Published Articles

Rosenfeld, Bryn. 2022. "Survey Research in Russia: In the Shadow of War." Post-Soviet Affairs 39(1-2): 38-48. [Download Paper

Amid ongoing uncertainty, regular surveying in Russia continues to date and collaborations with Western academics have too. These developments offer some basis for cautious optimism. Yet they also raise critical questions about the practice of survey research in repressive environments. Are Russians less willing today to respond to surveys? Are they less willing to answer sensitive questions? How can we design research to elicit truthful responses and to know whether respondents are answering insincerely about sensitive opinions? This article lays out some of the existing evidence on these important questions. It also makes the argument that cross-fertilization with other fields can help to ensure a rigorous understanding of and response to changes in the environment for survey research in Russia. 

Paskhalis, Tom, Bryn Rosenfeld and Katerina Tertytchnaya. 2022. "Independent Media under Pressure: Evidence from Russia." Post-Soviet Affairs 38(3): 155-174.  [Download Paper]

Existing literature recognizes growing threats to press freedom around the world and documents changes in the tools used to stifle the independent press. However, few studies investigate how independent media respond to state pressure in an autocracy, documenting the impact of tactics that stop short of shuttering alternatives to state media. Do independent outlets re-orient coverage to favor regime interests? Or does repression encourage more negative coverage of the regime instead? To shed light on these questions, we investigate how the abrupt removal of independent outlet TV Rain from Russian television providers influenced its coverage. We find that shortly after providers dropped TV Rain, the tone of its political coverage became more positive and its similarity with state-controlled Channel 1 increased. However, these effects were short-lived. Additional evidence suggests that subscription revenue contributed to the station’s resilience. These findings add to our understanding of media manipulation and authoritarian endurance.

Rosenfeld, Bryn. 2022. "Belarusian Public Opinion and the 2020 Uprising." Post-Soviet Affairs, 38(1-2): 150-154. 

This commentary discusses the contributions of the special issue on Belarus’ 2020 uprising to understanding public opinion, protest, and regime crisis in countries like Belarus, and the case of Belarus itself.

Pop-Eleches, Grigore, Graeme Robertson and Bryn Rosenfeld. 2022. "Protest Participation and Attitude Change: Evidence from Ukraine's Euromaidan Revolution." The Journal of Politics 84(2): 625-638. [Download Paper][Replication Archive]

Do protests actually influence political opinions or do they merely reflect existing policy preferences? We study this issue using panel data with measures of political attitudes and behavior taken both before and after Ukraine's Euromaidan protests. We find that protests do not just reveal protesters' political views but also shape them. Participation changed protesters' policy preferences on issues related to the main protest frames, and it also increased attitude coherence on core issues. In addition, protest participants experienced significant increases in political efficacy, trust and participation compared to non-participants. We show that the mechanisms underlying these attitudinal and behavioral changes are related to the experience itself of protesting, and thus depend to an important degree on protest context. These findings speak to both the short and long-term mechanisms by which protest participation can shape political engagement and public opinion. 

Rosenfeld, Bryn. 2021. "State Dependency and the Limits of Middle Class Support for Democracy." Comparative Political Studies 54(3-4): 411-444. [Download Paper][Replication Archive]

Scholars have long viewed the middle class as an agent of democratization. This paper provides the first rigorous cross-national analysis of middle class regime preference, systematically investigating the importance of an authoritarian state's economic relationship with the middle class. Using detailed survey data on individual employment histories from 27 post-communist countries, I show that, under autocracy, state-sector careers diminish support for democracy, especially among middle class professionals. The results are robust to changes in the measurement of both the middle class and democracy support. I also show that neither selection nor response bias, redistributive preferences, communist socialization, or transition experiences can explain the results. The findings imply that a state-supported middle class may, in fact, delay democratization.

Chou, Winston, Kosuke Imai, and Bryn Rosenfeld. 2020. “Sensitive Survey Questions with Auxiliary Information.” Sociological Methods & Research 49(2): 418-454. [Download Paper][Replication Archive]

Scholars increasingly rely on indirect questioning techniques to reduce social desirability bias and item nonresponse for sensitive survey questions. The major drawback of these approaches, however, is their inefficiency relative to direct questioning. We show how to improve the statistical analysis of the list experiment, randomized response technique, and endorsement experiment by exploiting auxiliary information on the sensitive trait. We apply the proposed methodology to survey experiments conducted among voters in a controversial anti-abortion referendum held during the 2011 Mississippi General Election. By incorporating the official county-level election results, we obtain precinct- and individual-level estimates that are more accurate than standard indirect questioning estimates and occasionally even more efficient than direct questioning. Our simulation studies shed light on the conditions under which our approach can improve efficiency and robustness of estimates based on indirect questioning techniques. Open-source software is available for implementing the proposed methodology. 

Rosenfeld, Bryn. 2018. “The Popularity Costs of Economic Crisis Under Electoral Authoritarianism: Evidence from Russia.” American Journal of Political Science 62(2): 382-397. [Download Paper][Replication Archive]

While a large literature recognizes that economic crises threaten the stability of electoral autocracies, we know relatively little about how citizens form economic perceptions and how they attribute blame for worsening conditions in these regimes. To gain traction on these questions, I exploit subnational variation in economic performance across Russia’s regions during a recent downturn, combining regionally representative surveys of more than 67,000 voting-age respondents with data on growth and unemployment. Contrary to conventional wisdom that citizens are passive consumers of propaganda, I show that they extract objective economic information from personal experience and local conditions. Moreover, I find that they give greater weight to this information where regional party dominance makes economic performance a clearer indicator of the ruling party’s competence and when they believe media are biased. These results suggest limits on illiberal regimes’ ability to exploit informational asymmetries to bolster popular support during economic downturns. 

Rosenfeld, Bryn. 2017. “Reevaluating the Middle Class Protest Paradigm: A Case-Control Study of Democratic Protest Coalitions in Russia.” American Political Science Review 111(4): 637-652. [Download Paper][Replication Archive]

A large literature expects rising middle classes to promote democracy. However, few studies provide direct evidence on this group in nondemocratic settings. This article focuses on politically important internal differentiation within the middle classes, arguing that middle class growth in state-dependent sectors weakens potential coalitions in support of democratization. I test this argument using surveys conducted at mass demonstrations in Russia and detailed population data. I also present a new approach to studying protest based on case-control methods from epidemiology. The results reveal that state sector professionals were significantly less likely to mobilize against electoral fraud, even after controlling for ideology. If this group had participated at the same rate as middle class professionals from the private sector, I estimate that another 90,000 protesters would have taken to the streets. I trace these patterns of participation to the interaction of individual resources and selective incentives. These findings have implications for authoritarian stability and democratic transitions. 

Rosenfeld, Bryn, Kosuke Imai, and Jacob N. Shapiro. 2016. “An Empirical Validation Study of Popular Survey Methodologies for Sensitive Questions.” American Journal of Political Science 60(3): 783–802. [Download Paper][Replication Archive]

When studying sensitive issues such as corruption, prejudice, and sexual behavior, researchers have increasingly relied upon indirect questioning techniques to mitigate such known problems of direct survey questions as under-reporting and nonresponse. However, there have been surprisingly few empirical validation studies of these indirect techniques, because the information required to verify the resulting estimates is often difficult to access. This paper reports findings from the first comprehensive validation study of indirect methods. We estimate whether people voted for an anti-abortion referendum held during the 2011 Mississippi General Election using direct questioning and three popular indirect methods: list experiment, endorsement experiment, and randomized response. We then validate these estimates against the official election outcome. While direct questioning leads to significant under-estimation of sensitive votes against the referendum, these survey techniques yield estimates much closer to the actual vote count, with endorsement experiment and randomized response yielding least bias.

Working Papers 

A crucial question for scholars of contemporary authoritarianism is when regime supporters broaden their information diet, potentially exposing themselves to new ideas that might challenge the regime. We argue that emotions, and specifically anxiety, are likely to play a critical role in this process. Using observational data from two nationwide surveys in Russia during the COVID-19 pandemic and an emotion induction experiment conducted face-to-face with a nationally representative sample, we investigate how anxiety affects the search for information. We find that heightened anxiety leads people to seek out more information about the source of their anxiety and to consume media from new sources. Anxiety prompts regime opponents to engage more with state media, but also increases regime supporters’ engagement with opposition media critical of the government. These findings provide evidence for a specific emotional mechanism that can drive increased information seeking of a potentially politically consequential character during crises.

A Case-Control Method for Studying Protest Participation and Other Rare Events 

Studies of individual protest participation confront a variety of inferential challenges. Representative surveys capture few protest participants, are biased by respondent recall, and provide only post-hoc measures of other covariates. Surveys of protesters offer a larger sample size, minimize problems of recall, and effectively verify participation. However, they have limited utility for understanding the causes of protest participation, because focusing on protesters introduces selection on the dependent variable. In this paper I show how a variant of the standard case-control design, used in individual-level rare events studies in epidemiology but ignored to date in political science, enables researchers to estimate the probability of protest as a function of individual-level characteristics. In this approach, researchers combine two distinct samples---one where the outcome is measured along with relevant covariates and the other where relevant covariates are measured but the outcome is not. After describing the statistical setup for this design, I use simulation to show that a Bayesian implementation recovers unbiased estimates. I then demonstrate its value through an application to Ukraine's EuroMaidan protests.