Communism’s Shadow: Historical Legacies and Contemporary Political Attitudes

by Grigore Pop-Eleches and Joshua A. Tucker

(Princeton University Press, 2017)


It has long been assumed that the historical legacy of Soviet Communism would have an important effect on post-communist states. However, prior research has focused primarily on the institutional legacy of communism. Communism’s Shadow instead turns the focus to the individuals who inhabit post-communist countries, presenting a rigorous assessment of the legacy of communism on political attitudes.Post-communist citizens hold political, economic, and social opinions that consistently differ from individuals in other countries. Grigore Pop-Eleches and Joshua Tucker introduce two distinct frameworks to explain these differences, the first of which focuses on the effects of living in a post-communist country, and the second on living through communism. Drawing on large-scale research encompassing post-communist states and other countries around the globe, the authors demonstrate that living through communism has a clear, consistent influence on why citizens in post-communist countries are, on average, less supportive of democracy and markets and more supportive of state-provided social welfare. The longer citizens have lived through communism, especially as adults, the greater their support for beliefs associated with communist ideology—the one exception being opinions regarding gender equality.

A thorough and nuanced examination of communist legacies’ lasting influence on public opinion, Communism’s Shadow highlights the ways in which political beliefs can outlast institutional regimes.

Pre-Release Reviews

“This is a pioneering and fascinating analysis. While previous scholarship has examined the impact of communist legacies on institutions and collective actors, Pop-Eleches and Tucker focus on the behavioral legacies of communism: how living through communism changed political attitudes and beliefs regarding democracy, markets, social welfare, and gender equality. Compelling, rigorous, and innovative, this study is a must-read for all those interested in authoritarian legacies, post-communist regimes, and the formation of political values.” – Anna Grzymala-Busse, Stanford University

“Both sophisticated and accessible, Communism’s Shadow is a remarkable, compelling contribution to our understanding of political culture, tracing how years of personal exposure to communist regimes shaped transitory and sometimes enduring perceptions of democracy, economic markets, state social welfare guarantees, and gender equality.” – G. Bingham Powell Jr., University of Rochester

“The impressive theoretical breadth and empirical depth of Communism’s Shadow befit its monumental subject―how decades of Soviet communism shaped (and continue to shape) the political and social attitudes of ordinary people. Pop-Eleches and Tucker’s analysis is fascinating and persuasive.” – Larry M. Bartels, Vanderbilt University

“Looking at post-Soviet countries and ordinary members of the general public, Communism’s Shadow investigates the argument that cultural legacies from the past influence current political attitudes and behaviors. This book is the first to systematically test this theory and is undoubtedly a landmark study in the field of comparative politics.” James L. Gibson, Washington University in St. Louis

Communism’s Shadow compares the extent to which attitudes toward democracy, the market, the welfare state, and gender equality in post-communist nations differ from opinions found in the rest of the world. Taking on a perennially important topic with considerable sophistication and care, this terrific book will be widely read.”– Timothy Frye, Columbia University


Regional Economic VotingRussia, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic, 1990-1999

by Joshua A. Tucker

(Cambridge University Press, 2006)

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This book demonstrates that in a time of massive change characterized by the emergence of entirely new political systems and a fundamental reorganization of economic life, systematic patterns of economic conditions affecting election results at the aggregate level can in fact be identified during the first decade of post-communist elections in five post communist countries: Russia, Poland,Hungary, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic. Interestingly, incumbency status is not the best predictor of the types of effects examined in the book. Instead, parties that are primarily identified with the “Old Regime” that predated the transition enjoy more electoral success in regions with more economic losers, while “New Regime” parties that are most closely identified with the movement away from communism consistently enjoy more electoral support in regions with more economic winners. I label this phenomenon of regional variation in economic conditions affecting regional patterns of national election results as “regional economic voting”.

A variety of theoretical arguments concerning the conditions in which these regional economic voting patterns are more or less likely to be present are also proposed and tested, including a responsibility approach (does the economic have more of an effect on parties that are likely to have a larger impact on economic policy?) a supply-side approach (does the economy matter more when other factors matter less?), and a time-based approach (does the effect of the economy change as time passes?). These “conditional economic voting hypotheses” help address one of the more vexing questions facing the economic voting literature as it has expanded beyond single-country studies of economic voting in the United States, which is that the effect of economy on election results does not necessarily appear to be constant across time and space.

Analysis is conducted using an original data set of regional level economic, demographic,and electoral indicators, and features both broadly based comparative assessments of the findings across all twenty elections as well as more focused case study analyses of pairs of individual elections.

The book has been reviewed in:

Perspectives on Politics

ComparativePolitical Studies

The Journal of Politics

Foreign Affairs

Slavic Review

The Russia Review

Canadian Journal of Politics

Pre-Release Reviews:

“Joshua Tucker has produced a magisterial study of the phenomenon of economic voting in postcommunist countries. Tucker proposes two alternative models of economic voting, one based on standard Western accounts and the other adapted for states that have recently undergone major regime change, and evaluates them for five countries in the first decade following the end of the communist regime. Tucker’s treatment is theoretically and methodologically innovative, and the comprehensive dataset of subnational level voting results that he collected gives his findings unusual authority.” – Thomas F. Remington, Emory University

“This manuscript is path breaking in its effort to apply theories of economic voting developed in the context of stable Western democracies, and in particular the U.S.,
to the much less stable context of postcommunist Eastern and Central Europe. It is methodologically sophisticated, developing an original approach to measuring economic voting based on a case-by-case comparative statistical analysis of regional-level economic and electoral data. Finally, the argument itself-that relatively well-off voters in postcommunist democracies have generally rewarded parties representing the “new regime” (that is, liberal capitalism) while relatively poor voters have consistently rewarded “old regime” parties (that is, the various communist party successors) is both counter-intuitive and substantively important. Tucker’s book will be widely read among specialists in electoral politics and postcommunist
studies.” – Stephen Hanson, University of Washington

“Joshua Tucker’s monograph successfully challenges much of what passes for conventional wisdom about the links between economics and voter behavior by employing aggregate data to explore regional differences in voting behavior and their links to the economy. This is real comparative politics: the study embraces five countries- Russia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary -and twenty elections in a methodologically sophisticated way and assesses alternative hypotheses with extraordinary care.” – William Zimmerman, University of Michigan

Post-Release Reviews in Peer-Reviewed Journals

”Regional Economic Voting is a shining example of how to design a monograph in a way that derives maximum theoretical leverage from a body of evidence while cautiously keeping one’s conclusions as close as possible to this evidence. This book is a remarkable achievement and will be widely read.” – Comparative Political Studies

“One fine example is Regional Economic Voting in which Joshua A. Tucker effectively probes and refines the assumptions of economic voting in established democracies to suggest how variations in economic conditions have affected political support for postcommunist parties…Regional Economic Voting is a valuable study, meticulously executed and thoroughly supported. It is highly recommended for scholars of new democracies, and not just postcommunist democracies.” – Perspectives on Politics

“Many scholars have attempted to address the implications of postcommunism’s “dual transition”—the simultaneous democratic and economic transitions of the1990s—but few have made as valuable a contribution as Joshua Tucker’s work.” – The Journal of Politics

“Regional Economic Voting serves as another excellent example of comparative research in the social sciences…Theoretically motivated, methodologically sound, and well argued, the book is a fine addition to the growing number of works in the genre.” – Slavic Review

“Many have studied the impact of politics on economic reform in the post socialist countries, and many have studied the impact of economics on electoral outcomes in established democracies,particularly the United States. Far fewer have considered the effects of economic conditions on elections in postsocialist societies, and none so thoroughly or systematically as Tucker does in this book.” – Foreign Affairs

“Regional Economic Voting is a truly impressive piece of work, showcasing the author’s methodological rigor and flair forstatistical analysis.” – Russia Review

“In this ambitious and methodologically sophisticated study, Joshua Tucker takes on the challenge and suggests a fresh approach for cutting through the fog of post-communist institutional ambiguity.” – Canadian Journal of Political Science


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