Comparing Renewalist Christians' Political Orientations in Latin America and Africa (with Elizabeth Sperber) Political scientists have begun to pay increasing attention to the ways in which renewalist Christian denominations—particularly Pentecostalism and Charismatic Catholicism--influence political beliefs and behavior across Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Both regions provide evidence that these renewalist denominations are different from their mainline Christian counterparts in important ways, with implications for political beliefs and behavior. These nascent but burgeoning literatures have remained regionally segregated, begging the question: how does regional context shape the influence of renewalist Christianity on political beliefs? In this paper, we undertake the first systematic comparative analysis of the relationship between membership in a renewalist denomination and political attitudes. Using survey data from Pew, we conduct a statistical analysis of the relationship between religion and political beliefs of 44,832 people across 14 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and 18 countries in Latin America. We find that members of renewalist churches have significantly different political beliefs than other Christians, particularly regarding the appropriate relationship between church and state. However, there is important variation between Pentecostals and Charismatic Catholics, as well as important regional variation in these relationships. This analysis enables better understanding of the similarities and differences in Pentecostals’ and Charismatic Catholics’ across different contexts.
Under Contract: Explaining Successes in Africa: Things Don't Always Fall Apart (Lynne Rienner, expected early 2023) What does it take for African countries to achieve political and economic successes? Scholarship on Africa tends to focus on the barriers to reaching desired outcomes. While recognizing that these barriers are very real, Erin Hern takes a contrary, unabashedly optimistic approach: rather than treating countries that perform well as “miracles,” she seeks to normalize their success, analyzing the performance of those that have made good choices in the face of adverse circumstances. Hern shows how most-similar and most-different case studies can be used to test major explanatory theories. Making the topic accessible to nonexperts, in each of five issue chapters she highlights two countries that have performed particularly well, evaluates which theories can best explain their success, and then turns to two shadow cases—countries that have not performed as well—to evaluate whether those theories remain plausible. Including an opening chapter that introduces the theory and methods of comparative politics, this provocative book is ideal for classroom use.
In Progress: Beliefs about Democracy and Political Behavior in Africa and the Middle East (with Yael Zeira) Popular support for democracy in Africa and the Middle East is strong, but what do people mean when they say they “support democracy”? According to data from the Afro and Arab Barometers, Africans and Arabs more frequently identified democracy as a system for distributing material goods (jobs, basic necessities, monetary assistance) than as a system of government defined by multiple parties, an independent legislature, or freedom of expression. In this paper, we ask two questions: first, what are the predictors of belief in democracy-as-welfare as opposed to democracy-as-procedure? Second, are these beliefs related to political behavior? Using the most recent rounds of the Afro and Arab Barometers, we conduct multi-level logistic analysis to identify individual- and country-level predictors of individuals’ understandings of democracy. We find that, in Africa, belief in democracy as welfare is more common among the poor, women, rural-dwellers, the less educated, and those who live in more democratic countries. These beliefs have important implications for political behavior: those who understand democracy-as-welfare are less likely to vote, contact officials, or attend community meetings. More than any other form of government, a functioning democracy requires the support and participation of its citizens. These findings illustrate the importance of unpacking what people mean when they say they support “democracy,” and show that these beliefs are linked to behavior. In an era of democratic erosion, these findings are also consequential in broader comparative perspective.
Citizens Political Engagement during Democratic Backsliding in Africa Understanding how ordinary citizens respond to episodes of democratic backsliding is essential, as elections present opportunities to halt backsliding by removing aggrandizing executives. Yet, while much scholarship has examined elite attitudes and mass preference for democracy during backsliding, less work has considered how backsliding influences ordinary citizens’ political engagement and electoral turnout. This study uses mixed methods to explore how citizens respond to backsliding. First, I analyze 5 rounds of Afrobarometer data using multi-level regression to estimate how average levels of political engagement and behavior change during and after periods of democratic backsliding in 15 African countries. I find that political engagement decreases almost everywhere during backsliding relative to each country’s baseline. However, Zambia is an outlier, where average levels of political engagement increased during the most recent period of backsliding, culminating the 2021 ouster of the sitting president in an election with record turnout. The study turns to content analysis of an original set of 200 semi-structured interviews with Zambians about their participation in the 2021 presidential election to determine why Zambians’ engagement and participation increased, contrary to trends elsewhere. This analysis weighs the relative influence of awareness of democratic backsliding, civil society mobilization, and economic grievances in driving engagement and turnout. Understanding this case is important in the global context of democratic backsliding, as mass citizen participation in normal democratic procedures can reverse backsliding. Agents of Change: Executive Leadership and Effective Gender Quotas in Africa Many African countries have adopted legislative gender quotas, but they vary in their strength: while some are effective at increasing women’s legislative representation, others are so weakly designed as to be meaningless. Why do some countries adopt strong gender quotas, while others adopt weak ones that barely change women’s rate of representation? This study employs case analysis and computer-assisted QCA to identify the factors that are important contributors to quota strength. It first employs an in-depth analysis of Senegal as a least-likely theory generating case. This qualitative analysis, informed by elite interviews from officials and civil society actors, suggests that strong women’s civil society organization and executive commitment to change are essential factors for ensuring a strong quota. The analysis proceeds to test for the presence of these and other combinations of factors in Africa’s other quota-adopting countries using computer-assisted QCA. This analysis, indicates that the commitment of executive leadership better predicts quota strength. Previous studies have focused on women’s civil society organizations as key to achieving quota adoption. This study indicates that such organizing is necessary but insufficient; absent executive leadership that is committed to the idea of increasing women’s representation, such organizing may result in toothless quotas.