethnic voting. We find high levels of partisan attachment, using both self-reported measures and affect-based partisanship scores. Contrary to the dominant narrative in India, we find that voters talk about partisanship as long-lasting and related not only to favors and social identity, but also to parties’ ideological positions. Using experimental vignettes to probe what motivates partisanship, we find a strong effect on self-reported partisanship of information about the ideological commitments of major parties. Information about ethnic favoritism only produce an effect among voters who have received direct benefit from the government. The findings provide evidence against the conception of voters in the developing world being mostly concerned with their own material benefits and draw attention to the under-studied role of ideology in forging party-voter linkages.
Coordination failures and the challenge of constructing a majority in Indian elections (with Pradeep Chhibber and Sanjeer Alam)
Across the world, elites and voters often fail to coordinate on the top contenders in plurality elections. A within-district analysis makes it easier to disentangle voter and elite coordination. In this letter, we propose that studies of voter coordination should move below the district level because voters may be coordinating at a lower level of aggregation. We demonstrate the value of within-district analysis, leveraging an original precinct-level dataset from the 2009 and 2014 Indian national elections, covering election returns in 500.0000 polling stations that have been manually geo-coded and collapsed to the level of about 328,000 census villages. We show evidence of voter coordination in almost half the villages in the data—a higher level of coordination than what is commonly attributed to Indian voters—however, in a large share of these villages the two candidates they coordinate on differ from those winning in the electoral district overall (incongruent coordination). We also show that variables related to poor access to information are strongly associated with both vote fragmentation and incongruent coordination, while strong social cleavages are associated with more fragmentation but less incongruent coordination. The findings have implications for how we think about voter coordination both within and across electoral districts.
Who becomes a local-level politician in India? (with Ananish Chaudhuri, Vegard Iversen, and Pushkar Maitra)
In advanced democracies, there is increasing evidence of positive selection into elected office. Politicians, particularly in parliamentary or other high-level positions, tend to be more competent than the general population. Much less is known about the quality of politicians in developing countries, although studies of high-level politicians and anecdotal evidence indicate negative selection by pointing to politicians as corrupt opportunists or incapable heirs. In this paper we use a unique experimental and survey data-set from West Bengal, India, to begin to bridge this knowledge gap. We first compare a large sample of local politicians to the general population in the areas they are elected from using three broad measures of politician quality: competence, motivation, and public-service mindedness. For first-time politicians, we find negative selection with regard to competence, but positive selection on motivation and public-service mindedness. We then investigate possible trade-offs between inclusive representation and politician quality, finding similar quality traits for candidates elected to reserved and non-reserved seats. Our results indicate strong positive selection into low-level office in India, suggesting that the association between the status of the position held and the quality of the elected office holder may be reversed compared to advanced democracy findings. Our results also underline the need for richer and more nuanced measures of politician quality, since different positive characteristics do not necessarily go together.
Electoral Importance and Media Consumption: Quasi-experimental Evidence and New Data from India (with Julia Cagé and Guilhem Cassan)
Media affect political behaviour. But are media markets in democracies in turn influenced by changes in political motives? Does media supply factor its political influence in its decisions? We build a novel panel dataset of newspaper markets in India between 2002 and 2017 to measure the impact of changes in electoral incentives on how these markets develop over time. We exploit the announcement of an exogenous change in the boundaries of electoral constituencies to causally identify the relationship between the (future) electoral importance of news markets and the change in the number and circulation of newspapers. Using an event study and a staggered difference-in-difference approach, we show that markets that became more electorally important experienced a significant rise in both circulation and number of titles per capita. Both supply and demand seem to drive the increase, but we estimate that the former explains almost all the variation in the short run and around $60\%$ in the long run. Finally, we document how effects vary with prior levels of political competition and newspapers characteristics, and discuss implications for voting behavior and democratic accountability.
Electoral Switching in Indian Elections (with Pavithra Suryanarayan)
This paper focuses on an understudied aspect of party system institutionalization: the strength and stability of linkages between parties and candidates. Using original data on rerunning patterns of candidates across 3,872 constituencies in 26 Indian states 1974–2007, we look at an important manifestation of weak party-candidate linkages: candidates switching parties from one election to the next. In this paper, we seek to describe and explain the great variation in electoral switching across the Indian states. Whereas parties and candidates face incentives to change alliances opportunistically in response to short-term factors such as a weak economy, we should expect more such behavior in contexts of weakly organized parties and weak party-voter linkages. We provide evidence for this by using constituency-level estimates of the organizational capacity of parties, the intensity of social cleavages, and economic shocks. Our findings suggest that electoral switching is a useful micro-level measures of party system institutionalization.
Forging Ikumen in Japan: On state efforts to change gender roles (with Mala Htun and Melanie Sayuri Sonntag)
To raise the birth rate and promote women’s advancement, the Japanese state has adopted policies and programs to change gender roles, including the ‘ikumen’—or active father—project. Drawing on surveys conducted 2000-14 and three dozen interviews, we demonstrate changes in attitudes about gender roles and men’s contributions, but little change to working habits and the sexual division of labor. State efforts have produced only an “incomplete revolution,” as economic, social, and legal institutions continue to encourage traditional gender roles. However, our study offers grounds for optimism, as the change in attitudes indicates that new gender roles have gained some legitimacy.
Keeping women out: Incumbency and renomination patterns for female politicians in India
Whereas village-level quotas in India have brought hundreds of thousands of women to power in local politics, only 4.6% of the Members of Parliament (MPs) and 4.7% of the Members of Legislative Assemblies (MLAs) in India have been women since 1961. Using a complete, new dataset of the more than 500,000 candidates in Indian state assembly and parliamentary elections 1961-2015, including almost 25,000 female candidates, I show that female candidates tend to do as well as male candidates in the elections where they run. Controlling for differences in candidate quality by using a regression discontinuity design (RDD) of close elections between male and female candidates, I also show that parties tend to re-nominate fewer of their female than their male incumbents and runner-ups. The findings indicate that it is party bias and a hostile political environment rather than voters bias that has made the inclusion of women in Indian politics so slow.