WorkIng papers

This paper studies how shocks to socioeconomic expectations induced by elections contribute to democratic discontent in polarized societies. Using new large-scale survey data collected throughout the 2022 Brazilian presidential election, I investigate how respondents' electoral and socioeconomic expectations, polarization, emotions, and attitudes towards violence and democracy evolved as a result of the close victory of the main opposition candidate. My analysis is guided by a stylized model, in which I show that highly polarized voters who assign a large probability to their candidate's victory experience a larger negative shock to their socioeconomic expectations in case their candidate loses. This expectation shock may then lead to an increase in violent and anti-democratic sentiments. By resurveying 1,200 respondents right after the election, I confirm the model's predictions and show how the role of this negative expectation shock is particularly strong among the most extreme supporters. In an additional survey experiment, I provide complimentary evidence in which I positively update respondents' expectations about the economy and find that this information treatment reduces their violent and anti-democratic sentiments.

"Perceptions of Racial Gaps, their Causes, and Ways to Reduce Them" 

(with Alberto Alesina and Stefanie Stantcheva)

NBER Working Paper 29245 [Reject and resubmit at the Journal of Political Economy], 2021

Press coverage: MarketWatch, Project Syndicate, VoxEU, The Harvard Gazette

Using new large-scale survey and experimental data, we investigate how respondents perceive racial inequities between Black and white Americans, what they believe causes them, and what interventions, if any, they think should be implemented to reduce them. We intentionally over-sample Black respondents, cover many US cities, and survey both adults and young people of ages 13 through 17. In the experimental parts, we consider the causal impact of information on racial inequities (such as the evolution of the Black-white earnings gap or the differences in mobility for Black and white children) and explanations for these inequities (i.e., the deep-seated roots and long-lasting consequences of systemic racism) on respondents’ views. Although there is heterogeneity in how respondents perceive the magnitude of current racial gaps in economic conditions and opportunities, the biggest discrepancies are in how they explain them. There is a stark partisan gap among white respondents, particularly in the perceived causes of racial inequities and what should be done about them. White Democrats and Black respondents are much more likely to attribute racial inequities to adverse past and present circumstances and want to act on them with race-targeted and general redistribution policies. White Republicans are more likely to attribute racial gaps to individual actions. These views are already deeply entrenched in teenagers, based on their race and their parents’ political affiliation. A policy decomposition shows that the perceived causes of racial inequities correlate most strongly with support for race-targeted or general redistribution policies, a finding confirmed by the experimental results.

We report results of parallel surveys conducted in three countries of legislators and citizens to understand tolerance of corruption. We find voters and legislators in Colombia, Italy, and Pakistan share similar views within and across countries regarding the prevalence of corruption as well as its desirability, measured using hypothetical scenarios that involve trade-offs. Legislators exhibit considerable sensitivity to possible media and legal repercussions of taking a bribe whereas voters have little faith that a malfeasant legislator would be exposed, charged, or convicted. We also find that legislators who express ego or self-interested rather than social motivations for entering public office are more likely to express above-average tolerance of corruption. An experimental information treatment prompts legislators who initially thought that citizens’ concerns about corruption were overestimated to adjust their beliefs downward.

WorkS in Progress

"Corruption, Salience, and Political Selection"

Using new survey and experimental data, I investigate what drives voters’ decisions when facing the competence-dishonesty trade-off. Looking at a representative sample of the US population, I find that, in line with salience models, a higher corruption level makes voters focus on other characteristics, such as competence, when choosing whom to vote for, leading to a higher vote share for corrupt politicians. When introducing the candidates’ party, I find that partisanship becomes the most salient characteristic, leading most respondents to vote for the candidate from their party, ignoring how competent and dishonest they are. By randomly exposing respondents to news on corruption scandals, I show that, by making them perceive corruption as more frequent, respondents become more willing to vote for a more corrupt candidate as long as they are more competent. At the same time, they become more supportive of policies designed to punish corrupt politicians. Finally, I do not find evidence that Democrats and Republicans react differently to these experiments. Moreover, they are aligned in their attitudes towards corruption and preferences for policies to reduce it, suggesting that corruption is a non-partisan topic.