Research

Below, I provide an overview of my past and ongoing research projects.

Meyerrose, Anna M. (2020) “The Unintended Consequences of Democracy Promotion: International Organizations and Democratic Backsliding.” Comparative Political Studies 53(10-11): 1547-1581. doi: 10.1177/0010414019897689

Since the end of the Cold War, international organizations (IOs) have engaged in unprecedented levels of democracy promotion, and research overwhelmingly links them to positive democratic outcomes. However, this increased emphasis on democracy has more recently been accompanied by rampant illiberalism and a sharp rise in cases of democratic backsliding in new democracies. What explains democratic backsliding in an age of unparalleled international support for democracy? Backsliding occurs when democratic institutions are weakened or eroded by elected officials, resulting in an illiberal or diminished form of democracy. I argue that IOs that support democracy unintentionally make backsliding more likely by neglecting to promote democratic institutions other than executives and elections, increasing executive power, and limiting states’ domestic policy options, which stunts institutional development. I find membership in IOs associated with democracy promotion makes backsliding more likely, decreases checks on executive power, and limits domestic policy options and party development in new democracies.

Meyerrose, Anna M., Flores, Thomas Edward, and Nooruddin, Irfan. (2019). “From Elections to Democracy in Hard Times.” In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.627

The end of the Cold War, heralded as the ideological triumph of (Western) liberal democracy, was accompanied by an electoral boom and historically high levels of economic development. More recently, however, democratic progress has stalled, populism has been on the rise, and democracies around the world are either backsliding or failing entirely. What explains this contemporary crisis of democracy despite conditions theorized to promote democratic success? Focusing on the political–economic sources of ongoing democratic regressions, this essay proposes a research agenda that incorporates insights from studies on state building and institutions with recent approaches to democratization and democracy promotion, which focus predominantly on elections. Although necessary for democracy, free and fair elections are only effective at promoting democratic progress when they are held in states with strong institutions, such as those that can guarantee rule of law and constraints on executive power. However, increased globalization and international economic integration have stunted the development of these institutions by limiting states’ economic policy options, and, as a result, their fiscal policy space. When a state’s fiscal policy space—or, its ability to collect and spend revenue—is limited, governments are unable to provide public goods to citizens, politicians rely on populist rather than ideological appeals to win votes, and elections lose their democratizing potential. The political–economic framework proposed here provides avenues for additional research on the institutional aspects of ongoing democratization and democratic backslide.

Meyerrose, Anna M. (2018) “It is all about value: How domestic party brands influence voting patterns in the European Parliament.” Governance 31(4): 625-642. doi: 10.1111/gove.12327

Research on the European Parliament finds legislative voting patterns remained constant following the eastern enlargement of the European Union. This paper shows that Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) from these new member states are actually more likely to vote along European party lines. Given that these MEPs often come from less institutionalized domestic party systems that lack norms of legislative discipline, we should expect them to exhibit more erratic voting behavior than MEPs from mature systems. Why would stronger party discipline at the European level be associated with more volatile and fragmented domestic party systems? This paper argues MEPs from less institutionalized systems rely more on the brand of their European party, which provides better information and career opportunities than their parties at home, and thus are more likely to vote along European party lines. I find support for this theory using data from the sixth European Parliament (2004–2009).

The online appendix to the article can be found here.

Meyerrose, Anna M. “Building Strong Executives and Weak Institutions: How European Integration Contributes to Democratic Backsliding.” (Under review). 

Although the European Union (EU) is considered unrivaled in its democracy promoting abilities, democracy is being challenged within its borders. Since 2011, Hungary’s ruling party has debilitated or eliminated liberal democratic institutions; similar trends have emerged in Poland and other new democracies in the EU. What explains these surprising cases of democratic backsliding? Researchers have identified the limits of conditionality and the EU’s inability to counteract backsliding. However, given the EU’s extensive role in democracy building in its member states, it is critical to also consider the EU as an initial source of backsliding. This paper argues that the EU’s post-Maastricht policy structure, accession process, and membership requirements have made democratic backsliding more likely by simultaneously increasing executive power and limiting states’ domestic policy space, which stunts institutional development. This combination of factors creates opportunities for executives to manipulate already weak institutions to increase their power, and democratic backsliding becomes more likely. Comparative case studies and process tracing provide support for this argument. These theoretical mechanisms make important contributions to ongoing efforts to identify sources of democratic backsliding, and have critical implications for research on the limits of EU conditionality and theories linking regional organizations and regime outcomes.

Watson, Sara, Anna M. Meyerrose, and David Krosin. “Trade Shocks, Institutions and Political Polarization in French Politics.” (Working Paper)

In a number of advanced industrialized democracies, political parties on both the far right and far left are enjoying increasing electoral success. Recent research has linked these shifts away from the political center to economic globalization, citing increased import competition from low-wage economies—and the resulting economic hardships they induce–as one particularly potent source of voter discontent and political polarization. Although a growing body of literature explores how voters respond to increased economic integration, we know significantly less about how and the extent to which elected officials have been responsive to these shifts. Do trade shocks from low-wage economies result in increased polarization among politicians, as well as among voters? In this paper, we examine the extent to which changes in voter preferences due to trade shocks have tangible outcomes at the policy-making level, and the extent to which domestic institutions mediate these effects. Using an original dataset of roll call votes in the French Senate and instrumental variables analysis, we find evidence that trade shocks increase elite polarization with to economic issues, but decreased polarization along identity-based lines. These effects are particularly potent among legislators in majoritarian (relative to proportional representation) districts, and for those that hold more than one elected office simultaneously (dual mandates).