Can Appeals For Peace Promote Tolerance and Mitigate Support for Extremism? Evidence from an Experiment with Adolescents in Burkina Faso

with William G. Nomikos and Niloufer A. Siddiqui
First View in Journal of Experimental Political Science
Pre-analysis plan

Replication data

Recent efforts to improve attitudes toward outgroups and reduce support for extremists in violent settings report mixed results. Donors and aid organizations have spent millions of dollars to amplify the voices of moderate religious figures to counter violent extremism in West Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. Despite this investment, we know little about whether such messaging persuades the primary recruits of violent extremist organizations: at-risk youth in fragile settings. In this paper, we consider whether pro-peace religious messaging can promote social cohesion among school-age respondents in Burkina Faso. Using a survey experiment, we find little evidence that such messages affect reported attitudes or behaviors towards religious extremism and find instead that it can have the unintended effect of increasing intolerance towards ethnic others. Our findings carry lessons about the inadvertent priming of ethnic identities that can result in a backlash effect among certain societal segments.

Health crises can reveal the inability of governments to induce compliance with policy interventions. While lack of compliance is conventionally attributed to individual mistrust in government, resistance to such interventions is often found clustered among entire communities, particularly in ethnically divided societies. We account for such patterns by explaining how citizens adjust their responses to state authority according to their shared ethnicity with those in power. We assess the effect of ethnicity on citizen compliance with a public health advisory on HIV/AIDs issued by different authority types through a survey-based field experiment in the West African country of Guinea. Members of a politically marginalized ethnic group, the Peul, are significantly less likely to comply with a public health advisory from a national government representative, the president, when compared to local or religious leaders. We show that perceived ethnic discrimination conditions both trust in and compliance with different authority types.

with Biz Herman, Amma Panin, Elizabeth Wellman, Graeme Blair, Lindsey Pruett, Ken O. Opalo, Hannah Alarian, Yvonne Tan, Alex Dyzenhaus, and Nicholas Owsley
Forthcoming in PS: Political Science & Politics

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have emerged as a leading methodological tool to strengthen causal inference in the social sciences. Yet RCTs carry significant risks for everyone involved, from participants to researchers themselves, especially in the Global South. In this article, we explore how researchers’ identities and power influence the conduct of research and their positionality within the research contexts—especially when conducting RCTs in the Global South. Our goal is to center local contexts and demands at each stage of the research process. Overall, we argue that centering local contexts, stakeholders, and demands at each stage of the research process is key to ensuring that RCTs in the Global South are ethically sound and generate insights that can serve the communities they investigate.