Research Projects

Expertise or Loyalty? Responsiveness in Authoritarian Institutions
What benefits do inclusive institutions have for authoritarian rulers? Previous research predominantly studied delegate behavior in authoritarian institutions but has been less well-equipped to assess government reactions to it. Analyzing the case of China’s People’s Political Consultative Conferences, I argue that an overlooked key benefit of inclusive institutions is their contribution to policy rationalization. Drawing on novel data spanning more than 9,000 policy suggestions submitted by delegates, their biographies, and the corresponding government responses, I illustrate that the regime values suggestions that signal expertise rather than those that display loyalty. While this is especially true for government departments of a more technical nature, I find no evidence suggesting that proposals highlighting grievances are responded to more favorably. These findings provide an important addition to our understanding of the role of authoritarian institutions in policy-making processes.
Economic, human development, and climate impacts of democracy(with Martin Lundstedt, Vanessa Boese-Schlosser, Natalia Natsika, Kelly Morrison, Yuko Sato, and Staffan I. Lindberg)
For generations, thinkers have debated whether democracy impacts socioeconomic outcomes. This question has become more relevant than ever since several authoritarian regimes claim superiority in delivering goods and services to citizens. The last decade’s impressive advances in data on political regimes along with vastly extended time series, progress in rigorous statistical modeling, and (quasi-) experimental techniques, have generated solid results identifying generalizable causal effects. Consequently, several strands of literature now demonstrate that being and/or becoming a democracy often has a substantial impact on economic prosperity, human development, and climate change mitigation. While other research focuses on technical solutions to improve economic outcomes, human development, and mitigation of climate change, we highlight that societies’ challenges are to a significant part dependent on countries’ political institutions.
Democratic-Autocratic Party Systems: A New Index(with Fabio Angiolillo, and Staffan I. Lindberg)Working Paper here
Party systems can be split along a democratic-authoritarian dimension in which some parties commit to democracy while others are decidedly more authoritarian. This democracy-autocracy party system (DAPS) dimension differs from other common scales that primarily capture policy differences rather than regime preferences. To apprehend this dimension of political division, we introduce a new empirical framework. Building on existing data on parties’ ideology, we provide a new measurement that defines to what extent a party system is more democratic or authoritarian. This measurement allows us to track the development of the democratic-authoritarian dimension across time between 1970-2019 and space, covering 174 countries for 3,151 election-years. We implement well-established content, convergent, and discriminant validity tests to confirm the reliability of our measurement, along with an empirical application of DAPS’s influence on autocratization and democratization.
Disinformation and Regime Survival(with Yuko Sato and Staffan I. Lindberg)Working Paper here.
Disinformation has transformed into a global issue and while it is seen as a growing concern to democracy today, autocrats have long used it as a part of their propaganda repertoire. Yet, no study has tested the effect of disinformation on regime breakdown and stability beyond country-specific studies. Drawing on novel measures from the Digital Society Project (DSP) estimating the levels of disinformation disseminated by governments across 179 countries between 2000-2022 and from the Episodes of Regime Transformation (ERT) dataset, we provide the first global comparative study of disinformation and survival of democratic and authoritarian regimes, respectively. The results show that in authoritarian regimes, disinformation helps rulers to stay in power as regimes with higher levels of disinformation are less likely to experience democratization episodes. In democracies, on the other hand, disinformation increases the probability of autocratization onsets. As such, this study is the first to provide comparative evidence on the negative effects of disinformation on democracy as well as on the prospects of democratization.
From Aid to Empowerment: The Impact of Democracy Assistance on Civil Society (with Adea Gafuri and Marike Blanken)
A growing body of research indicates that democracy aid improves levels of democracy in recipient countries. However, the precise mechanisms behind this relationship are understudied. Contributing to the study of democracy promotion, this study highlights aid for civil society as one crucial way of fostering democracy abroad. We argue that democracy assistance channelled through civil society organisations empowers civil society and consequently enhances democracy in the recipient country. Analysing earmarked funding for civil society with panel data of 128 recipient countries between 2005 and 2021, we find evidence for the effectiveness of this type of aid. The results demonstrate that assistance to civil society positively affects both, the strength of civil society and democracy levels in the recipient country. We also find this assistance to be particularly effective in closed authoritarian regimes. This work contributes to debates about the effectiveness of democracy aid and the mechanisms behind it.
Micro-Level Explanations of Policy Innovation: Unpacking Local Government Officials’ Innovation Willingness in China(with Biao Huang and Xiaodie Wu)
Prompting officials’ innovation willingness is a prerequisite for processes of public sector innovation. This article constructs a framework explaining officials’ innovation willingness by linking environmental antecedents and path dependence. The empirical analysis, based on an original survey and interviews with officials in China, shows that they are more responsive to drivers within the bureaucratic system, i.e., top-down and horizontal drivers but less so to bottom-up drivers. Moreover, officials with previous innovation experience tend to have more innovation willingness but are less driven by top-down factors. This study advances the theory of innovation willingness generation.