Publications and working papers by topic
Private gain from politics and public office
- Incerti, Trevor. ‘‘Corruption information and vote share: A meta-analysis and lessons for experimental design.’’ American Political Science Review, 114.3 (2020): 761-774. Online appendix. Replication data.
Debate persists on whether voters hold politicians accountable for corruption. Numerous experiments have examined whether informing voters about corrupt acts of politicians decreases their vote share. Meta-analysis demonstrates that corrupt candidates are punished by zero percentage points across field experiments, but approximately 32 points in survey experiments. I argue this discrepancy arises due to methodological differences. Small effects in field experiments may stem partially from weak treatments and noncompliance, and large effects in survey experiments are likely from social desirability bias and the lower and hypothetical nature of costs. Conjoint experiments introduce hypothetical costly trade-offs, but it may be best to interpret results in terms of realistic sets of characteristics rather than marginal effects of particular characteristics. These results suggest that survey experiments may provide point estimates that are not representative of real-world voting behavior. However, field experimental estimates may also not recover the “true” effects due to design decisions and limitations.
- Incerti, Devin, and Trevor Incerti. ‘‘Are regime changes always bad economics? Evidence from daily financial data. Replication data.’’ (under review)
Political instability is commonly thought to discourage investment and reduce economic growth. By contrast, we find that different types of “irregular” regime changes - coups, assassinations, or resignations - have disparate effects on stock returns. We examine daily returns of national stock indices in every country that experienced an irregular regime change subject to data availability. Using an event study approach, we show that abnormal returns following resignations are large and positive (4%), while those following assassinations are negative and smaller in magnitude (2%). The impact of coups tends to be negative (2%), but some events result in positive abnormal returns of 10% or more. Volatility increases during times of protest preceding resignations, but no clear directionality is present. We therefore find that the expected direction and magnitude of abnormal returns is dependent on the type of political event and its expected impact on economic policy.
- Incerti, Trevor. ‘‘Who benefits from the revolving door? Evidence from Japan.’’ (contact for draft)
A growing literature finds high returns to firms connected to legislative office. Less attention has been paid to benefits from bureaucratic connections and to organizations beyond for-profit firms. Using new data recording the first non-bureaucracy position occupied by all former civil servants in Japan, as well as data on all government loans to for-profit firms and all government contracts with non-profit organizations, I test for systematic benefits that accrue to organizations that hire bureaucrats using differences-in-differences approaches. I show that for-profit firms receive larger government loans following bureaucratic hires and stock price boosts following the announcement of high-ranking bureaucratic hires. I also show that non-profit organizations receive higher value contracts in periods when former officials are in director positions at the organization. In the context of 30 years of Japanese economic stagnation, the practice of hiring former bureaucrats may represent a form of unofficial government assistance to politically-connected organizations.
- Incerti, Trevor, Sayumi Miyano, Diana Stanescu, and Hikaru Yamagishi. ‘‘Amakudata: A new dataset of revolving door hires.’’
Political economists have long speculated about the effects of connections between bureaucracies and the private sector. However, data tracing flows of civil servants from the bureaucracy to the private sector remains rare. This article presents a new dataset, Amakudata, which contains individual-level data of all Japanese bureaucrats retiring into positions outside of the bureaucracy from 2009 to 2019.
Economic drivers of political behavior
- Incerti, Trevor. ‘‘Countering capture in local politics: Evidence from eight field experiments.’’ Pre-analysis plan. Replication data. (under review).
In the first field experiments to encourage participation in local civic bodies, I examine if outreach can reduce inequalities in who participates in city council meetings. Renter participation in local politics lags that of homeowners, who often participate to oppose housing growth. 19,951 renter households received randomly assigned emails encouraging them to comment at their city council meetings and support housing growth. Opening a message highlighting potential costs of abstention from local politics increased public comments by 1.4 percentage points versus placebo. These effects are substantively large: treatment-induced comments represented 8% of total comments and 46% of pro-housing comments across all targeted meetings. The results suggest that even low-cost outreach strategies can meaningfully increase participation in lesser-known settings like city councils and make these bodies more reflective of the general public. Further, increasing the perception that abstention is costly appears to be an effective motivator of collective action.
- Mattingly, Daniel, Trevor Incerti, Changwook Ju, Colin Moreshead, Seiki Tanaka, and Hikaru Yamagishi. “Chinese Propaganda Persuades a Global Audience That the “China Model” is Superior: Evidence From A 19-Country Experiment.” Pre-analysis plan
Many are skeptical of the appeal of authoritarian political systems. By contrast, we argue that a global audience will embrace authoritarian models when they believe that autocracies can meet governance challenges better than democracies. We conduct a randomized experiment in 19 countries across 6 continents exposing a global audience to real messages from the Chinese and American governments’ external media arms. We also collect comprehensive data on the Chinese and American government’s external propaganda. Our experiment shows that exposure to a representative set of Chinese messages strengthens perceptions that the CCP delivers growth, stability, and competent leadership. It also triples the proportion of respondents who think the Chinese system is superior to the American system, from 16 to 54 percent. In head-to-head match-ups, messages from the U.S. government are less persuasive. Our findings show how autocracies build global support by selling growth and competence, with important implications for democratic resilience.
- Incerti, Trevor, Changwook Ju, Daniel Mattingly, Collin Moreshead, Frances Rosenbluth, Seiki Tanaka, and Hikaru Yamagishi. ‘‘The logic of soft power competition: Evidence from East Asia.’’ (Contact for draft)
In recent years, established democracies and ascendant autocracies have competed for the hearts and minds of citizens across the globe. In this article, we develop a novel theory of soft power effectiveness centered on the relations between soft power senders and receivers. We argue that when relations with soft power senders remain depoliticized in receivers’ domestic politics, soft power promotion fares well. When the relations are politicized, however, it risks backfiring. To test our theory, we conduct a multi-country experiment in East Asia that examines the effect of real-world Chinese and Japanese soft power promotion efforts. The experimental results lend credence to our theory. Where relations are depoliticized, soft power promotion efforts strengthen support for bilateral cooperation, and where relations are politicized, the same soft power treatments cause backlash. Our findings highlight that autocracies can effectively project soft power insofar as they retain good ties with their soft power recipients.
- Crabtree, Charles, Rieko Kage, Trevor Incerti, Frances McCall Rosenbluth, Seiki Tanaka, and Hikaru Yamagishi. “Sexual Harassment in Japan: Willingness to Pay for Best Practices.”
Quantitative research methods
- Carlson, Jacob, Trevor Incerti, and P.M. Aronow. “Dyadic clustering in international relations.” (under review)
Quantitative empirical inquiry in international relations often relies on dyadic data. Standard analytic techniques do not account for the fact that dyads are not generally independent of one another. That is, when dyads share a constituent member (e.g., a common country), they may be statistically dependent, or "clustered." Recent work has developed dyadic clustering robust standard errors (DCRSEs) that account for this dependence. Using these DCRSEs, we reanalyzed all empirical articles published in International Organization between January 2014 and January 2020 that feature dyadic data. We find that published standard errors for key explanatory variables are, on average, approximately half as large as DCRSEs, suggesting that dyadic clustering is leading researchers to severely underestimate uncertainty. However, most (67% of) statistically significant findings remain statistically significant when using DCRSEs. We conclude that accounting for dyadic clustering is both important and feasible, and offer software in R and Stata to facilitate use of DCRSEs in future research.
Political economy of Japan
- Amano, Kenya, Charles Crabtree, Melanie Sayuri Dominguez, Timothy Fraser, Etienne Gagnon, Trevor Incerti, Jinhyuk Jang, Charles T. McClean, Austin M. Mitchell, Sayumi Miyano, Colin Moreshead, Harunobu Saijo, Diana Stanescu, Ayumi Teraoka, Hikaru Yamagishi, Charmaine N. Willis, and Yujin Woo. “Field Research When There’s Limited Access to the Field: Lessons From Japan.” PS: Political Science & Politics, (2022).
How can scholars conduct field research when there is limited access to the field? The paper first identifies how limited and uncertain field access can affect field research and then provides recommendations to address these challenges. We focus on doing field research in Japan both because of our substantive expertise, but we think that problems and solutions we outline should be applicable to a broad range of countries. Our hope is that this paper contributes to the developing literature on conducting research during times of emergency and the larger literature on best practices for field research.
- Incerti, Trevor, Daniel Mattingly, Frances Rosenbluth, Seiki Tanaka, and Jiahua Yue. ‘‘Hawkish partisans: How political parties shape nationalist conflicts in China and Japan.’’ British Journal of Political Science, 51.4 (2021): 1494-1515. Online Appendix. Replication data.
It is well known that regime types affect international conflicts. This article explores political parties as a mechanism through which they do so. Political parties operate in fundamentally different ways in democracies vs. non-democracies, which has consequences for foreign policy. Core supporters of a party in a democracy, if they are hawkish, may be more successful at demanding hawkish behavior from their party representatives than would be their counterparts in an autocracy. The study draws on evidence from paired experiments in democratic Japan and non-democratic China to show that supporters of the ruling party in Japan punish their leaders for discouraging nationalist protests, while ruling party insiders in China are less likely to do so. Under some circumstances, then, non-democratic regimes may be better able to rein in peace-threatening displays of nationalism.
- Incerti, Trevor and Phillip Lipscy. ‘‘The energy politics of Japan.’’ In The Oxford Handbook of Energy Politics (2020). (Peer reviewed).
Japanese energy policy has attracted renewed attention since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. However, Japan’s energy challenges are nothing new; as a country poor in natural resources, it has long struggled to meet its energy needs. This chapter provides an overview of Japanese energy politics, focusing on three broad topics: Japan’s modernization and energy security challenges, the politics of the utilities sector and nuclear energy, and the politics of energy conservation and climate change. In addition, the chapter discusses factors specific to Japan, such as state-business relations in the utilities sector and institutional changes since the 1990s. Japan offers both compelling puzzles—several transformative shifts in energy conservation policy, limited emphasis on renewables despite persistent energy security concerns, and reinvigoration of nuclear energy despite the Fukushima disaster—as well as important empirical opportunities for theory testing. The chapter concludes by calling for additional research that integrates insights from Japan into broader theoretical and cross-national scholarship, examines Japanese energy policy within an international context, and uses rigorous causal identification strategies to evaluate Japanese energy policy. Finally, it identifies the politics of decarbonization in Japan as a critical area for future research.
- Incerti, Trevor and Phillip Lipscy. ‘‘The politics of energy and climate change in Japan under Abe.’’ Asian Survey, 58.4 (2018).
Under what we call Abenergynomics, Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo has used energy policy to support the growth objectives of Abenomics, even when the associated policies are publicly unpopular, opposed by utility companies, or harmful to the environment. We show how Abenergynomics has shaped Japanese policy on nuclear power, electricity deregulation, renewable energy, and climate change.
- Lipscy, Phillip Y., Kenji E. Kushida, and Trevor Incerti. ‘‘The Fukushima disaster and Japan’s nuclear plant vulnerability in comparative perspective.’’ Environmental Science & Technology, 47.12 (2013): 6082-6088. [Media coverage: The New Yorker].
We consider the vulnerability of nuclear power plants to a disaster like the one that occurred at Fukushima Daiichi. Examination of Japanese nuclear plants affected by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011 shows that three variables were crucial at the early stages of the crisis: plant elevation, sea wall elevation, and location and status of backup generators. Higher elevations for these variables, or waterproof protection of backup generators, could have mitigated or prevented the disaster. We collected information on these variables, along with historical data on run-up heights, for 89 coastal nuclear power plants in the world. The data shows that 1. Japanese plants were relatively unprotected against potential inundation in international comparison, but there was considerable variation for power plants within and outside of Japan; 2. Older power plants and plants owned by the largest utility companies appear to have been particularly unprotected.
This word cloud of text in my abstracts is just for fun (word clouds are a poor visualization tool for accurately portraying frequencies)!