My research focuses on comparative political institutions and political parties. I investigate how features of the competitive environment – such as electoral institutions and polarization – affect parties’ behavior in the electoral arena and in legislatures. This agenda mainly focuses on intra-party politics, electoral competition, and multi-party elections. I also study with experiments how information affects voters’ behavior.
We study the internal organization of political parties as the solution of a moral hazard problem between a party principal (or selectorate) and two factions. Factional mobilization effort bolsters a party’s electoral chances but can only be imperfectly monitored—via an internal contest. We model a party’s internal organization as a system of “prizes,” an allocation of resources between winner and loser of the internal contest. We show that when (i) a party’s baseline electoral strength is low and (ii) electoral outcomes are not too responsive to mobilization efforts, there is an inverse relationship between inter-party power sharing and intra-party power sharing: institutional settings that award more resources and policy influence to election winners should produce party structures that promote a more egalitarian allocation of power across factions. Our results help organize the empirically documented dispersion in party organizational structures.
“Why do Parties Merge? Electoral Volatility and Long-Term Coalitions”. Forthcoming, Journal of Politics. [paper]
What brings competing parties to coalesce into new entities? I present a model of electoral competition in which parties can form alliances and decide how binding these should be. Parties face a dynamic trade-off between insuring themselves against significant shifts in public opinion and allowing flexibility to respond to future electoral changes. The model shows that more binding alliances such as mergers emerge in equilibrium when electoral volatility is high; instead, when voters are predictable (e.g., highly partisan), parties either run alone or form more flexible pre-electoral coalitions. When the electorate is sufficiently volatile, a risk-averse centrist party might prefer to merge with an ideologically extreme party than with a moderate one.
Judicial investigations into politicians are a fundamental component of politics, with these investigations often leading to public scandals. Yet, empirical evidence of the strategic determinants of judicial investigations is intrinsically hard to gather, a problem that has significantly limited the study of this important phenomenon. This paper studies the politics behind judicial investigations by leveraging new data on prosecutors’ informants in 1125 episodes of misbehavior of Italian MPs involved in different crimes (1983-2019). Results provide evidence in favor of a political use of denunciations for corruption crimes: when a party weakens, the likelihood that political enemies denounce past misbehavior of members of the weakened party increases, suggesting that the political use of denunciation is elastic to changes in the electoral performance. Furthermore, weakened MPs are more likely to be accused of misbehavior that happened a long time before the accusation, which further supports the argument that accusations are politically motivated.
Recent political developments worldwide have focused attention on the fraying of political norms, often understood as informal restraints on opportunistic behavior. This paper presents a theory of political norms that incorporates both ideology and institutional structure. In the model, an election determines which party holds office in each period over an infinite horizon. Each period presents the majority party with an opportunity to modify a status quo policy. However, informal norms and formal institutional barriers limit its ability to do so by providing soft and hard constraints to policymaking, respectively. We show that political cooperation can be easier to sustain in political systems with fewer checks and balances. Under optimal norms, increasing ideological polarization makes norms easier to uphold, while also reducing welfare. Finally, norms maintained by minority parties are less sustainable, and voter optimal norms require minority concessions to achieve greater electoral competitiveness.
Intra-party competition is widespread and affects political parties’ strength. This paper presents a model of elections in which intra-party factions can devote resources to campaigning for the party or undermining competing factions to obtain more power. The model shows that inter- and intra-party competition are substitutes: Internal competition increases when the electoral stakes are low — e.g., in consensus democracies granting power to the losing party — because the incentives to focus on the fight for internal power increase. Similarly, an increase in party polarization incentivizes factions to campaign to avoid a more costly electoral loss. Factions in the moderate party campaign more than those in the extreme party; conversely, when factions in the same party are ideologically divided, extreme factions campaign more. Finally, the model studies how internal rules affect intra-party competition, showing how parties design internal contests among factions to maximize campaigning.
How does exposure to conspiracy theories affect voters’ political attitudes and evaluations? Using an online experiment among US subjects, we show that exposure to conspiracy theories decreases voters’ trust in political institutions, such as mainstream parties and courts, as well as information providers. Subjects were exposed to conspiracy theories that are entirely unrelated to American domestic politics, which further underscores such narratives’ danger. However, results suggest that voters do not weigh unrelated conspiracies in their evaluation of politicians’ performance. Overall, our findings illustrate that an informational environment permeated by conspiracy theories could impede the functioning of democracy by eroding trust in its institutions, but that voters’ capacity to keep politicians accountable is resilient to unrelated information.
We investigate a superstition for which adherence is nearly universal. Using a combination of field interventions and a lab-style value elicitation, we investigate the strength of peoples’ underlying preferences, and to what extent their behavior is driven by social conformity rather than the superstition itself. Our findings indicate that both mechanisms influence behavior. While a substantial number of people are willing to incur a relatively high individual cost in order to adhere to the superstition, for many, adherence is contingent on the behavior of others. Our findings suggest that it is the conforming nature of the majority that sustains the false beliefs of the minority.
How does salient public information affect voters’ behavior? In a majoritarian voting game with common preferences, rational voters could use public information as an information device (depending on accuracy) or as a coordination device (regardless of accuracy). A simple lab experiment contradicts both hypotheses: subjects tend to follow public information when it is salient, regardless of the information’s accuracy, but fail to use it as a source of coordination. In particular, it matters whether the information is recent: subjects are more likely to follow public information when it is provided closer to the voting decision. These findings are important because the salience of public information is easily manipulable by political actors.
Governments are confronted with a wide range of issues, from international affairs, to social security, to the economy. We develop a model of accountability to study policymaking in this multidimensional world. Our aim is to tackle several questions: When do officeholders address all policy dimensions that are relevant for the voters, and when do they instead focus on a subset of them? What types of reforms do policymakers pursue when they have broader versus narrower policy agendas? How do interconnections across dimensions impact policymaking? We begin with the observation that policymaking is complex, due to uncertainty about policy consequences. Voters observe outcomes and adjust their beliefs about optimal policies. When different policy issues are connected in voters’ minds, learning spills over from one issue to the others. In this context, trailing incumbents tend to adopt comprehensive policy programs covering interconnected issues, while leading incumbents prioritize fewer, more independent dimensions. Additionally, we identify a substitution effect between highly connected dimensions in voters’ minds, where multidimensionality can lead to either moderation or extremism in the primary policy dimension, depending on the incumbent’s electoral prospects. Our results challenge the notion that a unidimensional model adequately represents policymaking in a multidimensional world where preferences across dimensions are correlated.
This paper explores the reasons why factions within political parties might choose to split and when instead party unity is expected. We develop a theory based on the premise that political factions aim to preserve and cultivate their individual brands. In the model, two factions can belong to the same party or not. When together, factions can decide to split.
A split sets in motion the evolution of factions’ individual brands, which can be positive or negative. When apart, factions can decide to merge. By merging, factions reap a benefit from being together, but need to divide party resources according to their relative strength.
We characterize when splits and mergers are stable—reflecting fragmented and non-fragmented party systems respectively—and when instead cycles emerge in equilibrium.
Factions may want to split even if by doing so they hurt their brand. These damaging splits, we show, only happen when factions re-merge in the future: by merging, the splinter faction might gain either by becoming the bigger fish in a smaller pond or the smaller fish in a bigger pond.
Despite their recognized importance, intra-party negotiations’ inherently opaque nature poses empirical challenges to understand how parties share power internally. We study how parties allocate positions on their list to different factions. Theoretically, we develop a bargaining model to study how these decisions vary depending on the stakes of the election–the sensitivity of party resources to the electoral performance. We then empirically evaluate these implications using data from Norwegian municipal elections. We exploit unique features of the electoral systems and a wave of municipal mergers to geographically identify candidates’ factional membership and how parties prioritized the election of certain candidates. In line with our theory’s functionalist logic, we show that smaller factions are over-compensated in terms of list positions, especially in ‘safe’ ranks.
“Inside Political Parties: Factions, Party Organization and Electoral Competition”. [download dissertation]
This literature review is the first attempt to gather the existing knowledge we have about political scandals. It is motivated by the widespread occurrences and the rising importance of scandals in shaping political events, and the corresponding (surprising) lack of attention by the academic community. While there is little empirical evidence of how scandals affect voters’ behavior, we lack a theoretical systematization of the phenomenon. This review therefore has two main contributions: first, it provides a broad overview of the political science literature that has been treating scandals. Secondly, it imparts a formal framework to think about scandals that might be useful in guiding future empirical and theoretical work.
Core Seminar in Political Institutions (Duke, 2023)
This is the core graduate seminar for the Political Institutions field in Political Science.
Political Science Ph.D Math Camp (Columbia, 2019, 2020)
A review of basic calculus and linear algebra, as well as an introduction to fundamental notions of real analysis used in graduate courses in quantitative and formal methods.
Game Theory and Political Theory (Columbia, 2017)
The first course in the PhD formal theory sequence.
Role: TA for John Huber.
State Politics (2021)
An introduction to american politics for undergraduate students.
Role: TA for Justin Phillips.
Voting and American Politics (2020)
An introduction to american politics for undergraduate students.
Role: TA for Robert Erikson.
The Logic of Collective Choice (2019)
Undergraduate lecture course on collective choice.
Role: TA for Jeffrey Lax.
Duke University, Durham, NC.
Assistant Professor, 2023-present.
Collegio Carlo Alberto, Turin, Italy.
Postdoctoral Research Fellow, 2021-2023.
BAFFI-CAREFIN Centre, Bocconi University, Milan, Italy.
Research Affiliate, Institutions and Reforms Unit, 2021-present.
Columbia University, New York, NY.
Ph.D. in Political Science, 2021.
M.Phil. in Political Science, 2017.
M.A. in Political Science, 2016.
Bocconi University, Milan, Italy.
M.S. Summa Cum Laude, Economics and Social Sciences, March 2015.
B.A., Economics and Social Sciences, 2012.