Joseph Asunka

Contact Info
Department of Political Science
4289 Bunche Hall
University of California, Los Angeles
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472
asunka@ucla.edu


About Me

I completed my dissertation in Political Science at University of California, Los Angeles in June 2014. My areas of specialization are African politics, political economy of development, political methodology, elections and voting behavior

My current research evaluates the political logic of rule-based distribution of public resources in new democracies. I seek to explain why politicians would design policies and allocate valued benefits to voters in ways that reduce or eliminate their own discretion on distribution.

I advance an argument in my dissertation to explain this puzzle. I argue that the answer lies in the partisan attachment of voters. Where voters demonstrate weak attachment to political parties, non-discretionary rules attract electoral support for incumbent politicians in two ways: first, they allow benefits to reach unattached voters without angering incumbents' loyal voters who might otherwise expect to be favored; second, they signal incumbents' commitment to unbiased distribution of public benefits, which, research shows, attracts support from unattached voters. I find strong support for this argument using survey and electoral data collected in Ghana. My research is one of the few projects to examine the political and policy implications of voter attachment to political parties in a developing country context. The results of my empirical analysis sheds light on the growing political support for targeted, rule-based distribution of public resources among politicians in developing democracies. This project has been supported by the UCLA International Institute, UCLA Dissertation Year Fellowship, the Ralph and Shirley Shapiro Fellowship, and the Charles E. and Sue K. Young Fellowship. One chapter of this dissertation received the Hamilton Best Paper Award in 2013 at New York University.

I am also actively pursuing a second area of research, using field experiments, in collaboration with colleagues at UCLA. We implemented a randomized saturation experimental design during Ghana's 2012 presidential elections to estimate the impact of election observers on electoral fraud and to identify how political parties respond to observers on election day.