State Capacity and the Development of Political Party Systems

My dissertation focuses examines why party systems in hybrid regimes vary.  I argue that the key factor in the change in the fragmentation of loyal opposition parties over time is the state’s infrastructural power. At lower levels of state capacity, regimes manage elites through clientelism or corruption, which encourages elites to either join the leader’s ruling party or form a large number of small parties. As state infrastructural power increases, bargaining over policy becomes a viable option. Under those conditions, elites have an incentive to form larger and more stable political parties, leading to a more consolidated loyal opposition.  I evaluate my argument in two ways: First, I establish that party system fractionalization in hybrid regimes is conditional on state capacity using time-series cross-sectional statistical analysis. Second, using structured interviews and survey experiments in four Eurasian countries that vary across state infrastructural power and freedom of expression, I test the hypotheses that elites find regime policy commitments more credible and are more likely to bargain over policy in countries with higher infrastructural power.

Testing Preference Falsification: An Experimental Evaluation of Public Opinion in Iran

While scholars have long assumed that citizens in dictatorship falsely express high levels of support for their leaders, policy-makers and the public frequently use public opinion polls from these countries to support preferred positions.  This research project, conducted with a team of undergraduates, seeks to assess the prevalence of preference falsification in one authoritarian country – Iran.  Using online and phone-based survey experiments, we test the hypothesis that individuals’ willingness to express critical views of the government depends on the perceived anonymity of the survey instrument.