Job Market Paper

State Oppression, Activist Propaganda, and Support for Militancy

Abstract Illegal militants and legal activists often co-exist within dissident movements. Why do the sympathizers of a movement support militancy given the existence of an activist organization affiliated with the movement? In this paper, I argue that state oppression of activism boosts support for militancy, whilst activist propaganda promoting peaceful means diminishes support for it. To test these expectations, I conduct a list experiment in Southeast Turkey, where the militant group PKK and the activist political party HDP garner significant support. My research design presents sympathizer individuals with treatment videos that vary in the degrees of state oppression and activist mobilizing propaganda. I further test the mechanisms driving support for militancy using pre- and post-treatment questions. Results demonstrate that state oppression against activism elicits a sense of inability to affect political process, leading to a surge in support for militancy. Activist mobilizing propaganda boosts admiration for activist leadership, diminishing support for militancy. This paper shows that movement activists' emphasis on struggle with non-violent means, as well as state precluding the use of these means can affect support for armed groups.

Revise and Resubmit

Peace Negotiations and Civilian Targeting

Abstract Does the participation of armed actors in peace talks influence their strategy of targeting civilians? I argue that before peace talks belligerents have incentives to demonstrate their military strength and respect for humanitarian standards to international third parties. Thus, they are more likely to spare civilians and discriminately target enemy combatants before international talks. Using change point analysis and surrogate data testing on the daily casualty and territorial control data for the Syrian Civil War, I show that belligerents engaged in negotiations incite more combatant and fewer civilian casualties in the enemy territory immediately before an international meeting is to be held. These findings underscore that international parties can drive combatants to avoid violence against civilians by inviting them to peace talks.

Under Review

UN Peacekeeping and Varieties of Violence: Evidence from the Border between Burkina Faso and Mali (with William G. Nomikos and Rob Williams)

Abstract Though existing research finds that UN peacekeeping operations promote peace, newer work calls this finding into question. We address this tension with a new theoretical framework and a novel empirical strategy that disentangles the causal effects of peacekeeping. We argue that peacekeepers may resolve one type of conflict while unintentionally causing outbreaks of other types of violence. We examine the case of Mali, the site of a multidimensional UN peacekeeping operation and intrastate conflict since 2013. We employ a geographic regression discontinuity design around the border of Mali and Burkina Faso to estimate the causal effect of deploying peacekeepers. We find that UN peacekeeping reduces conflict between nonstate rebel groups as well as communal violence between civilians. However, we also show that peacekeepers do not decrease violence between governments and rebels. More troubling, we find no evidence that UN peacekeeping decreases violence against civilians, regardless of the identity of the perpetrator.

Strike When they Aren't Looking: Great Power Crises and Threats to Rule (with David Carter)

Abstract Although regime threats such as civil conflict and coup d'etat are widely studied, their systemic links to global crises receive relatively little attention. We argue that episodes of instability among great powers ripples through the international system and foments violent threats to rule in less powerful states. During periods of systemic stability, great powers actively maintain influence over allied political factions in states within their sphere of influence, providing financial and security assistance. When great powers experience instability and crisis, they reduce engagement in the internal politics of less powerful states, which provides an opening for violent challenges from regime opponents. We assess our arguments with both new and existing indicators of systemic instability, showing that periods of economic and security instability among great powers are associated with a heightened risk of both civil conflict onset and regime change coup attempts in smaller states. Our work offers a novel explanation for the emergence of threats to rule, integrating the literatures on great power politics, civil conflict and coup d'etat, while also demonstrating why regime threats not only cluster geographically but also cluster in time.

Working Paper

How Foreign Policy Crisis Shapes Public Opinion on Social Media (with Amaan Charaniya, Rex Deng, Jin Kim, Gechun Lin, William G. Nomikos) APSA Foreign Policy Section 2022 Best Paper Award

Abstract Political scientists have long debated whether and how foreign policy shapes public opinion in democracies. Although some scholars suggest that domestic politics does not affect how leaders in democracies conduct foreign policy at all, an emerging consensus has in recent years documented the fundamental interplay between international politics and public opinion. According to this line of thinking, domestic audiences use foreign policy, leaders' decision-making during international crises, and the consequences of those decisions to evaluate leaders. These evaluations, in turn, constrain the behavior of leaders on the international stage since they wish to remain in office. While it is clear that foreign policy impacts the public opinion toward the political leadership making those decisions, the mechanisms specifying how remain subject to debate. Moreover, the growing importance of social media in electoral politics remains largely unaccounted for in this literature. This article begins to fill this gap by providing a theory and evidence from social media data that explains how social media conditions the effect of foreign policy on public opinion. To test our argument, we examine social media responses toward the U.S. decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in August 2021. The withdrawal is a salient policy event with important implications for studying the role of international politics in shaping public opinion over time. We use a dataset of 7 million tweets to measure the public opinion toward the withdrawal. Instead of relying on a specified group of users, we collect all tweets in the United States sent between August and September of 2021 that mention a list of keywords related to the Afghan withdrawal. This approach allows us to collect the most comprehensive corpus of tweets related to the Afghan withdrawal.

Displacement, not Obstruction: How States Manage a Complex Media Landscape (with Afiq bin Oslan)

Abstract Political science has long studied the capacity for and determinants of media manipulation by states. Contemporary developments have proliferated the number of media sources available to citizens. How does the proliferation of media sources affect the state's incentive to manipulate information? Using a formal model, we demonstrate a phenomenon of “displacement”---where the presence of alternative sources of information can actually encourage states to manipulate information. This is because alternative media sources mean that states only need to divert citizen attention without employing full obstruction, reducing the necessary effort expended. This result advances our understanding of how the contemporary state navigates an increasingly complex media landscape. We supplement the model with brief discussions of applications in Türkiye and hopefully some other places eventually.

The Impact of Court Packing on Turkish Constitutional Court Decisions (MA Thesis)

Abstract Using an original and comprehensive dataset, I measure Turkish Constitutional Court justices' ideal points in a two dimensional ideology space. I show that justices' ideologies and background characteristics are significant determinants of their votes and dissents in annulment action cases between 2002 and 2016. The more restrainist and liberal a justice is, the more likely they will vote for the unconstitutionality of AKP legislation. The main question this study seeks to answer is whether the impact of justices' ideologies on their votes has been significantly different after the act of court packing in 2010. The analyses show that the probability of voting for the unconstitutionality of AKP legislation between 2010 and 2016 is significantly lower than the cases between 2002 and 2010.