Political Engagement and Crime Victimization: A Causal Analysis

Revista Latinoamericana de Opinión Pública, 2021

In recent years, research has demonstrated that crime victimization serves as a catalyst to political engagement. However, much of this work has not addressed two key issues: 1) the true causality of this relationship, and 2) how victims’ identities and personal experiences might influence this relationship. This paper tackles these issues by testing the effect of victimization on non-electoral engagement using the Two-City Six-Wave panel survey administered in Brazil between 2002 and 2006. In this context, it finds that the causal relationship between victimization and engagement only exists for participation in political party meetings. We do not see an effect on engagement in political conversations nor participation in neighborhood associations. Furthermore, when exploring the role of individual identity and community context, we see that only men, those who live in safe neighborhoods, and White-Brazilians experience an increase in their engagement. Meanwhile, women, those in unsafe neighborhoods, and Afro-Brazilians do not experience such an increase. Furthermore, those who have not experienced discrimination also increase their participation, while those who have experienced discrimination do not.

Progressive Ideology and Support for Punitive Crime Policy: Experimental Evidence from Brazil and Argentina

Literature on support for crime policy has often focused on citizen preference for one of two “opposing” approaches to fighting crime: punitive, repressive solutions (at the extreme, mano dura practices) or social policy-oriented, preventative solutions. Past literature indicates that ideology is a major factor in influencing such support, with ideologically conservative individuals supporting punitive solutions, and progressives supporting social policy-oriented approaches. In this paper, I argue that this ideological explanation is insufficient. I build on research that suggests short-term factors and considerations strongly influence support for punitive policies. I contend that not only do these short-term factors influence the general population, but they also transcend the influence of ideology. I argue that victimization and insecurity, the perceived ineffectiveness of social policy, and perceptions that crime is gang-related lead not only the general public to support punitive solutions, but does so among progressive individuals as well. I explore this phenomenon in the context of vote choice. Using a conjoint survey experiment fielded in Argentina and Brazil, I demonstrate that these short-term factors lead ideologically progressive voters to prefer gubernatorial candidates who offer punitive solutions to crime.

Estimating Subnational Crime and Under-reporting Rates with BARP

Studies of crime and violence are often crippled by unreliable data. It is widely known that data regarding crime victimizations are typically inaccurate and underreported. Researchers have attempted to circumvent this issue by relying on homicide statistics, considered the most accurate measure of crime for a variety of reasons. But, this measure too has been shown to have its own biases and does not accurately reflect the nature of all crime rates. This paper attempts to provide a solution to this problem. I illustrate a new method in which researchers can determine the size of the “dark figure,” or gap between officially reported crimes and surveyed victimization rates, for non-homicides. This measure can be leveraged to improve analyses of non-homicidal crimes, and understand the inaccuracies in official crime data. The paper demonstrates an application in Chile and estimates the dark figure for 101 urban communities across the country. I demonstrate victimization surveys reveal some communities to have almost double the amount of crime victimizations than previously indicated by official statistics.

Should I Stay (Home) or Should I Go? Citizen Response to COVID-19 Containment Measures in Brazil and Mexico

With Claire Dunn

In Brazil and Mexico, the response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been complicated by populist presidents who refused to take swift national action to stop the spread of the virus. This often led to conflict between national and state-level public health guidance. Initial assessments of citizen behavior in this complex environment reveals significant variation in compliance with global public health norms, such as social distancing, across subnational units. We seek to explain this variation in citizen response by unpacking not only the extent of relevant policies enacted in each state, but also aggregate citizen support for the president versus state leadership. We expect support for the president to have an overall dampening effect on policy compliance, as presidents in both countries encouraged their followers to lead life as normal. But, we expect support for the governor to have a more complex relationship. We argue that support for the governor interacts with policy stringency in each state – Where a governor has implemented strict policies, citizens will be more likely to comply where support for the governor is high. However, if support is low, we will see little compliance with policies regardless of their strictness.  We test our hypotheses using information from Google Mobility reports, the University of Miami’s COVID-19 observatory, and election and public approval datasets. We find complex results, where our hypotheses are strongly supported in the context of Brazil, but not in Mexico.