Michael J Donnelly , Md Mujahedul Islam and Justin Savoie. 2020. “The public face of interest group lobbying on immigration: Who responds to and who ignores what they say.” Journal of European Social Policy 30(5): 543-556.

A main avenue for influencing public policy available to unions and business is public opinion campaigning. As groups with substantial credibility in the minds of the public, unions and employers have the potential to move immigration attitudes and, thereby, have a long-term indirect influence on immigration policy. The article asks, first, who is (not) convinced by arguments from business or labour leaders and second, what messages are most convincing. We present the results of a survey experiment in three very different immigration regimes and interest group environments (Canada, the UK and Germany). The results suggest that the net effects of public arguments are small, but vary widely across demographic groups. Link to article.


Allen Stevens, Benjamin, Md Mujahedul Islam, Roosmarijn de Geus, Jonah Goldberg, John R. McAndrews, Alex Mierke-Zatwarnicki, Peter John Loewen, and Daniel Rubenson. 2019. “Local Candidate Effects in Canadian Elections.” Canadian Journal of Political Science 52(1): 83-96.

What impact do local candidates have on elections in single member district plurality electoral systems? We provide new evidence using data from a large election study carried out during the 2015 Canadian federal election. We improve on the measurement of local candidate effects by asking over 20,000 survey respondents to rate the candidates in their constituency directly. We present three estimates. We find that when all voters are considered together, local candidate evaluations are decisive for approximately 4 per cent of voters. Second, these evaluations are decisive for the outcome of 10 per cent of constituency contests. Third, when models are estimated for each constituency, we find significant evaluation effects for 14 per cent of candidates. Link to article.


Papers Under Review


Peter John Loewen , Daniel Rubenson, Md Mujahedul Islam, Roosmarijn de Geus and Benjamin Allen Stevens. Ideological Heterogeneity and Voter Turnout.

We explore the effect of ideological heterogeneity at the electoral district level on voter turnout. We combine insights from the literature on community cohesiveness with insights about electoral competitiveness to introduce a theory of district level ideological heterogeneity and its effects on voter turnout. We argue turnout ought to be highest in districts with moderate levels of ideological heterogeneity compared to districts with very low or very high levels of ideological heterogeneity. We provide evidence of this using data from a large-scale study of the 2015 Canadian federal election. The novel dataset includes a large set of issue questions and sizeable samples of respondents at the district level. We examine the effects of ideological heterogeneity at both the district and individual level. Our findings suggest that moderate levels of ideological heterogeneity may increase voter turnout compared to low or high levels of heterogeneity. Under review.


Peter John Loewen , Md Mujahedul Islam,  Jonah Goldberg and John R. McAndrewsDoes democracy work better in smaller populations?

Does democracy work better in smaller populations?  To answer this, we take advantage of the fact that Canada has remarkably large variation in the population of electoral districts. We provide three empirical tests of democratic representation using data from the Local Parliament Project, a study conducted during the 2015 election campaign over a very large sample (>36,000 respondents). We ask whether residents of less-populated electoral districts are better represented. In particular, we ask whether they are more likely to be represented by a Condorcet winner, by a politician they like, and by a legislator that votes consistent with their district’s wishes. In all of our measures of the quality of democratic representation, we find no evidence that voters in smaller electoral districts are likely to be better represented. This has an important implication for lawmakers and democratic theorists: within limits, increases in population size need not necessarily degrade quality of democratic representation. Under review.


Papers in progress


Md Mujahedul Islam. The Political Consequences of Ethical Distance: Evidence from Observational Survey Data and Conjoint Experiments

As a member of their society, voters are expected to agree with the core ethical position of the broader political community of their country.  The assumption is that each society has an ethical core position (i.e., the position that most voters in the society agree with) on various issues. Nevertheless, there likely remains some individuals and politicians who diverge from these societal positions (hereafter, ethical distance). I argue that this ethical distance is expected to have systematic political consequences for voters and politicians.  I use a novel survey and six conjoint experiments over 2200 Canadians and 3600 Americans to (1) empirically measure ethical distance — i.e., disagreement on ethical matters – (2) ethical core position (i.e., the position that most voters in the society agree with) on various issues and (3) who comprises of ethical position of a society — i.e., who is inside and who is outside of the society’s ethical core. I then investigate (4) how ethical distance from ethical core position affects citizens’ support for democracy, (5) their interests in politics, (6) their level of satisfaction with the way political parties works in their country, (7) their chances of voting in the most recent national election, (8) for political candidates and finally (9) whether there is a partisan divisions regarding voting for an ethically distanced political candidate.  

I present 10 different randomly ordered ethical issues such as lying, someone cheating on their spouse, homosexuality, suicide and bribery to calculate ethical distance. Each issue has five categories that I code as follows: 0 = never; 1 = rarely; 2 = sometimes; 3 = often and 4 = always. Based one this data, I offer three measures of ethical distance. The first is an absolute distance-based measure of ethical distance where I calculate the society’s ethical core position by taking the mean opinion in society on ethical matters. The second is a majority position-based measure of ethical distance. I calculate this variable by identifying whether the respondent is on the same side of the average as a majority of people. Third, never- based measure of ethical distance where I focus on ‘never’ against all other categories i.e., I identify whether most people are for ‘never’ and whether each individual is part of the majority or not. I simply calculate a society’s ethical core position by taking the mean/majority opinion in society on ethical issues.

I ask questions on peoples’ attitudes toward democracy, their interest in politics, their level of satisfaction with political parties, among others, to examine political consequences of ethical distance. I find that a wide range of variation exists across societies and demographic groups in terms of who is inside and who is outside of the ethical position. Most importantly, through this survey, I present first statistical evidence that ethical distance, ceteris paribus, significantly lowers support for democracy, citizens’ level of satisfaction with political parties and their chances of voting in recent national elections. 

Next, I design six conjoint experiments where I present pairs of candidates and randomly assign their biographical details to examine political consequences for politicians.  In each conjoint, the candidates are also randomly assigned to an ethical position (e.g., regarding lying, cheating on your spouse, etc.). Participants are asked to choose between the candidates in each conjoint, as well as to rate each of them on a scale. Candidates’ ethical positions are scored according to their distance from the society position.  I then estimate standard average marginal component effects (AMCEs) for the choice-based and ratings-based outcome variables. Through this experiment, I present first statistical evidence that voters punish ethically distanced politicians and partisan divisions are absent at least in case of the USA and Canada when voters evaluate politicians’ ethical positions on universal ethical issues such as lying, bribery and someone cheating on their spouse. Accepted for presentation at the American Political Science Association (APSA) 2022 Annual Conference. 


Md Mujahedul Islam and Peter John Loewen. Voters punish politicians whose ethical views do not match their voters’

This study investigates how electorates react to political candidates who disagree with their broader political community’s views on ethical matters. It argues that each society has an ethical position on various issues (i.e., positions that most people agree on), but there are some politicians who diverge from these societal positions. This divergence is expected to have systematic implications for the electoral fortunes of politicians. Theoretically, politicians’ ethical position in connection with their society should matter for at least two reasons. First, ethics plays a significant role in everyday decision making: people weigh, evaluate, and execute their actions in line with their ethical values and decide accordingly (Goodin and Roberts, 1975; Meehl, 1977). Second, and more importantly, although a politician may have distinctive ethics, they are ethically connected to their society and their action should be based on whether that action itself is justified by the members of society (Cialdini and Trost, 1998; Yack, 2012). Using a recent novel survey and six conjoint experiments over 5,777 Canadians and Americans, this study presents first statistical evidence that politicians are punished if they disagree with their broader political community’s views on ethical matters. The finding has an important normative implication: there is an ethical component to understanding citizens’ support for political candidates and that ethical part is social and interactive. Accepted for presentation at the 79th Annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference 2022.


Md Mujahedul Islam and Muhibbur Rahman. Does Border Wall Favor Nationalist Parties in Political Competition?

The construction of physical border barriers raises varied political controversies both nationally and across the border. Existing studies have made some concrete progress in identifying both security and economic incentives to build border walls and their implications for cross-border relationships. However, we hardly have any systematic evidence about how border walls affect domestic politics. Political implications are equally important because parties often take conflicting positions, and some are in a better position to take advantage out of border walls. Parties which tend to support border walls fear either changing demographic composition and political support base due to illegal immigration or bolstering opposition due to support and patronage from cross-border co-ethnic population. They want to curb political competition through limiting such possibilities.  We argue that nationalist parties are likely to enjoy a disproportionate electoral advantage from the presence of border walls. There are two mechanisms which allow such a political outcome. First, border walls decrease political competition in a way that favors nationalist parties. With physical barriers at place, ethnically oriented parties or parties that represent peripheral people become weak to pose credible challenge to nationalist parties. Second, nationalist parties can bolster their popularity further by symbolizing border walls as an emblem for nationalist rhetoric. Since border walls embody a sense of animosity towards and superiority over neighboring states, it is easier to cultivate popular nationalist sentiment among the population and motivate them towards parties that uphold such collective emotions.   

We build a novel cross-sectional-time-series dataset of 153 countries for the period of 1975-2012 by polling together three off-the-shelf datasets to test our argument. Since we are interested in political outcomes for parties, we include in the sample only those countries that allow some forms of political competition. The unit of analysis is country-year. The dependent variable is a binary measure of whether a nationalist party is in power in a given year. The key explanatory variable is also a binary measure of whether the country has a border wall with at least one of the neighboring states. After controlling for relevant confounding variables, the findings provide strong support that the presence of border walls increases the likelihood that a nationalist party will be in power.  The paper makes two important contributions to political competition literature. First, it both theorizes and provides empirical evidence to explain an intriguing puzzle as to why some parties are more likely to advocate for border walls. Second, it identifies a cross-border dynamic into domestic politics and shows how popular nationalism links border politics and political competition in an important way. Presented at the American Political Science Association (APSA) 2021 Annual Conference. 


Peter John Loewen, Daniel Rubenson, Md Mujahedul Islam, and Roosmarijn de Geus. Winning and Losing Power: an Analytical Narrative of the 2015 and 2019 Canadian Federal Elections.

How often do first term governments lose support and/or lose government? And, why? This paper uses the 2019 Canadian federal election to offer answers to both of these questions. In that election, the Liberal government lost 6.4 percentage points, 20 seats of 177, and lost majority government status. We contextualise this using all parliamentary elections in more than 50 countries since 1900. Second, we offer an analytical account of 2015 and 2019 Canadian elections. In short, we argue that in 2015 the Liberal party won because the electorate positively updated leadership evaluations of Trudeau and because expectations of which party had the best chances of replacing the Conservatives converged on this party. Issues played little to no role. In 2019, we argue that converging on a single party no longer provided an advantage to Trudeau. Leadership evaluations, on the other hand, remained. We demonstrate that these evaluations remained below 2015 levels and showed little room for growth. Furthermore, we show that broken promises between 2015 and 2019 play a major explanatory role in lower leadership evaluations. Together, these observations suggest an analytical narrative for how parties win and lose power: the win power on the back of fatigue with an incumbent party, irrespective of their own issue positions. But the reality of trading off policy positions and breaking policies in government can nevertheless set the stage for large losses in support. Our paper relies on data from the 2015 Local Parliament Project and the 2019 Canadian Election Study. Presented by co-author (Peter John Loewen) at the Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) 2021 Conference.


Md Mujahedul Islam and Jonah Goldberg.  Public Spending, Clarity of Responsibility and the Voter Choice.

We examine whether voters are more likely to re-elect incumbent governments if they are satisfied with social spending levels on healthcare and education. We also seek to understand if voters are better able to translate that satisfaction (or lack thereof) into rewarding (or punishing) the government in the subsequent election if the government is only composed of a single political party. The thermostatic model and the literature on clarity of responsibility suggest that voters will reward governments when they spend exactly the right amount of money on social programs and are better able to do so if a single-party government is in office. Using data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems dataset, collected between 2011 and 2016, we test these two hypotheses. In line with our theoretical expectations, we find that voters are in fact most likely to reward governments that spend exactly the right amount of money on social programs like healthcare and education, and that clarity of responsibility means that they are best able to do so when a single-party government is in office. Our findings have important implications: governments should be prudent in dedicating government funding to social programs. Single-party governments in particular are most likely to be rewarded when voters think they are spending the right amount of money on social programs and can lose support if they spend too much or too little. Presented at the 11th Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association (EPSA) 2021 .


Md Mujahedul Islam and Jonah Goldberg.  Does ideological homogeneity increase satisfaction with democracy?

Does ideological homogeneity increase satisfaction with democracy? The literature on political ideology and democratic satisfaction suggests that citizens are more likely to be satisfied with democracy when their local community shares their ideological worldview. In this paper, we explore citizens’ satisfaction with democracy using a unique dataset that incorporates citizens’ views on more than thirty-five issues. We examine each respondent’s ideological distance from the mean ideological views of their electoral district. We incorporate more than 30,000 individual level observations by using one of the largest datasets on Canadian politics and examine whether citizens whose ideological views are closer to the district mean are more satisfied with democracy. We offer a causal mechanism to explain why ideological homogeneity is likely to be correlated with satisfaction with democracy and empirically test them.  We argue that in communities in which citizens’ views are more similar, we would expect them to elect representatives whose views are closer to their own. In other words, ideological congruence between citizens and their representatives should be stronger. This should lead to public policy that is more in line with citizens’ preferences, which should positively impact citizens’ satisfaction with democracy. Our study has important implications for policymakers in understanding the circumstances in which support for democracy can be strengthened. Accepted for presentation at the 5th International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP5)- BARCELONA 2021.


Md Mujahedul Islam and Muhibbur Rahman. External Source of Opinion Formation and the Dynamics of Electoral Behavior: Evidence from Canadian Voters.

Do voters systematically take cues from political developments in the neighboring democracies in forming their electoral preferences? Although existing research offers different explanations for the effects of domestic factors in shaping voting behavior, external sources remain largely underexplored. In this article, we identify the conditions that make voters more likely to be cognizant of political developments in a neighboring country while making their vote choices. We argue that, in addition to their own domestic political issues, voters decide to vote for a party in the context of how neighboring democracies are preserving fundamental liberal norms and practices. Using Canadian Election Study during the period of 1965-2019 and a novel survey experiment of our own over 600 Canadians, we aim to test whether Canadian voters’ perception about US domestic politics (more liberal or more conservative) affect their vote choice (support for the Liberal Party). Our experiment will help us examine how voters’ support for the Liberal Party is likely to increase when liberal values and institutions are threatened in the US. We expect to find that (Canadian) voters are likely to take cues from political developments in their neighboring democracy in forming their electoral preferences. While the article contributes to the literature on electoral behavior in general, it offers important insights about transnational interlinkages between partisan ideologies across different democratic countries. Presented at the 78th Annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) Conference 2021.


Md Mujahedul Islam. Does Ethical Distance Affect Attitudes Toward Democracy? [1]

When a citizen does not agree with most other citizens on ethical issues, do they support democratic decision making less? Individual support for democracy is considered crucial in the existing literature for democratization, institutionalization and stability of a democratic political regime. Although the literature offers several macro-level explanations of why people support democracy (Lipset 1959; Almond and Verba 1963; Putnam 1993; Inglehard 2003), we know little of the effect of an individual’s ethical position vis-a-vis society on attitudes toward democracy. I argue that each society is likely to have ethical positions on various issues, and some individuals will deviate from these. These deviations are likely to have systematic implications for their propensity to support democracy.

The central question I ask is: Are people more likely to demonstrate lower support for democracy if they deviate from the ethical core of their society? From a theoretical point of view, individuals’ ethical position in connection with society should matter for at least two reasons. First, ethics plays a significant role in the population for their decision: people weigh, evaluate and execute their actions in line with their ethical values and decide accordingly (Meehl 1977; Goodin and Roberts 1975; DeLue 1980). Second and most importantly, although an individual may have a distinctive ethics, she is ethically connected to her society and her action should be based on whether that action itself is justified by the members of society (Cialdini and Trost 1998; Yack 2012). This argument thus links personal ethics to the ethics of a society and explicitly centers on not only personal views but personal views in relation to the whole/societal consensus. Hence, I expect that as people deviate from the ethical position of their society, they are less likely to support democracy. I measure attitudes toward democracy by pooling together a set of questions from the World Values Surveys (WVS) that directly ask individuals whether they support democracy as a political regime. I measure a society’s ethical position by examining individuals’ views on numerous ethical issues such as abortion, bribing, cheating and so on. More specifically, if most of the people in a society think that taking a bribe, avoiding a tax and/or claiming government benefits, among many others, are not justified, I assume this as the ethical position of the society on these issues. I estimate ethical distance by identifying whether some people justify the actions that most of the people in a society do not justify. I call this ethical distance since these people situate themselves further away from the justified ethical position of their society.

I empirically test several mechanisms that could explain the expected relationship between ethical distance and support for democracy. First, ethical distance is likely to be negatively associated with support for democracy because the deviant/distanced individual might value the ethical position she holds and supporting democracy for her means supporting and strengthening the majority’s ethics — the ethics that does not reflect who she is, what she is connected to and what she is concerned for. Second, when an individual moves further away from the ethical norms of the society, she becomes a part of an ethically marginal group within and alienated from the society and hence she is more likely to express lower support for democracy because she does not feel that she is a part of the majority’s ethical community. Despite the considerable importance of an individual position in relation to society, few studies have examined how ethical distance may affect attitudes toward democracy.

I synthesize different strands of normative and empirical research on ethics and politics to develop and test a novel explanation of why people demonstrate lower support for democracy grounded in individual-level distance from a society’s ethical core. This explanation complements and extends prior research showing that social affinity and civic duty strongly influences citizens’ willingness to support democracy. I empirically test the ethical distance hypothesis employing a statistical analysis. First, using individual-level data (N=36,187) from over 30 democratic countries from the pooled WVS, I present statistical evidence suggesting that ethical deviation/distance, ceteris paribus, exerts a significant independent effect on lowering support for democracy. The finding provides an important normative implication: there is an ethical non-instrumental part to understanding individual support for democracy and that ethical part is social, interactive and not individualistic, where people interpledge themselves into other people which, among others, shape their decision to support or not to support democracy. Presented at the American Political Science Association (APSA) 2020 Conference.

[1] An extended abstract from one of my dissertation chapters.


Md Mujahedul Islam. Globalization, Political Institutions and the Fairness of the Elections.

A central normative argument of liberal democracy is that elections as instruments of democracy need to be free, fair and neutral to reflect peoples’ opinions. In many parts of the world, particularly democracies in developing countries of South Asia and Africa, governments are formed by elections that are sometimes considered ‘flawed’ by the people and international observers. This raises a critical question with far-reaching implications for democracy: What affects the fairness of the elections? Is there any significant effect of globalization on elections? If so, under what circumstances does globalization influence the quality of elections? Do effective political institutions condition the effect of globalization on the fairness of the elections? I empirically assess these questions using the 2015 Quality of Government (QoG) dataset from 2006 to 2010 for 100 countries in a time-series cross-sectional statistical model. The results suggest that greater levels of globalization significantly increase the fairness of the elections in countries where effective political institutions exist. Presented at the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) General Conference Virtual Event, August 2020.