Lauren Young - Repression and Dissent in Moments of Uncertainty: Panel Data Evidence from Zimbabwe

Encina Hall West, room 400

State repression and protest are common in modern authoritarian and hybrid regimes, yet individual responses to these events are not well understood. This article draws on unique panel data from the months spanning Zimbabwe’s 2018 election, which we view as a moment of uncertainty for most Zimbabwean citizens. Using a difference-in-difference estimator, we assess change in individual protest intentions following exposure to repression and dissent, and we assess three individual-level mechanisms hypothesized to drive responses. We find evidence that exposure to local repression and dissent are mobilizing among opposition supporters and non-partisans. Analysis of potential mechanisms suggest that the effects of exposure to dissent may be driven by information updating, while relational and emotional mechanisms seem to drive backlash against repression, despite increased perceptions of risk. We find no evidence of counter-mobilization by ruling party supporters, and little effect of exposure to contentious events over social media.


Lauren Young is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at UC Davis. She received her Ph.D. in political science with distinction from Columbia University and was a postdoctoral scholar at the Center for Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford and the Center for Global Development (CGD) (non-resident). She is a member of the Evidence in Governance and Politics (EGAP) and Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA) networks and a co-organizer of the California Workshop on Empirical Political Science.

Her research aims to understand how individuals make decisions when faced with the threat of violence. Her book project investigates how citizens make decisions about participation in pro-democracy dissent in autocratic regimes. She argues that emotions shape perceptions of risks and risk aversion, and can therefore be used by elites to mobilize or demobilize civilians. She tests this theory in Zimbabwe using a mix of field experiments, lab-in-the-field experiments, quantitative analysis of historical trends, and in-depth qualitative interviews. In addition to her research on Zimbabwe, she has ongoing or completed research projects in Eastern Europe, Haiti, and Mexico that explore how violence and other forms of coercion affect political behavior.

Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, United States Institute for Peace, and CEPR-DfID’s Public Enterprise Development in Low-Income Countries (PEDL) initiative, among others. It has been published in the American Political Science Review, Annual Review of Political Science, the Journal of Peace Research, Comparative Politics, and Comparative Political Studies. Her 2019 book with Isabela Mares, Conditionality and Coercion, on varieties of clientelism in Hungary and Romania was recognized with the William H. Riker Book Award from the APSA Political Economy section, the Best Book Award from the APSA European Politics and Society Section, and Honorable Mention for the Best Book Award from the APSA Comparative Politics section.