Mollie J. Cohen

Peer Reviewed Publications

Cohen, Mollie J., Facundo Salles Kobilanski and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. 2018. "Electoral Volatility in Latin America." The Journal of Politics,  80(3): 1017-1022.

            Supplementary information and replication code.


Cohen, Mollie J. 2018. "A Dynamic Model of the Invalid Vote: How a Changing Candidate Menu Shapes Null Voting Behavior." Electoral Studies, 53: 111-121.

            Supplementary information and replication code.

Cohen, Mollie J. 2018. "Protest Via the Null Ballot: An Assessment of the Decision to Cast an Invalid Vote in Latin America." Political Behavior, 40: 395-414. DOI: 10.1007/s11109-017-9405-9
            Supplementary information and replication code. Data available from the AmericasBarometer.

Cohen, Mollie J. and Amy Erica Smith. 2016. "Do Authoritarians Vote for Authoritarians? Evidence from Latin America." Research and Politics. DOI: 10.1177/2053168016684066
            Replication code. Data available from the AmericasBarometer.


Manuscripts in Submission


How to Get Better Survey Data More Efficiently (with Zach Warner, Revise and Resubmit)


Citizen Approval of Monetary- vs Goods-For-Votes Exchanges


Knowledge of Tuberculosis Increases Disease Stigma in Brazil. (With Peter Rebeiro, Heather Ewing, Kleydson Bonfim Andrade, Marshall Eakin, Timothy Sterling, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister)



Works in Progress

Reducing Non-Response for Vote Choice using Sensitive Survey Item Techniques (with Kaitlen J. Cassell)

Evidence from survey experiments in Mexico and Nicaragua reveals that treating vote choice as a sensitive item using audio technology significantly reduces non-response rates. We use audio interviewing techniques to ensure respondent anonymity from both third party observers and from interviewers. Compared to a control group, reminding participants that their answers were anonymous decreased non-response by ten percentage points, and non-response dropped even further when anonymized audio treatments were employed. This experiment has implications for studies of voter behavior and public opinion generally: by minimizing the risks to respondents, this method enables us to simultaneously ask standard questions about politics and protect respondents from negative consequences they may face in their political environment.



Vote Buying and Trust in Elections in the Americas (with Liz Zechmeister and Eui Young Noh)

Existing scholarship presents mixed views but little evidence regarding the public opinion consequences of vote buying. Many suggest that vote buying is an abuse of power and, therefore, should decrease trust in democratic institutions. Yet, others hold that vote buying can serve as a normal channel for political engagement, and should not erode citizens’ confidence in democratic processes. We test these competing claims in the Latin American case using data from the 2010-2014 AmericasBarometer surveys. We find that, on average across the region, exposure to vote buying undermines trust in and support for democracy. Yet, individuals vary in their reactions to vote buying offers. Specifically, we find that rural residence mitigates the negative effects of vote buying. Thus, we answer the general question about the effect of vote buying in Latin America, while also noting important systematic heterogeneity in responses to vote-buying offers.


Strategic Candidate Entry Under Uncertainty

How does political uncertainty affect parties’ incentives to strategically enter competition? I argue that parties respond differentially to metrics of political opportunity when uncertainty is high. While established parties with national reputations are responsive to metrics identified with new party entry in established democracies (i.e., historical rates of “wasted” voting - that is, votes cast for parties that do not win seats - and relatively low barriers to entry), single issue parties and political outsiders tend to respond to alternative metrics of political opportunity, including historical rates of invalid voting. Using data from national and subnational Peruvian elections from 1980 to 2014, I find results consistent with these expectations. I further find that single issue parties and political outsiders are substantially more likely to take advantage of fractured competition by entering in districts where the proportion of candidates to seats is high.



Predicting the Success of Organized Protest Campaigns


When can citizens be convinced to spoil their ballots in protest? Elite-led organized protest vote campaigns were present in 18% of Latin American presidential elections from 2000-2015, and are becoming increasingly common in high-profile elections around the world. Conventional wisdom suggests that organized protest vote campaigns are most successful when they are led by popular political elites. This paper shows that, contrary to received wisdom, organized protest vote campaigns are more likely to succeed when they use tools of popular mobilization (e.g., public rallies, social media), independent of elite involvement. Using data from subnational gubernatorial elections in Peru and presidential elections across Latin America, I show that elite-led campaigns are just as likely to fail as they are to succeed when they are not accompanied by popular mobilization efforts. Campaigns that rely on the tools of mass mobilization, in contrast, are more likely to be associated with increased invalid vote rates. Organized protest vote campaigns led by charismatic leaders have insidious potential: by mobilizing anti-system views, they can undermine democratic legitimacy. However, the evidence presented here suggests that voters often ignore such elite messages, responding instead to calls for ballot invalidation made by their fellow citizens – potentially shoring up democratic legitimacy.



Research Reports and Chapters

Latin American Views on Abortion in the Shadow of the Zika Epidemic.” With Claire Q. Evans. AmericasBarometer Topical Brief No. 33 (2018)

"Blaming the Victim: Knowledge of Tuberculosis is Associated with Greater Stigma in Brazil." With Heather Ewing, Marshall Eakin, Timothy Sterling, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. AmericasBarometer Insights No. 131 (2018)

"Measuring Political Knowledge in the AmericasBarometer." With Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. AmericasBarometer Methodological Note No. 003 (2018)

"Assessing and Improving Interview Quality in the 2016/17 AmericasBarometer." With Sebastian Larrea. AmericasBarometer Methodological Note No. 002 (2018)

"Democracy and Governance in the Americas: Key Findings from LAPOP’s AmericasBarometer." With Elizabeth J. Zechmeister and Noam Lupu. AmericasBarometer Topical Brief No. 30 (2017)

"Support for Electoral Democracy in the Americas.” Chapter in Eds. Cohen, Mollie J., Noam Lupu, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. 2017. The Political Culture of Democracy in the Americas: A Comparative Study of Democracy and Governance. 

Here’s what citizens who vote for authoritarians have in common.” With Amy Erica Smith, The Monkey Cage Blog, The Washington Post, November 2, 2016.

Declining Trust in Parties Likely to Increase Already-High Invalid Voting Rates in Peru’s National Elections.” AmericasBarometer Topical Brief No. 26 (2016)

Who is Interested in Politics?” With Ariel Helms, Hillary Rosenjack, Kelly Schultz, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. AmericasBarometer Insights No. 126 (2016)

Who Approves of Those Who Block Roads to Protest in the Americas?” With Christine Huang, Susan Ma, Kyle Uber, Lauren White, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. AmericasBarometer Insights No. 121 (2015)

Low Levels of External Efficacy Can be Improved by Government efforts to Deliver Better Outcomes.” With Hannury Lee, Ginny Randall, Jackson Vaught, and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. AmericasBarometer Insights No. 115 (2015)

Effort Trumps Output in Predicting Satisfaction with Democracy.” With Kristina Bergmann, Kelly Perry, Kevin Zhang and Elizabeth J. Zechmeister. AmericasBarometer Insights No. 117 (2015)

Those with darker skin report slower police response time in the Americas.” With Elizabeth J. Zechmeister and Mitchell A. Seligson, AmericasBarometer Topical Brief  No. 16 (2015) [also published at The Monkey Cage Blog, The Washington Post, February 9, 2015]

Explaining Support for Interethnic Marriage in Four Countries.” AmericasBarometer Insights No. 77 (2012)

“Double Jeopardy: How U.S. Enforcement Policies Shape Tunkaseño Migration.” With Jonathan Hicken and Jorge Narvaez, in Cornelius, Wayne A. et al. (2010). Mexican Migration and the U.S. Economic Crisis: A Transnational Perspective. Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, San Diego, CA.