Historical Communist Party Strength and Modern Party Loyalty

A Response to Joan Barcélo's ``The Long-Term Effects of War Exposure on Civic Engagement


  • Edmund Malesky Duke University
  • Trung-Anh


conflict, civic engagement, Vietnam War, historical legacies


Does exposure to violence create more politically engaged citizens? In a PNAS paper and subsequent correction, Barcelo (2021, 2023) asks this provocative question and proposes an intricate and original socio-psychological theory to answer it. Barcelo also employs a research design that seeks to account for reverse causality to address the fact that more engaged places may have been targeted. Unfortunately, even after the correction, his statistical analysis remains dogged by coding, historical, and contextual errors, which bias results and lead to misleading conclusions. When we account for these mistakes with simple and reasonable corrections, the main results no longer hold. Rather, we show that the true underlying explanation is more
mundane: areas that were sources of pre-war communist insurgency strength were targeted for their activity during the conflict, and they remain more loyal to the regime today.


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