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Job Market Paper: Who Helps? The Resilience of Cross-Cleavage Ties During Ethnic Violence

Do cross-ethnic social ties completely cease to matter once the bullets start flying? Based on a new survey on survivors of the 1992-5 Bosnian War, I find that cross-ethnic assistance was not only widespread but highly correlated with the number of outgroup friendships pre-war. Yet surprisingly, the strength of those social network ties does not have a significant effect. Most people, it appears, were willing to help not only friends but even friends-of-friends and acquaintances. Drawing on 160 interviews, casualty records, and census data, I provide mixed-methods evidence that weak ties can prove unexpectedly resilient, even under the strain of civil war.

What I Saw on the Road to Insurrection: Internal Political Efficacy, Conspiracy Beliefs and the Effect of Depression on Support for the January 6th Storming of the Capitol

with Matthew Baum, James Druckman, Roy Perlis, and Jennifer Lin

R&R at the American Journal of Political Science



We investigate whether and how mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic influenced Americans’ attitudes regarding domestic extremist violence surrounding the 2020 election and the January 6th US Capitol riot. We test our theory using a two-wave national survey, from November 2020, and January 2021. We find that among efficacious individuals holding conspiracy beliefs, depression is positively associated with support for the Capitol stormers and for violence in response if the respondent believed the election was decided unfairly.

The Role of Race, Religion, and Partisanship in Misperceptions about COVID-19

with James Druckman, Katherine Ognanova, David Lazer, Alexi Quintana, Matthew Baum Mauricio Santillan, Hanyu Chwe, Roy Perlis, John Della Volpe

Group Processes & Ingroup Relations (2021)



Concerns about misperceptions among the public are rampant. Yet, little work explores the correlates of misperceptions in varying contexts–that is, how do factors such as group affiliations, media exposure, and lived experiences correlate with the number of misperceptions people hold? We address these questions by investigating misperceptions about COVID-19, focusing on the role of racial/ethnic, religious, and partisan groups. Using a large survey, we find the number of correct beliefs held by individuals far dwarfs the number of misperceptions. When it comes to misperceptions, we find that minorities, those with high levels of religiosity, and those with strong partisan identities—across parties—hold a substantially greater number of misperceptions than those with contrasting group affiliations. Moreover, we show other variables (e.g., social media usage, number of COVID-19 cases in one’s county) do not have such strong relationships with misperceptions, and the group level results do not reflect acquiescence to believing any information regardless of its truth value. Our results accentuate the importance of studying group-level misperceptions on other scientific and political issues and developing targeted interventions for these groups.


Photo: Aftermath of terror attack at Ohio State University. Credit: Blervis (Wikipedia)

Do Terrorist Attacks Always Affect Political Attitudes and Participation?

with William Minozzi, Michael Neblo, and David Lazer

Terrorists, mass shooters, and other perpetrators of mass civilian attacks target their victims, but they also target an audience. Scholars finds that people exposed to such attacks may exhibit an anti-minority backlash, a rightward political shift, or heightened political engagement. We test these theories through a mixed-methods analysis of a natural experiment and find no significant effects. Our results call into question the scope of existing theories, suggesting that even close encounters with mass violence can fail to sway public opinion.


Using General Messages to Persuade on a Politicized Scientific Issue

with Jon Green, James Druckman, Matthew Baum, Roy Perlis, Katya Ognyanova, David Lazer, Maurcillo Santillan, and Jennifer Lin

Forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science



Politics and science have become increasingly intertwined. Salient scientific issues such as climate change, evolution, and stem cell research become politicized, pitting partisans against one another. This creates a challenge of how to effectively communicate on such issues. Recent work emphasizes the need for tailored messages to specific groups. Here, we focus on whether generalized messages also can matter. We do so in the context of a highly polarized issue–extreme COVID-19 vaccine resistance. The results show that science-based, moral frame, and social norm messages move behavioral intentions, and do so by the same amount across the population (i.e., homogenous effects). Counter to common portrayals, the politicization of science does not preclude using broad messages that resonate with the entire population

Black Networks Matter

with Ray Block, James Druckman, Katherine Ognyanova, and David Lazer

Invited for submission at Cambridge Elements


In contrast to the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, a majority of protesters during the summer 2020 Black Lives Matter protests were white. What explains this massive turnout? What explains this success? Drawing on six months of survey data with over 5000 protesters, we argue that Black Americans were instrumental in turning out non-Black friends and acquaintances in their social networks both online and offline, outside of a traditional organizational framework. 

Gun Purchases During COVID-19

with Matthew LaCombe, Jon Green, and James Druckman 

R&R at Perspectives on Politics


Gun sales in the U.S. spiked to unprecedented levels during the COVID-19 pandemic. We investigate the reasons for this spike, as well as how the political identity of new gun owners differs from existing ones. We find getting sick with COVID-19 leads existing gun owners to buy new guns and that new guns owners tend to be more politically polarized and hold more extreme views.

Why Are You Protesting?

with Erica Chenoweth, Matthew Baum, and David Lazer

Drawing on a yearlong nationwide public opinion survey during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, we examine the self-reported motivations of over 5000 Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters. Men who were White, high-earning, and highly educated were the most likely to cite recreation reasons like having fun, while women from these historically privileged groups were the most likely to cite conscience. Women in general were far more likely than men to say they attended because they knew a victim of racism or police violence, despite not reporting higher rates of victimization themselves. Finally, while most protesters cited informational, ideational, and relational motives as predicted by existing theories, formal organizations appear to have played a little role.

Causal Estimation in Weighted and Directed Networks

Many health, education, and peacebuilding initiatives attempt to improve outcomes not only for individuals enrolled in their programs but for their family and friends as well. How we can measure the impact of the ripple effects? Building on Aronow (2012) and Athey, Eckles, and Imbens (2018), I develop a new method for using Fisher randomization inference on directed and weighted networks. 

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