"When Foreign Countries Push The Button: Public Support for Foreign Nuclear Use." Accepted at International Security.
How strong are the constraints against nuclear use? Pessimistically, experimental studies find a majority of citizens in multiple major powers would approve of nuclear strikes by their own government. But what if the nuclear taboo only begins at the water’s edge when individuals evaluate the use of nuclear weapons by a foreign government? Many policymakers believe that the international reaction to nuclear use would be severe, especially among allies, but prior studies have not tested this assumption. This paper develops a theory of how variation in the identity of who conducts nuclear attacks conditions the constraints against nuclear use. It posits that support for nuclear use should be higher when conducted by domestic and allied governments compared to other foreign countries because it will be perceived as more ethical. A series of four survey experiments in the U.S. and India provide evidence for this theory. However, in contrast to the expectations of many policymakers, approval is not significantly less for allies or strategic partners than it is for domestic governments. Absolute support for nuclear attacks is also alarmingly high, even when it is foreign countries pushing the button. On balance, these findings are inconsistent with the existence of a nuclear taboo.
"The Gendered Peace Premium." Accepted at International Studies Quarterly (with Christopher W. Blair).
The adage that "only Nixon could go to China" suggests hawkish leaders face fewer domestic political barriers to pursuing conciliation with foreign adversaries. Since hawks are viewed as less ideologically predisposed to peace than doves, their efforts at rapprochement are more likely to be perceived as in the national interest. We explore how this conventional wisdom intersects with prominent gender stereotypes about women's role in national security. Do gender stereotypes that women are inclined towards peace make it more difficult for women leaders to pursue conciliation? In a series of survey experiments, we find evidence of a gendered peace premium. That is, a penalty women leaders face for pursuing peace. When women leaders seek rapprochement with foreign adversaries, they are perceived as acting "according to type." Consequently, women's conciliatory policy proposals are viewed as less likely to be in the national interest than identical policies pursued by male leaders. Partisanship dynamics significantly moderate the gendered peace premium, and policy success can attenuate women leaders' disadvantage. While this discriminatory dynamic does not make it impossible for women leaders to seek and achieve peace, it does make it more difficult and politically costly than some perspectives assume.
"Madman or Mad Genius? The International Benefits and Domestic Costs of the Madman Strategy." 2023. Security Studies, Vol. 32, No. 2., pp. 271-305.
[Publisher's Version] [Open Access PDF] [Appendix]
According to the “Madman Theory” outlined by Daniel Ellsberg and Thomas Schelling, and embraced by Richard Nixon and Donald Trump, being perceived as mad can help make seemingly incredible threats—like starting a nuclear war—more credible. However, recent research has largely concluded that the Madman Theory does not work. In this study, I theorize that the international benefits of the Madman Theory have been underestimated, but also that there are significant domestic barriers associated with adopting such a strategy that undermine its effectiveness. Through a series of five novel survey experiments, I find evidence that perceived madness does provide limited advantages in coercive bargaining vis-à-vis foreign adversaries, but also entails significant domestic costs that potentially erode its efficacy. Overall, this study provides clearer support for the Madman Theory than most previous literature has found, but also breaks new theoretical ground by analyzing the domestic politics of perceived madness.
"Fossil Fuel Divestment and Public Climate Change Policy Preferences: An Experimental Test in Three Countries," Environmental Politics (with Paul Lendway and Abolfazl Nuri).
[Publisher's Version] [Open Access PDF] [Replication Data]
Divestment is a prominent strategy championed by activists to induce positive social change. For example, the current fossil fuel divestment movement includes over 1,500 institutions that control $40 trillion in assets. A primary pathway through which divestment is theorized to be effective is by influencing public beliefs and policy preferences, thus pressuring policymakers to take action. However, prior research only tests this argument via qualitative case studies. We assess the impact of exposure to information about fossil fuel divestment on public beliefs and policy preferences through the use of national survey experiments in three major greenhouse gas emitters: the United States, India, and South Africa. Across a range of different types of treatments, we find surprisingly little evidence that exposure to information about the fossil fuel divestment movement can increase public support for policies that address climate change. Our findings suggest that divestment movements may be less effective at changing beliefs and policy preferences than previously realized.
"Do Armed Drones Counter Terrorism, Or Are They Counterproductive? Evidence from Eighteen Countries." 2022. International Studies Quarterly, Vol 66, No. 3 (with Matthew Fuhrmann and Michael C. Horowitz).
[Publisher's Version] [Ungated PDF] [Appendix] [Washington Post Article]
Do armed drone programs decrease or increase terrorism? Existing studies on this question produce conflicting arguments and evidence. Drone optimists contend that possessing armed drones reduces a country’s vulnerability to terrorism, while pessimists claim that this military technology provokes higher levels of terrorism. Prior research focuses almost exclusively on one particular context: the short-term effect of the U.S. drone program in Pakistan. However, armed drones have proliferated rapidly over the last decade and 18 countries now possess this technology. We expand the scope of prior studies by leveraging new data to assess how obtaining armed drones changed the degree to which all drone possessors experienced terrorism between 2001 and 2019. Employing a variety of estimation strategies, including two-way fixed effects, we find that armed drone programs are associated with significant reductions in terrorism. Our analysis, based on the full universe of cases over an 18-year period, provides further evidence that drones can be effective as a counter-terrorism tool in some cases.
"The Two Faces of Opposition to Chemical Weapons: Sincere Versus Insincere Norm-Holders." 2022. Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 66, No. 4-5, pp. 677-703 (with Christopher W. Blair and Jonathan A. Chu).
[Publisher's Version] [Ungated PDF] [Appendix] [Political Violence at a Glance Article]
Prominent research holds that the use of weapons of mass destruction is taboo. But how strong are these norms? Investigating this question among the mass public, we argue that some citizens actually support taboo policies in private but are unwilling to express counter-normative opinions openly due to fear of social sanction. These insincere norm-holders are difficult to identify empirically because they are observationally equivalent to sincere norm-holders in direct-question surveys. To overcome this challenge, we use a list design, which allows survey respondents to indirectly express sensitive opinions. The results from three list experiments show that between 10% and 17% of Americans falsify their preferences over chemical weapons use when asked directly. In an extension, we explore our framework in the realm of nuclear weapons and elite behavior. Our findings advance a specific debate on the strength of weapons taboos, while our conceptualization of insincere norm-holders and methodological application have broader implications for how scholars might think about and measure norms in international politics.
"Who's Prone to Drone? A Global Time-Series Analysis of Armed Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Proliferation." 2022. Conflict Management and Peace Science, Vol. 39, No. 2, pp. 119-142 (with Michael C. Horowitz and Matthew Fuhrmann).
[Publisher's Version] [Ungated PDF] [Replication Data] [Appendix] [Foreign Affairs Article] [Washington Post Article]
What determines whether countries pursue and obtain armed drones? Using an original time-series dataset, we conduct the first comprehensive analysis of armed drone proliferation from 1994 to 2019. We theorize and find evidence that security threats—like terrorism—are not the only factors driving proliferation. Regime type also has a significant effect, but it varies over time. From 1994 to 2010 regime type had no significant effect. However, non-democracies became significantly more likely to pursue and obtain armed drones from 2011 to 2019 owing to China’s entrance into the drone export market, which asymmetrically eased supply-side constraints for non-democracies. We also find that status-seeking states are more likely to pursue armed drones. Our results contribute to the broader academic literature on proliferation by demonstrating how supply shocks can lead to changes in proliferation trends over time and lending further credence to the importance of prestige in international politics.
"Do Women Make More Credible Threats? Gender Stereotypes, Audience Costs, and Crisis Bargaining." 2020. International Organization, Vol. 74, No. 4, pp. 872-895 (with Christopher W. Blair).
[Publisher's Version] [Ungated PDF] [Replication Data] [Appendix] [Washington Post Article]
As more women attain executive office, it is important to understand how gender dynamics affect international politics. Toward this end, we present the first evidence that gender stereotypes affect leaders’ abilities to generate audience costs. Using survey experiments, we show that female leaders have political incentives to combat gender stereotypes that women are weak by acting “tough” during international military crises. Most prominently, we find evidence that female leaders, and male leaders facing female opponents, pay greater inconsistency costs for backing down from threats than male leaders do against fellow men. These findings point to particular advantages and disadvantages women have in international crises. Namely, female leaders are better able to tie hands—an efficient mechanism for establishing credibility in crises. However, this bargaining advantage means female leaders will also have a harder time backing down from threats. Our findings have critical implications for debates over the effects of greater gender equality in executive offices worldwide.