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Who Defects? Unpacking a Defection Cascade from Russia’s Dominant Party 2008–12

Who Defects? Unpacking a Defection Cascade from Russia’s Dominant Party 2008–12

by Henry E. Hale, George Washington University and Timothy J. ColtonHarvard University

A panel survey spanning the 2008-12 wave of defections from Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party finds evidence this process was driven not only by simple opinion change but by cascading, a chain reaction in which successive individuals broke with the regime upon seeing others doing likewise. Supporting “availability cascade” theory, early movers were typically younger, had less information of their own upon which to rely (being more dependent on observing others’ decisions), and were the least vulnerable to pressures to “fit in” socially or politically. Surprisingly, neither media nor democratizing zeal played a significant role propagating the cascade.

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American Political Science Review / Volume 111 / Issue 1 / Published online: 04 April 2017