Research

Publications:

  1. Curtice,Travis B. Spring 2018. “The Autocrat’s Dilemma: The Politics of Ethnic Policing.” CP: Newsletter of the Comparative Politics Organized Section of the American Political Science Association, 28 (1): 24–29.

  2. Ugandan police are attacking protesters. Here’s how that backfires” (with Brandon Berhlendorf) Washington Post (January 2018).

  3. Do coups improve human rights in countries like Gabon?” (with Daniel Arnon) Democracy in Africa (January 2018).

  4. Deterring Threat and Settling Scores: How Coups Influence Respect for Physical Integrity Rights” (with Daniel Arnon) (Forthcoming) Conflict Management and Peace Science.

    Do coups affect patterns of political violence like violations of physical integrity rights? Do these patterns vary depending on whether coups succeed or fail? We argue that political uncertainty from coups decreases respect for physical integrity rights. Post-coup regimes preemptively repress as a show of strength to deter threats from those excluded from power and settle scores through cycles of retaliation. Additionally, we argue that the retaliation cycle of score settling will last longer after a failed coup because of informational problems that emerge when targeting opponents. Employing data on coups and physical integrity rights from 1980 to 2015, we find coup failure and success to be negatively associated with respect for physical integrity rights, and the cycle of retaliation lasts longer after failed coups.

Book Project (In preparation):

  1. “Policing Multiethnic Autocracies: Repression, Law and Order, and Cooperation in Uganda”

    Why do some people cooperate with police in the provision of law and order in autocracies while others are not even willing to report crimes to police? Drawing on a principal-agent framework, I theorize autocrats face a tradeoff between policing effectiveness and repressive compliance. This tradeoff has implications for how citizens interact with police. By developing and testing the theory in Uganda, a multiethnic autocracy, I argue regimes partially solve their security tradeoff by employing ethnicity as a social radar, strategically staffing police officers. Although using outsiders to police communities increases repressive compliance, it exacerbates coethnic bias decreasing citizens’ willingness to cooperate with police in the provision of law and order. Consequently, actions autocrats take to ensure police are willing to comply with orders to repress decrease citizens’ cooperation in the provision of law and order and weaken one of the defining features of the state. To test the observable implications of the theory, I use a multi-method approach. This approach includes a series of preregistered survey experiments (a nationally representative list experiment, conjoint design experiment in Gulu district, and a nationally representative endorsement experiment); quantitative analyses of crime and political violence data at the district level; and elite interviews. The results have implications for how we think about state (dis)order, conflict, human rights, and security sector reform.

Working Papers:

  1. “Police and Coethnic Bias in Autocracies: Evidence from Two Experiments in Uganda” EGAP ID: 20180605AC & EGAP ID: 20181015AA.

    Why do people cooperate with police in autocracies? I theorize citizens use police officers’ ethnicity to form beliefs about the role of police in society. In particular, coethnic bias affects cooperation with police because citizens: i) cooperate more with officers who share their ethnicity; and ii) fear repression more when encountering non-coethnic police officers. This second mechanism depends on citizens’ level of trust in the regime. Using two survey experiments in Uganda: 1) a nationally representative list experiment; and 2) a conjoint experiment in Gulu District, I test whether ethnicity affects how citizens interact with police. Analysis of the list experiment shows 42 percent of Ugandans believe people do not report crimes because police are not from their area or community. The conjoint experiment results demonstrate citizens prefer reporting crimes to coethnic officers, even after controlling for potential confounders. Increased trust in the regime decreases coethnic bias, providing evidence that coethnic bias in cooperation is conditioned by citizens’ beliefs about the role of police in this multiethnic autocracy.

  2. Street-Level Repression: Protest, Policing, and Dissent in Uganda” (with Brandon Berhlendorf) EGAP ID: 20180716AA.

    In many autocracies, police are both guardians of public safety and the primary instruments of state repression. Used to quell dissent, excessive police force can drive further collective action, leading to a repression-dissent nexus. Yet does repression spur dissent for all, or only for those already dissenting? We theorize repression by police causes political backlash, decreasing support for police and increasing political dissent.We argue these effects are conditioned by individuals’ proximity to the repressive act and support for the ruling party. Using a nationally representative survey experiment of 1,920 Ugandans, we find robust evidence for political backlash effects of repression across all demographics, regardless of proximity to the event. By examining the politics of policing in an autocracy, we show excessive police-violence triggers political backlash, decreasing general support for the security apparatus and increasing willingness to publicly dissent for some populations.

  3. The Limits of Linkage: The Political Economy of Human Rights Trade Sanctions” (with Eric Reinhardt)

    Recent scholarship contends that linkage – embedding human rights conditionality in trade agreements – can improve human rights in developing countries. This paper challenges that perspective. Specifically, we argue that states have little incentive to enforce human rights conditions in trade agreements due to their trade, investment, and security interests, and so cannot credibly commit to doing so. The result is that a partner with a poor or worsening human rights record may be under-sanctioned; and one with an improving or good record may nonetheless be over-sanctioned, de- pending on the partner’s position vis-`a-vis the other state’s trade, investment, and security interests. We examine these claims in the context of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), a unilateral trade preference program with robust human rights conditions, created in 2000 by the United States for up to 49 potentially eligible Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) states. US decisions to terminate an SSA state’s AGOA beneficiary status are determined strongly by US trade, investment, and security in- terests. If an AGOA country is highly non-democratic or has experienced a successful coup d’état, the US is more likely to end its AGOA beneficiary status. However, the country’s human rights record has a less consistent and weaker effect. We find these results unsurprising, in light of well-established theories of trade politics, but damaging to a vital assumption of the perspective that trade linkage can improve human rights standards.

  4. “Securing the Ballot or the Voter: The Politics of Policing Election Violence.”

    Why do some individuals turn to police for safety when threatened by election violence but not others? I argue representation within government institutions  conditions who reports threats of electoral violence, depending on coethnic ties to police and the incumbent. Using nationally representative survey data from Kenya prior to the 2017 elections and data on the ethnic composition of the Kenya National Police Service, I find individuals are more likely to report threats of election violence to police when they share ethnic identities with the incumbent regime and their coethnics are represented in the police. This paper contributes by disaggregating the role of government in election violence to examine variation in how civilians respond to police — the main actor responsible for upholding electoral security and perpetrating election violence.

  5. Rebels and the Regime: The Politics of Civilian Victimization” (R&R).

    Existing studies find that during civil conflict rebels victimize civilians more when fighting democracies than authoritarian states. Yet to understand why rebels victimize civilians, it is important to consider when rebels target civilians and the severity of violence rebels use against civilians. Considering this distinction is critical to understanding the strategic calculus that rebels face while fighting states with varying regime types. By doing so, I argue that although civilian victimization by rebel groups is more likely in democracies, the count of civilians killed by rebels is higher when rebels fight authoritarian states. Employing a dataset of armed conflicts from 1989 to 2009 and a series of hurdle models, this study finds that rebel organizations fighting in more authoritarian regimes are less likely to engage in civilian victimization; however, if they do use violence against civilians, the count of civilians targeted is higher.

  6. “Repression or Law and Order in Autocracies: How Coercive Action Affects Public Perception of Police in Uganda”

    What are the effects of repression on public perception of police in autocracies? Are these effects uniform or conditional on individuals’ partisanship? I answer these questions in the context of Uganda, arguing that people view actions by police through a partisan lens. Repression will decrease how individuals evaluate the police among non-supporters — those who do not support the ruling party — while increasing evaluations by supporters. To test this argument, I leverage a unique research design opportunity that emerges from the social media tax protest led by Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu (also known as Bobi Wine) and his subsequent arrest by the Uganda Police Force while a nationally representative survey on police and security was being administered in Uganda. Repressing the social media protesters decreased citizens’ attitudes about their obligation to comply with police and perceptions about whether police are procedurally fair and legitimate. As theorized, these effects are largely driven by partisanship; repression decreases how non-supporters evaluate the police but increases evaluations by incumbent-supporters.

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