Krishnarajan, Suthan and Jakob Tolstrup (2023)

Experimental Evidence that Putin’s Propaganda Elicited Strong Support for War Among Russians

Science Advances

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. The Putin regime used extensive and aggressive propaganda to win public support for the war. But can this propaganda really convince ordinary people? Using the unique timing of a survey experiment fielded a year before the invasion, we provide the first experimental evidence of the effectiveness of this propaganda among Russian citizens. Vignette treatments containing information on threats similar to stories running in Russian media around the time of the invasion in combination with statements from President Putin show that propaganda was highly effective. Even mild treatments were enough to increase support for military aggression against neighboring countries among Russians from around 8 to 48% and up to 59% among Putin’s supporters. Thus, the Russian president had good reason to believe that he could control popular opinion when he decided to launch a war against Ukraine.

Krishnarajan, Suthan and Jakob Tolstrup (2023)

Experimental Evidence that Putin’s Propaganda Elicited Strong Support for War Among Russians

Science Advances

In February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. The Putin regime used extensive and aggressive propaganda to win public support for the war. But can this propaganda really convince ordinary people? Using the unique timing of a survey experiment fielded a year before the invasion, we provide the first experimental evidence of the effectiveness of this propaganda among Russian citizens. Vignette treatments containing information on threats similar to stories running in Russian media around the time of the invasion in combination with statements from President Putin show that propaganda was highly effective. Even mild treatments were enough to increase support for military aggression against neighboring countries among Russians from around 8 to 48% and up to 59% among Putin’s supporters. Thus, the Russian president had good reason to believe that he could control popular opinion when he decided to launch a war against Ukraine.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2022)

Rationalizing Democracy: The perceptual bias and (un)democratic behavior

American Political Science Review

Democracy often confronts citizens with a dilemma: stand firm on democracy while losing out on policy or accept undemocratic behavior and gain politically. Existing literature demonstrates that citizens generally choose the latter—and that they do so deliberately. Yet there is an alternative possibility. Citizens can avoid this uncomfortable dilemma altogether by rationalizing their understandings of democracy. When a politician advances undesired policies without violating democratic rules and norms, people find ways to perceive the behavior as undemocratic. When a politician acts undemocratically to promote desired policies, citizens muster up arguments for considering it democratic. Original survey experiments in the United States, and 22 democracies worldwide, provide strong support for this argument. It is thus not deliberate acceptance, but a fundamentally different perceptual logic that drives the widespread approval of undemocratic behavior in today’s democracies.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2022)

The Democratic Paradox: Are National Elections Always Good for Satisfaction

with Democracy in Europe?

Socio-Economic Review

This article challenges the widespread notion that national elections are unequivocally good for people’s satisfaction with democracy. Instead, it argues that elections have enduring and disparate effects on democratic satisfaction, depending on the economic situation in which they take place; i.e., the election economy. When held during economic upturns, national elections increase subsequent satisfaction with democracy during most of the following electoral term—regardless of election results and economic growth after the election. When held during economic downturns, elections reduce democratic satisfaction until the next election—again, regardless of such post-election developments. An analysis of 29 European democracies in the period 1973–2019 supports these propositions and suggests that the disparate effects of national elections endure during most of the electoral term. These findings are robust to an array of model specifications, including when accounting for several pre-election and post-election developments.

Krishnarajan, Suthan, Jonathan Doucette, and David Delfs Erbo Andersen (Conditional Accept)

Early-Adulthood Economic Experiences and the Formation of Democratic Support

British Journal of Political Science

Do economic experiences early in life affect regime support later in life? Although the effects of recent economic performance on regime support are extensively studied, the lasting effects of individual-level economic experiences over the course of the lifespan remain unexplored. In democracies and autocracies alike, we argue that economic experiences in early adulthood (i.e., ages 18‒28) are wired into people’s memories and become important cues for their democratic support later in life. Having lived in a well-performing economy in a democracy increases democratic support for the most of people’s lives, whereas having lived in a well-performing economy in an autocracy decreases democratic support for the most of people’s lives. Using extensive survey data on support for democracy covering 97 countries from 1994 to 2015, we find support for these propositions, demonstrating that economic experiences in early adulthood, conditional on the regime in place at the time, have strong, robust, and lasting effects on democratic support.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2022)

Rationalizing Democracy: The perceptual bias and (un)democratic behavior

American Political Science Review

Democracy often confronts citizens with a dilemma: stand firm on democracy while losing out on policy or accept undemocratic behavior and gain politically. Existing literature demonstrates that citizens generally choose the latter—and that they do so deliberately. Yet there is an alternative possibility. Citizens can avoid this uncomfortable dilemma altogether by rationalizing their understandings of democracy. When a politician advances undesired policies without violating democratic rules and norms, people find ways to perceive the behavior as undemocratic. When a politician acts undemocratically to promote desired policies, citizens muster up arguments for considering it democratic. Original survey experiments in the United States, and 22 democracies worldwide, provide strong support for this argument. It is thus not deliberate acceptance, but a fundamentally different perceptual logic that drives the widespread approval of undemocratic behavior in today’s democracies.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2022)

The Democratic Paradox: Are National Elections Always Good for Satisfaction
with Democracy in Europe?

Socio-Economic Review

This article challenges the widespread notion that national elections are unequivocally good for people’s satisfaction with democracy. Instead, it argues that elections have enduring and disparate effects on democratic satisfaction, depending on the economic situation in which they take place; i.e., the election economy. When held during economic upturns, national elections increase subsequent satisfaction with democracy during most of the following electoral term—regardless of election results and economic growth after the election. When held during economic downturns, elections reduce democratic satisfaction until the next election—again, regardless of such post-election developments. An analysis of 29 European democracies in the period 1973–2019 supports these propositions and suggests that the disparate effects of national elections endure during most of the electoral term. These findings are robust to an array of model specifications, including when accounting for several pre-election and post-election developments.

Krishnarajan, Suthan, Jonathan Doucette, and David Delfs Erbo Andersen (2022)

Early-Adulthood Economic Experiences and the Formation of Democratic Support

British Journal of Political Science

Do economic experiences early in life affect regime support later in life? Although the effects of recent economic performance on regime support are extensively studied, the lasting effects of individual-level economic experiences over the course of the lifespan remain unexplored. In democracies and autocracies alike, we argue that economic experiences in early adulthood (i.e., ages 18‒28) are wired into people’s memories and become important cues for their democratic support later in life. Having lived in a well-performing economy in a democracy increases democratic support for the most of people’s lives, whereas having lived in a well-performing economy in an autocracy decreases democratic support for the most of people’s lives. Using extensive survey data on support for democracy covering 97 countries from 1994 to 2015, we find support for these propositions, demonstrating that economic experiences in early adulthood, conditional on the regime in place at the time, have strong, robust, and lasting effects on democratic support.

Bokobza, Laure, Suthan Krishnarajan, Jacob Nyrup, Casper Sakstrup, and Lasse Aaskoven (2022)

The Morning After: Cabinet Instability and the Purging of Ministers after Failed Coup Attempts in Autocracies

Journal of Politics

All autocrats rely on inner-circle elites to stay in power. It is commonly assumed that dictators will purge these elites if they unsuccessfully try to unseat the dictator in a coup. However, this assumption has never been tested in a global analysis. Furthermore, little is known about whom dictators target in such purges. This article focuses on the highest levels of the regime, namely, cabinet ministers. Using a new global data set, our analysis covers over 23,000 cabinet members in 115 autocracies from1967 to 2016.We demonstrate that failed coups induce autocrats to increasingly purge their cabinets and that they do so selectively by targeting higher-ranking cabinet members and those who hold strategic positions, while keeping more loyal and veteran ministers in posts. The article presents the most detailed individual-level evidence to date on purges and offers key insights into power-sharing mechanisms in autocracies.

Krishnarajan, Suthan, Jonathan Doucette, and David Delfs Erbo Andersen (2022)

Early-Adulthood Economic Experiences and the Formation of Democratic Support

British Journal of Political Science

Do economic experiences early in life affect regime support later in life? Although the effects of recent economic performance on regime support are extensively studied, the lasting effects of individual-level economic experiences over the course of the lifespan remain unexplored. In democracies and autocracies alike, we argue that economic experiences in early adulthood (i.e., ages 18‒28) are wired into people’s memories and become important cues for their democratic support later in life. Having lived in a well-performing economy in a democracy increases democratic support for the most of people’s lives, whereas having lived in a well-performing economy in an autocracy decreases democratic support for the most of people’s lives. Using extensive survey data on support for democracy covering 97 countries from 1994 to 2015, we find support for these propositions, demonstrating that economic experiences in early adulthood, conditional on the regime in place at the time, have strong, robust, and lasting effects on democratic support.

Bokobza, Laure, Suthan Krishnarajan, Jacob Nyrup, Casper Sakstrup, and Lasse Aaskoven (2022)

The Morning After: Cabinet Instability and the Purging of Ministers after Failed Coup Attempts in Autocracies

Journal of Politics

All autocrats rely on inner-circle elites to stay in power. It is commonly assumed that dictators will purge these elites if they unsuccessfully try to unseat the dictator in a coup. However, this assumption has never been tested in a global analysis. Furthermore, little is known about whom dictators target in such purges. This article focuses on the highest levels of the regime, namely, cabinet ministers. Using a new global data set, our analysis covers over 23,000 cabinet members in 115 autocracies from1967 to 2016.We demonstrate that failed coups induce autocrats to increasingly purge their cabinets and that they do so selectively by targeting higher-ranking cabinet members and those who hold strategic positions, while keeping more loyal and veteran ministers in posts. The article presents the most detailed individual-level evidence to date on purges and offers key insights into power-sharing mechanisms in autocracies.

Krishnarajan, Suthan and Carsten Jensen (2021)

When is a Pledge a Pledge?

British Journal of Political Science

Despite the central role of election pledges in modern representative democracy, it remains uncertain how voters define pledges. We examine this by focusing on four rhetorical dimensions of political statements: the pledge giver, the formulation of commitment, the policy content and quantification. In three conjoint experiments on representative samples totalling around 6,000 respondents in the United States, Britain and Denmark, we find remarkably consistent results. On the one hand, voters consistently differentiate between statements in a highly focused manner: a promise is a promise if it is sincere and realistic – no matter who made it and whether it can be checked. On the other hand, voters are not willing to hold their party accountable for a given statement – even if they consider it an election pledge. We demonstrate that this is the perceptual logic of election pledges in Western democracies.

Krishnarajan, Suthan and Carsten Jensen (2021)

When is a Pledge a Pledge?

British Journal of Political Science

Despite the central role of election pledges in modern representative democracy, it remains uncertain how voters define pledges. We examine this by focusing on four rhetorical dimensions of political statements: the pledge giver, the formulation of commitment, the policy content and quantification. In three conjoint experiments on representative samples totalling around 6,000 respondents in the United States, Britain and Denmark, we find remarkably consistent results. On the one hand, voters consistently differentiate between statements in a highly focused manner: a promise is a promise if it is sincere and realistic – no matter who made it and whether it can be checked. On the other hand, voters are not willing to hold their party accountable for a given statement – even if they consider it an election pledge. We demonstrate that this is the perceptual logic of election pledges in Western democracies.

Kokkonen, Andrej, Suthan Krishnarajan, Jørgen Møller, and Anders Sundell (2021)

Blood is Thicker than Water: Family Size and Leader Deposition in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Journal of Politics

Are large families a liability or an asset for an autocratic ruler? In this article, we show that in medieval and early modern Europe, relatives protected monarchs from challenges from their elite groups, thus reducing their risk of being deposed. Women reduced the risk of both depositions from outside and from within the family, whereas men primarily reduced the risk of outside depositions (as well as the risk of civil wars breaking out). This is demonstrated in a statistical analysis of 27 European monarchies spanning the time period 1000–1799, which enlists new data on royal offspring, siblings, and paternal uncles and aunts. These findings not only elucidate power dynamics in the medieval and early modern world of dynastic politics but also have implications for present-day authoritarian states where institutions are weak and personal relationships retain their importance.

Kokkonen, Andrej, Suthan Krishnarajan, Jørgen Møller, and Anders Sundell (2021)

Blood is Thicker than Water: Family Size and Leader Deposition in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Journal of Politics

Are large families a liability or an asset for an autocratic ruler? In this article, we show that in medieval and early modern Europe, relatives protected monarchs from challenges from their elite groups, thus reducing their risk of being deposed. Women reduced the risk of both depositions from outside and from within the family, whereas men primarily reduced the risk of outside depositions (as well as the risk of civil wars breaking out). This is demonstrated in a statistical analysis of 27 European monarchies spanning the time period 1000–1799, which enlists new data on royal offspring, siblings, and paternal uncles and aunts. These findings not only elucidate power dynamics in the medieval and early modern world of dynastic politics but also have implications for present-day authoritarian states where institutions are weak and personal relationships retain their importance.

Krishnarajan, Suthan and Lasse Rørbæk (2020)

The Two-Sided Effect of Elections on Coup Attempts

Journal of Conflict Resolution

In this article, we investigate the relationship between elections and coup attempts. We argue that elections have opposing effects on the risk of coup attempts, depending on the state of the economy in which they are held. Elections occurring in conditions of economic crisis spur anti government mobilization and high levels of state repression. This increases the subsequent risk of coup attempts. Conversely, elections held during economic expansion induce pro government mobilization and waning repression, which reduces the subsequent risk of coups. We find strong support for these propositions in a statistical analysis of 130 countries that conducted contested elections in the period 1952 to 2013. The results are robust to an array of model specifications, including when we account for election outcome, postelection economic performance, and the possibility that both elections and economic performance are endogenous to coup attempts.

Krishnarajan, Suthan and Lasse Rørbæk (2020)

The Two-Sided Effect of Elections on Coup Attempts

Journal of Conflict Resolution

In this article, we investigate the relationship between elections and coup attempts. We argue that elections have opposing effects on the risk of coup attempts, depending on the state of the economy in which they are held. Elections occurring in conditions of economic crisis spur anti government mobilization and high levels of state repression. This increases the subsequent risk of coup attempts. Conversely, elections held during economic expansion induce pro government mobilization and waning repression, which reduces the subsequent risk of coups. We find strong support for these propositions in a statistical analysis of 130 countries that conducted contested elections in the period 1952 to 2013. The results are robust to an array of model specifications, including when we account for election outcome, postelection economic performance, and the possibility that both elections and economic performance are endogenous to coup attempts.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2019)

Economic Crisis, Natural Resources, and Irregular Leader Removal in
Autocracies

International Studies Quarterly

Why do autocratic leaders escape revolution, coups, and assassination during times of economic crisis? I argue that the spike in natural resource revenues since the 1960s has increased autocratic crisis resilience. The availability of this alternative revenue stream provides autocratic leaders with a constant inflow of money, increases their ability to repress dissent, and improves their access to international credit. Extending the analysis back to 1875, I show that the relationship between economic crisis and irregular leader removal in autocracies is strong and robust before the 1960s, but disappears in more recent periods. Interaction analyses confirm that the effects of economic crisis are moderated by natural resource income. These findings are robust to an array of alternative specifications, including analyses that address endogeneity concerns via instrumental variable (IV) estimation. A more particular examination of the theoretical mechanisms also supports the argument. These findings challenge widely held beliefs in the literature of a strong, direct effect of economic crisis on autocratic leader survival; they explain why economic crisis seems to destabilize some autocrats, but not others.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2019)

Economic Crisis, Natural Resources, and Irregular Leader Removal in Autocracies

International Studies Quarterly

Why do autocratic leaders escape revolution, coups, and assassination during times of economic crisis? I argue that the spike in natural resource revenues since the 1960s has increased autocratic crisis resilience. The availability of this alternative revenue stream provides autocratic leaders with a constant inflow of money, increases their ability to repress dissent, and improves their access to international credit. Extending the analysis back to 1875, I show that the relationship between economic crisis and irregular leader removal in autocracies is strong and robust before the 1960s, but disappears in more recent periods. Interaction analyses confirm that the effects of economic crisis are moderated by natural resource income. These findings are robust to an array of alternative specifications, including analyses that address endogeneity concerns via instrumental variable (IV) estimation. A more particular examination of the theoretical mechanisms also supports the argument. These findings challenge widely held beliefs in the literature of a strong, direct effect of economic crisis on autocratic leader survival; they explain why economic crisis seems to destabilize some autocrats, but not others.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2019)

Crisis? What Crisis? Measuring Economic Crisis in Political Science

Quality & Quantity

An influential body of scholarship in political science has investigated the impact of economic crisis on various political outcomes. The vast majority of these studies rely on annual growth rates (AGR) to specify economic crisis. I argue that this canonical approach comes with several logical shortcomings. It leads to misguided impressions of crisis severity; it makes no distinction between rapid expansion years and rapid recovery years; and it disregards the financial dimension of economic crises. I present and discuss three alternative approaches of measuring economic crisis, imported from economics: economic shocks, economic slumps, and measures of financial crises. Examples from the regime instability literature demonstrate that these alternative crisis measurements provide results that are theoretically more nuanced and empirically more robust. On this basis, the article encourages researchers to pay more attention to the way they measure economic crisis in general and to supplement the AGR approach with alternative crisis measures in particular.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2019)

Crisis? What Crisis? Measuring Economic Crisis in Political Science

Quality & Quantity

An influential body of scholarship in political science has investigated the impact of economic crisis on various political outcomes. The vast majority of these studies rely on annual growth rates (AGR) to specify economic crisis. I argue that this canonical approach comes with several logical shortcomings. It leads to misguided impressions of crisis severity; it makes no distinction between rapid expansion years and rapid recovery years; and it disregards the financial dimension of economic crises. I present and discuss three alternative approaches of measuring economic crisis, imported from economics: economic shocks, economic slumps, and measures of financial crises. Examples from the regime instability literature demonstrate that these alternative crisis measurements provide results that are theoretically more nuanced and empirically more robust. On this basis, the article encourages researchers to pay more attention to the way they measure economic crisis in general and to supplement the AGR approach with alternative crisis measures in particular.

Andersen, David Delfs Erbo and Suthan Krishnarajan (2019)

Economic Crisis, Bureaucratic Quality, and
Democratic Breakdown

Government and Opposition

Why do economic crises sometimes lead to democratic breakdown and sometimes not? To answer this question, we bring in a new conditioning factor. We propose that bureaucracies of higher quality – implying more competent, efficient and autonomous employees – to a greater extent shield the masses from impoverishment and unjust distribution of resources. This dampens anti-regime mass mobilization, which decreases elite incentives and opportunities for toppling the democratic regime. Statistical analyses of democracies globally from 1903 to 2010 corroborate that the impact of economic crises on the risk of democratic breakdown is suppressed when democracies have a bureaucracy of higher quality. The results are robust to alternative model specifications, including a battery of ‘good governance’ indicators. The effect of bureaucratic quality is not driven by bureaucracies’ ability to hinder crisis onset or shorten crisis duration but rather their ability to decrease domestic upheavals during crises

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2018)

Economic Crisis and Regime Breakdown: A Conditional Relationship

PhD dissertation published at Forlaget Politica

Winner of the 2019 Aarhus University Research Foundation PhD Award

An extensive body of literature has studied the relationship between economic crisis and regime breakdown. Yet there is little agreement on the robustness of this relationship – both in the literature and in real-world instances. In some studies and in some instances around the world, economic crises increase the likelihood of regime breakdown. In other studies and in other situations, economic crises do not destabilize regimes. In this dissertation, I address this ambiguity by asking: What is the relationship between economic crisis and regime breakdown? In five separate papers, I scrutinize the entire process of economic crisis, regime dissatisfaction, regime challenge, and regime breakdown. Different conditional factors are examined that interact in each stage with economic crises in inducing or preventing regime breakdown.

Krishnarajan, Suthan, Jørgen Møller, Svend-Erik Skaaning, and Lasse Rørbæk (2017)

Democracy, Democratization, and Civil War

Book chapter in “Peace & Conflict 2017”, Routledge.

In The Dark Side of Democracy, Michael Mann disturbingly claimed that the democratization processes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had paved the way for large-scale ethnic cleansing. The arguments for why democracy may spur armed conflict relate both to the absolute level of democracy and to changes in the direction of democracy. With respect to democratization, prior scholarship has demonstrated that changes in levels of democracy increase the likelihood of armed conflict. Competitive politics often serve to politicize such conflicts, including most notoriously antagonisms revolving around ethnic divides. Autocracies use repression and cooptation to keep a lid on opposition, whereas democracies deal with societal grievances through political inclusion and public goods provision. Popular discontent should decrease with the level of democracy because political discrimination decreases and public goods provision increases. The new scholarship that has associated democracy and democratization with civil war onset is highly relevant both theoretically and empirically.

Andersen, David Delfs Erbo and Suthan Krishnarajan (2019)

Economic Crisis, Bureaucratic Quality, and
Democratic Breakdown

Government and Opposition

Why do economic crises sometimes lead to democratic breakdown and sometimes not? To answer this question, we bring in a new conditioning factor. We propose that bureaucracies of higher quality – implying more competent, efficient and autonomous employees – to a greater extent shield the masses from impoverishment and unjust distribution of resources. This dampens anti-regime mass mobilization, which decreases elite incentives and opportunities for toppling the democratic regime. Statistical analyses of democracies globally from 1903 to 2010 corroborate that the impact of economic crises on the risk of democratic breakdown is suppressed when democracies have a bureaucracy of higher quality. The results are robust to alternative model specifications, including a battery of ‘good governance’ indicators. The effect of bureaucratic quality is not driven by bureaucracies’ ability to hinder crisis onset or shorten crisis duration but rather their ability to decrease domestic upheavals during crises.

Krishnarajan, Suthan (2018)

Economic Crisis and Regime Breakdown: A Conditional Relationship

PhD dissertation published at Forlaget Politica

Winner of the 2019 Aarhus University Research Foundation PhD Award

An extensive body of literature has studied the relationship between economic crisis and regime breakdown. Yet there is little agreement on the robustness of this relationship – both in the literature and in real-world instances. In some studies and in some instances around the world, economic crises increase the likelihood of regime breakdown. In other studies and in other situations, economic crises do not destabilize regimes. In this dissertation, I address this ambiguity by asking: What is the relationship between economic crisis and regime breakdown? In five separate papers, I scrutinize the entire process of economic crisis, regime dissatisfaction, regime challenge, and regime breakdown. Different conditional factors are examined that interact in each stage with economic crises in inducing or preventing regime breakdown.

Krishnarajan, Suthan, Jørgen Møller, Svend-Erik Skaaning, and Lasse Rørbæk (2017)

Democracy, Democratization, and Civil War

Book chapter in “Peace & Conflict 2017”, Routledge.

In The Dark Side of Democracy, Michael Mann disturbingly claimed that the democratization processes of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries had paved the way for large-scale ethnic cleansing. The arguments for why democracy may spur armed conflict relate both to the absolute level of democracy and to changes in the direction of democracy. With respect to democratization, prior scholarship has demonstrated that changes in levels of democracy increase the likelihood of armed conflict. Competitive politics often serve to politicize such conflicts, including most notoriously antagonisms revolving around ethnic divides. Autocracies use repression and cooptation to keep a lid on opposition, whereas democracies deal with societal grievances through political inclusion and public goods provision. Popular discontent should decrease with the level of democracy because political discrimination decreases and public goods provision increases. The new scholarship that has associated democracy and democratization with civil war onset is highly relevant both theoretically and empirically.