Miguel R. Rueda - Research

Working Papers and Work in Progress

"Buying Votes with Imperfect Local Knowledge and a Secret Ballot" Under Review

Presented at the 2012 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.


How do politicians buy votes in secret ballot elections? I present a model of vote buying in which a broker sustains bribed voters' compliance by conditioning future bribes on whether her candidate's votes reach an optimally-set threshold. Unlike previous explanations of compliance, the threshold mechanism does not require brokers to observe individual voters' political preferences or even vote totals of the bribed voters. I show that when there is uncertainty about voters' preferences, compliance can be sustained as long as electoral results of small groups are available. If preferences are observed however, vote buying is not deterred by higher aggregation of electoral results. I also find that vote buying is facilitated when voters care about the welfare of other voters. Using survey data from Nigeria, I provide evidence consistent with the model's results. pdf.


"Election Aggregates and the Choice of Electoral Manipulation Strategies"

Presented at the 2013 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association and the 2013 meeting of the Southern Political Science Association.


Corrupt politicians use a variety of manipulation strategies to win elections. How do politicians choose among them? Using a new dataset of reports of electoral crimes and survey data from Colombia, I identify the level of aggregation of electoral results, and the electorate size as important determinants of the relative incidence between vote buying, turnout suppression and fraud. The data reveal a robust negative correlation between the size of the average polling station in a municipality and vote buying. I provide evidence that such correlation can be attributed to the increased ability of brokers to sustain compliance of bribed voters when electoral results of small groups are available. I also find a negative association between the electorate size and each method of manipulation that is stronger for vote buying than for turnout suppression and fraud. This is consistent with vote buying having larger marginal costs of implementation than other methods. pdf.


"Popular Support, Denunciations and Territorial Control in Civil War"

Presented at the 2013 meeting of the American Political Science Association and the 2014 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.


I present a model of civilian cooperation with an armed group in an irregular war. Unlike previous models of interactions between civilians and combatants, in this model civilians consider the effect of their cooperation on territorial control in an incomplete information setting where they do not know others' motivations or cooperation choices. I find that a superior military force is not sufficient to achieve full civilian cooperation and that maximum cooperation is attained only if this power comes with expectations of punishment for past defections. The model shows that selective post-control reprisals bring higher cooperation than indiscriminate ones and that forcing civilians to give any kind of information brings more valuable information than what is obtained through voluntary cooperation. It is also shown that communities that have a highly centralized process of decision making are expected to give their support to only one group of combatants and to be exposed to lower levels of violence. pdf.


"National Electoral Thresholds and Disproportionality" (with: Tasos Kalandrakis)

Presented at the 2012 meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association.


We propose a MAP-EM estimator that recovers (stochastic) national electoral thresholds and disproportionality from observed seats/votes allocation data. We apply the procedure to 101 electoral systems used in 415 elections to the lower house across 30 European countries since WWII. We find that over half of these systems exhibit a statistically significant positive electoral national threshold of representation with the median threshold among these systems being 2.75%. In 46 out of the 101 systems we cannot reject the hypothesis that the allocation of seats for parties above the threshold is proportional to vote shares. The estimates produce a directly interpretable summary of the electoral system and, if appropriately purged from estimation contamination, can serve as independent variables to evaluate the consequences of electoral institutions.


"Misspecification and the Propensity Score: The Possibility of Overadjustment" (with: Brenton Kenkel and Kevin A. Clarke)

Presented at the 2011 meeting of the American Political Science Association and the 2010 meeting of the Society for Political Methodology.


The popularity of propensity score matching has given rise to a robust, sometimes informal, debate concerning the number of pre-treatment variables that should be included in the propensity score. The standard practice when estimating a treatment effect is to include all available pre-treatment variables, and we demonstrate that this approach is not always optimal when the goal is bias reduction. We characterize the conditions under which including an additional relevant variable in the propensity score increases the bias on the effect of interest across a variety of different implementations of the propensity score methodology. Moreover, we find that balance tests and sensitivity analysis provide limited protection against overadjustment. pdf.


"Vote Buying and Associational Life"


This paper documents a robust positive correlation between community group participation and occurrences of vote buying attempts. The paper then explores potential mechanisms that explain the uncovered pattern and finds evidence that is consistent with two of them: first, when voters do not have much information about relevant candidates' attributes, group-targeting serves as a signaling device to the candidate. By targeting voters in a group, the candidate conveys information to other bribed members that facilitates their compliance. Second, those who participate in many different groups are more likely to be bribed because they can potentially use their influence over a larger set of voters to induce other members to support the broker's candidate. Contrary to the expectations derived from the traditional literature on social capital, this paper's findings show that institutions of civic participation can be used to increase the efficiency of electoral strategies of manipulation, reducing accountability, and more generally, affecting the quality of democratic processes.


"A Dynamic Model of Civil War" (with: Avidit Acharya)