Incumbents have many tools to tip elections in their favor, yet little is known about how they choose between strategies. By comparing various tactics, this article argues that electoral malpractice centered on manipulating institutions offers the greatest effectiveness while shielding incumbents from public anger and criminal prosecution. To demonstrate this, the study focuses on a widespread institutional tactic: preventing candidates from accessing the ballot. First, in survey experiments, Russian voters respond less negatively to institutional manipulations, such as rejecting candidates, than to blatant fraud, such as ballot box stuffing. Next, using evidence from 25,935 Russian mayoral races, the article shows that lower societal and implementation costs enable incumbents to strategically reject candidacies from credible challengers and then reduce their electoral vulnerability. In all, the technology behind specific manipulations helps determine when and how incumbents violate electoral integrity.
From robocalls to vote buying to electoral intimidation scholars have identified many ways that politicians mobilize voters to the polls. We develop a simple argument about the conditions under which autocrats will use positive inducements such as vote buying and negative inducement such as employee coercion of workers. Using survey experiments and crowd-sourced electoral violation reports from the 2011-12 election cycle in Russia, we find little evidence that vote buying was practiced on a large scale in this election. This finding is consistent with arguments about the decline of vote buying in middle-income countries. Voter intimidation, however, was relatively common, especially among employed voters and in Russia’s many single company towns where employers have much leverage over employees. In these single company towns, the consequences of job loss are so grave that employer intimidation may often be sufficient to induce compliance even without direct monitoring of voter behavior. Outside of company towns where employers have less leverage, active forms of monitoring may supplement intimidation in order to encourage compliance. These results suggest that employers can be reliable vote brokers; that voter intimidation can persist in a middle-income country; and that, under some conditions intimidation may be employed without the need for active monitoring.
What is the effect of online social networking on political awareness? This question has recently gained additional significance for the study of authoritarian regimes, as press accounts draw a link the usage of social networking sites by opposition activists and anti-regime protests in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Russia. We argue that a given online social network will only have an effect on political awareness if it is first politicized by elite activists. We test this argument using original survey data from the 2011 election cycle in Russia. We show that users of Twitter and Facebook, which were politicized by opposition elites, were much more likely to believe that significant electoral fraud had taken place than users of domestic social networking platforms, such as Vkontakte and Odnoklassniki, which were not politicized by opposition elites. Our findings highlight the conditional effect of new media on political awareness.