This page includes published work and work under review. Click on the titles to view the full articles.
“Ethical Concerns Surrounding Research Interventions in Democratic Processes.” Forthcoming in Ethics and Experiments: Problems and Solutions for Social Sciences and Policy Profesisonals, ed. Scott Desposato. London: Routledge.
A growing body of political science research today involves three things: human subjects; experiments; and fieldwork. This chapter considers a particular body of political science research: experiments providing information to citizens in democracies about their government. The strong interventions involved in this body of research have unique characteristics: 1) they often affect group-level outcomes; 2) the interventions often cause persistent harm to at least one person or group; and 3) the positive and negative outcomes from these interventions are ambiguous in time horizon, attribution to the research, and normative value. These attributes pose corresponding ethical challenges regarding calculating the costs and benefits of this research and obtaining consent from those affected by the research. These ethical challenges are even greater when the information is provided in the context of an election or when the researcher is an outsider to the area of the intervention. I suggest a framework for evaluating the ethics of these experiments in the research design phase. Using my own proposed audit experiment as a case study, I offer concrete ideas for assessing the costs and benefits of information experiments, disseminating information about the research to affected parties, and obtaining consent from participants and non-participants.
“Voter Response to Scandal: Cashgate and the Malawian Election.” Forthcoming in Democracy Maturing? The 2014 Malawi Tripartite Elections, eds. Nandini Patel and Michael Wahman. Lilongwe: National Initiative for Civic Education.View Abstract
Beginning in September of 2013 with the shooting of Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo, Malawi witnessed an immense, shocking and debilitating corruption scandal in the months leading up to the May 2014 elections. Dubbed ”Cashgate,” the scandal has had far-reaching effects, from the political to the economic to the social. This chapter considers its effects on the outcome of the May 2014 elections. Drawing on past literature examining how voters incorporate information about corruption and reflect on scandals when determining their vote, I evaluate whether Cashgate negatively affected support for the incumbent President Joyce Banda and candidates belonging to the party she formed, the People’s Party. Evidence from a survey conducted in December 2013 indicates that Cashgate likely significantly decreased support for Joyce Banda and, to a lesser degree, other People’s Party candidates. Providing hypothetical information via a survey experiment about Joyce Banda’s involvement, similar to the accusations in the media during the campaign period, decreased support for Joyce Banda even more. Members of the People’s Party were somewhat inoculated from the effects of this information, suggesting that swing voters were more influenced by Cashgate than were core voters. The survey findings contribute to the academic literature about the links between corruption, scandal and voting, as well as shed light on one significant factor influencing the outcome of Malawi’s presidential election: corruption and, more specifically, Cashgate.