Work in Progress


Survey Participation Effects in Conflict Research

with Carlo Koos

Revise & Resubmit

Do survey participants respond differently if they have been interviewed before? Academic and policy interest in post-war political opinion has increased tremendously. One unexpected consequence of this surge of survey research is a growing probability that individuals will be interviewed multiple times. However, if participating in one survey causes respondents to change their attitudes or behavior, their subsequent survey responses may be biased in comparison to the rest of the sample population. Our paper aims to investigate such “survey participation effects” in conflict contexts. We draw on original, population-based survey data collected in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Our primary explanatory variable is previous survey participation. 18 percent of respondents in our representative sample report that they have been interviewed before. Multivariate analyses demonstrate that their stated attitudes on social relations, political institutions, gender norms and war-time victimization differ substantively from the responses of first-time interviewees. Moreover, our analyses indicate that experienced respondents have specific response styles – in particular, a tendency to support extreme response options. These findings call for a more careful consideration of the potential effects of multiple survey participation in conflict contexts.


Efficacy, Blame Attribution, and Protest Scope: Findings from a survey experiment in South Africa

with Miquel Pellicer and Eva Wegner

Revise & Resubmit

Similar grievances can motivate different types of protests in terms of demanding very specific policies within a given economic or political system or calling for a change of the system itself. Little is known about the factors that shape people’s preferences for different protest issue scopes. We investigate the role of perceptions of efficacy. Our hypothesis, based on findings in the social psychology literature, posits that higher efficacy/powerfulness reduces the psychological need to justify the system which, in turn, increases preference for broad protest issue scope. To test this hypothesis, we conduct a survey experiment in two South African townships. We find that individuals asked to recall a successful protest (vs. an unsuccessful one and vs. a control group), are not only more likely to feel powerful and have higher levels of efficacy. They are also more likely to attribute common social grievances to the system and to support protests calling for system change (social inequality) rather than specific policies (service provision). These results can help understanding protest dynamics as well as the political choices of the poor.



Climate and Cohesion – the Effects of Individual and Group-Level Drought Exposure on Intra-Ethnic and Inter-Ethnic Trust

with Niklas Hänze


While a large body of research highlights the conflict-inducing effects of climate change, we still know very little on the mechanisms linking environmental conditions to violent conflict. This paper seeks to investigate the plausibility of a prominent channel according to which scarcity of natural resources can foster violent conflict through deteriorating inter-group relations. In addition to assessing direct effects of adverse environmental conditions on intra-ethnic and inter-ethnic trust, we suggest a conditional argument on the role of horizontal inequality of hazard exposure. Environmental hazards are “unequal” if they systematically affect ethnic groups differently. While inequality may reinforce intra-ethnic ties and outgroup suspicion, equal hazard exposure may create a sense of unity among diverse victims in their collective goal to cope with harsh environmental conditions. We test these arguments in the context of severe drought periods that affected most East African countries in the years 2004 and 2005. The empirical analysis combines gridded information on drought severity with geo-located survey data on around 4,000 individuals across 6 countries in the region (Afrobarometer, 2005/2006). Our main analyses find that exposure to drought hazards increases self-reported trust – within and across ethnic groups. The latter effect, however, depends on the degree of inter-group equality of hazard exposure: it wanes as inequality increases across ethnic groups. Taken together, these findings indicate that if droughts increase the risk of violent conflict, they seem to do so through other mechanisms than inter-group polarization and despite their positive effects on ethnic trust. This is most likely the case in contexts of pronounced horizontal inequality of drought hazards.  


Indoctrination and preference falsification in autocracies: Evidence from a natural experiment in the German Democratic Republic

with Felix Haaß and Jan Pierskalla


Dictators depend on a committed bureaucracy to implement their policy preferences. But how do they induce loyalty and effort in their civil service? We study political indoctrination as a potentially cost-effective strategy to achieve this goal. Indoctrination aims to align agents' personal preferences to those of the principal, reducing the need for additional incentives. The open question is to what extent such a strategy can been successful. We study the effectiveness of a tool of indoctrination that is widely used in autocracies: forced military service. Conscription provides the regime with a mechanism of exposing recruits, including civil service candidates, to intense propaganda in a controlled environment which should improve recruits’ subsequent system engagement. To test this hypothesis, we analyze rich individual-level archival data of over 370,000 cadres from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). Exploiting a natural experiment generated by the introduction of mandatory service in the GDR in 1962. We find a substantive effects of conscription on bureaucrats’ system engagement, as measured by career advancement, which reflects work effort in line with the elite’s preferences. Instead of successful norm internalization, however, our findings suggest that political training familiarized recruits with the elite preferences, allowing them to strategically behave according to the ``rules of the game.'' These findings provide new micro-level insights into the dictator’s toolkit: indoctrination can backfire when it allows individuals to engage in more effective preference falsification.