Research

My research incorporates field experiments, natural experiments, cognitive interventions, ethnographic observation, and survey data into the study of democratic consolidation and the formation of democratic habits.

Many-Faced Efficacy: The Effect of Individual Empowerment on Democratic Consolidation

My job market paper examines how individual and collective capabilities shape democratic attitudes and behavior. The role which individual and collective motivations play in civic involvement has long been subject to debate. To test if individual self-esteem matters for democracy as much as collective efficacy, I organized an original lab-in-the-field experiment in Southeast Ukraine (N=1,381).

Randomly targeting respondents’ beliefs about their efficacy as both individuals and members of local communities, I am able to causally identify the effect of self- and collective efficacy on civic behavior and intentions.

Contrary to most theoretical expectations, the experiment shows that an increase in individual empowerment without any change in perceived community strength is sufficient to enhance civic involvement.

Moreover, the improvement in efficacy causes a direct behavioral change in civic involvement irrespective of the change in attitudes and intentions.

No Politics, Please! When Democracy Promotion Suppresses Political Engagement

My second dissertation paper examines the effect of collective efficacy on the intentions to run for office or join a political party.

Using experimental and ethnographic evidence, I show that increasing individuals’ sense of collective efficacy without an accompanying change in the quality of institutions leads to political frustration and suppresses the reported willingness to participate in costly political activities.

Moreover, the increase in the sense of efficacy reduces engagement of “skeptics by burnout” — those citizens whose experience with democratic outcomes falls short of expectations — and increases engagement of “skeptics by ignorance” — political abstainers who harbor vague ex ante expectations on the quality of political institutions.

Personality Origins of Ideological Inconsistency

My final dissertation paper explains how personality affects ideological preferences in the course of democratization.

Openness to experience predicts political liberalism everywhere but in Eastern Europe, where it prompts conservative beliefs. Why do personality effects established in Western data predict opposite political attitudes in non-Western contexts? Previous theories treated this atypical association as an outlier, a “blind spot”, an exception that proves the rule. Instead, I argue that it is the combination of openness of experience and liberalism that is truly exceptional because it stems from decades of political and economic stability in Western democracies.

Combining bootstrap regression modeling with interpretative qualitative coding of open-ended responses from an original demographically representative sample from Ukraine, I show that openness to experience predicts openness to any novel experience that credibly challenges the status quo, and in some contexts, this experience entails support for right-wing policies.