Dissertation Project: “Variation in Public Responses to Violence against Civilians”
Levy, Gabriella. “Evaluations of Violence at the Polls: Civilian Victimization and Support for Perpetrators After War.” Journal of Politics, Forthcoming.
Following armed conflict, voters must often evaluate candidates who have allegedly committed violence against civilians. What kinds of alleged perpetrators are voters more willing to support and why? I argue that people appraise candidates’ alleged involvement in violence by considering how their participation reflects competence and integrity. This article relies on the Theory of Dyadic Morality to build a framework for civilian judgements about perpetrator integrity. The article also argues that the most salient form of competence in the context of civilian targeting is security competence. A conjoint survey in Colombia featuring hypothetical former combatants running for office indicates, in line with my argument, that attributes associated with integrity affect respondent preferences. Respondents are more supportive of candidates who violate less strict norms, have less agency, and have less clear causal links to the victims. More unexpectedly, attributes associated with security competence are less important than broader indicators of competence.
Levy, Gabriella and Mateo Villamizar Chaparro. “The Electoral Effects of Targeted Post-Conflict Political Violence.” Under Review.
What are the effects of violence against civic leaders and ex-combatants on electoral outcomes in unstable contexts emerging from conflict? Such individuals have been targeted in a range of countries, including Colombia and Afghanistan. Yet, existing research on wartime and electoral violence has rarely explored the killings of these non-combatants, who are neither regular people nor powerful politicians. Thus, we examine the relationship between 1) the deaths of social leaders and demobilized ex-combatants in Colombia following the 2016 peace agreement and 2) Colombian political participation and vote choice in 2018 and 2019 elections. Methodologically, we use a series of municipal level estimations followed by individual level regressions using DANE survey data from the Colombian government. Our results indicate that social leader and ex-combatant assassinations each reduce political engagement as well as support for the hawkish candidate. We also provide suggestive evidence that the assassinations not only reduce citizens’ perceptions of their personal security but also increase their belief in the value of violence and depress their satisfaction with the state of democracy in their country. These results suggest that, through their impact on electoral participation, vote choice, and public attitudes, the assassinations may have countervailing effects on national stability.
Levy, Gabriella, Rebecca Dudley, Chong Chen, and David Siegel. “Diplomatic Signals and the Strategic Use of Terrorism in Civil Wars.” Under Review.
How does third-party support, both diplomatic and material, affect rebel violence against civilians in civil wars? We argue via a game-theoretic model that diplomatic support prompts prospective shifts in rebel tactics, from civilian to military targets, in anticipation of material support. Material support alters the cost structure of attacks, leading to the same tactical shift. We empirically test the model’s implications using an original dataset of UN resolutions about countries in civil wars. Supporting our theory, we find that material interventions are generally correlated with decreased rebel reliance on violence against civilians, though not all kinds of intervention have the same effect. The effect of UN resolutions on civilian violence, while negative as predicted, does not reach statistical significance; however, we find that its effect may be conditional on state behavior in a way consistent with our formal model.
Levy, Gabriella. “Violence Against Civilians and Public Support for Armed Groups: The Role of Context.” Working Paper.
Why do people support armed groups that engage in violence against civilians? I suggest that the group may provide them effective governance or promote an ideology similar to their own. Alternatively, opponent groups may commit violence against civilians. Further, people do not evaluate violence, governance, and ideology wholly independently. Rather, ideological similarity with and effective governance provided by a perpetrator temper the negative impact that abuse has on support for the perpetrator. I test this argument using nine years of public opinion LAPOP surveys in Colombia. I find that people’s responses to the state’s civilian victimization vary on the basis of whether the state provides them with security from crime as well as on the basis of whether they are ideologically similar to the president. The results also suggest that the effect of state civilian victimization on support for the national government and support for its armed forces follow distinct logics.
Denny, Elaine, David Dow, Gabriella Levy, and Mateo Villamizar Chaparro. “Extortion and Civic Engagement Among Guatemalan Deportees.” Working Paper.
How does extortion experienced during the migration journey affect the civic engagement of deported migrants returned to their home country? More broadly, how does extortion affect political participation? We know very little about either the political behavior of returnees or about how coercive economic shocks experienced during migration affect subsequent levels of political participation. Furthermore, existing literature on how victimization affects political participation is inconclusive, particularly when combined with existing work on economic insecurity. Studying deported migrants and the quasi-random experience of extortion enables us to address the endogeneity that often confounds these analyses. This approach allows us to isolate the impact of extortion on political action from potentially confounding factors related to local security or corruption. Using a novel dataset from Guatemalan migrants returned to Guatemala by the U.S. government, we find that extortion has a direct, positive relationship with multiple forms of civic action, and that, at least in this context, the mobilizing effects of economic hardship outweigh the potentially demobilizing effects of fear of crime.
Field and Policy Work
Colombia (in preparation): virtual elite interviews with civil society leaders
Guatemala (2019-2020): DevLab@Duke longitudinal survey of individuals repatriated from the United States to Guatemala; short-term consultancy with the World Bank to produce an article
Guatemala (2019): DevLab@Duke endline survey for a U.S. Department of State community policing project (MPP) intended to improve police-citizen relations, increase inter-police collaboration, and reduce crime
Argentina (2016): archival research concerning the visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to Argentina in 1979