Natalia Garbiras-Díaz

Natalia Garbiras-Díaz

Ph.D. candidate

University of California, Berkeley

I am a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley, and a Research Associate at the Center on the Politics of Development.

My main research interests are in comparative politics and the political economy of development, focusing on corruption, public goods provision, and accountability in Latin America. I also study the formation of citizen and ex-combatant attitudes and their role in stabilizing peace in post-conflict settings. In my dissertation, I explore the information and institutional environments that pave the way for outsider candidates’ rise and success.

I hold an M.A. in Economics from the University of Los Andes (Colombia). Before coming to Berkeley, I worked at the World Bank, the Observatory of Democracy, and Colombia’s National Planning Department.


  • Comparative politics
  • Latin American politics
  • Political economy
  • Peace building and post-conflict settings
  • Research methods


  • PhD candidate in Political Science

    University of California, Berkeley

  • MA in Political Science, 2016

    University of California, Berkeley

  • MA in Economics, 2013

    Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia

  • BA in Political Science, 2012

    Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia

  • BA in Economics, 2012

    Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia

Working Papers

Using Political Cues for Attitude Formation in Post-Conflict Contexts (Under review)
Natalia Garbiras-Díaz, Miguel García-Sánchez and Aila M. Matanock

Citizens are often asked to evaluate peace agreements seeking to end civil conflicts, by voting on referendums or the negotiating leaders or, even when not voting, deciding whether to cooperate with the implementation of policies like combatant reintegration. In this paper, we assess how citizens form attitudes towards the provisions in peace agreements. These contexts tend to have high polarization, and citizens are asked to weigh in on complex policies, so we theorize that citizens will use cues from political elites with whom they have affinity, and, without these cues, information will have less effect. We assess our theory using survey experiments in Colombia. We find citizens rely on political elites' cues to form their opinion on a peace agreement's provisions, with the direction depending on the citizen's affinity with the political elites. Additional information about these policies has little effect. The paper suggests that even these high stakes decisions can be seen as politics as usual.

Do citizens' preferences matter? Shaping elite attitudes towards peace agreements (Under review)
Natalia Garbiras-Díaz, Miguel García-Sánchez and Aila M. Matanock

Citizens are increasingly seen as having a central role in peace processes, engaging in many negotiations and even some approval plebiscites, for example. Citizens are especially important in implementation when a society reconfigures its institutions and rebuilds its state. However, implementing a peace agreement also typically requires piecemeal legislation that can either faithfully adopt its terms or revise and even revert to the status quo. In this paper, we examine the extent to which political elites responsible for this component of implementation are responsive to citizens' preferences. We partnered with the *Misión de Observación Electoral* (MOE), a well-known NGO that specializes on the monitoring of electoral processes in Colombia, to embed an experimental question about the settlement between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) rebels and the Colombian government in the 2018 wave of a periodic survey on the members of Congress. We inform legislators about the position of different citizens on a policy that emerged from the peace agreement: citizen support for the creation of 16 special seats reserved for conflict areas. We find that legislators underestimate citizen support for this policy, and the magnitude of their misperceptions is correlated with the positions of their parties on the issue. Moreover, we find that providing information about citizens' support for the policy largely does not affect legislator support. These results suggest that legislators form their priors about civilian attitudes through partisan lenses, and that citizen preferences on particular policies may not shape their positions, which are largely based on their party's overarching platform instead.

Untouchable Forces: Restoring Trust in Security in Weak States?
Aila M. Matanock and Natalia Garbiras-Díaz

How can weak states improve security? We build on existing work theorizing that a crucial component of strengthening security is improving citizen perceptions of the institutions providing security and then thereby securing their cooperation with those institutions. We examine whether foreign missions that states invite to conduct security functions, "delegation agreements" (DAs), are able to change citizens' perceptions on these dimensions. We argue DAs are likely to improve citizen perceptions of security while they are operating but to have little transfer effect to state institutions. We test the theory by examining the U.N.'s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), a team of investigators and prosecutors that operated in Guatemalan courts from 2007-2019, which was a canonical and seemingly successful DA. In this "most likely" case to detect any transfer effects, we use a survey experiment to examine, first, whether invoking CICIG as a case investigator increases citizen beliefs that the perpetrators and their state collaborators will be correctly identified, prosecuted, and convicted. We find that the CICIG prime does have consistently positive effects. We then examine citizen perceptions of institutions, and, measuring several outcomes, we find that CICIG has little transfer effect to state security institutions, although a successful CICIG may reduce the legitimacy of the state to some extent. Our results identify a positive effect from this foreign mission but no overall shift in citizen perceptions and subsequent pathway to increased security through their cooperation.

The pacifying role of education: The case of Radio Sutatenza
Natalia Garbiras-Díaz and Laura García-Montoya

Between 1947 and 1994, Radio Sutatenza influenced the lives of millions of Colombians through its broadcasted lessons and *Escuelas Radiofónicas*. In this paper, we explore the effects of Radio Sutatenza and Escuelas Radiofónicas on armed conflict intensity. That is both on violence and on the expansion of armed group presence. The findings of this paper advance our understanding of the relationship between education and civil war. The context in which Radio Sutatenza was created and its later phase of expansion offers a unique opportunity to study whether education can break violence cycles. We estimate the effect of Escuelas Radiofónicas on the incidence of violence at the municipal level using two different identification strategies, a difference in differences design and an instrumental variables approach. We find robust evidence for the pacifying effect of education at the subnational level. Specifically, municipalities with radio schools experienced lower violence levels in the 1960s and, later, in the 1970s.
  • Presented in the 2020 APSA Annual Meeting

Can the Size of the Legislature Decrease Government Efficiency? Evidence from Colombia's Councils
Mario Chacón and Natalia Garbiras-Díaz

Can the size of the legislature affect the efficiency and quality of public administration? Recent empirical work on the economic consequences of legislative organization has focused exclusively on the relationship between legislative size and fiscal spending. We expand the scope of this literature by exploring the impact of bigger legislative bodies on the efficiency of public service provision. We use a constitutional rule which creates a discontinuous relationship between population and size of elected councils in Colombia to estimate the effect of legislature size on the efficiency of local public goods. Theoretically a bigger councils should increase the checks and accountability on the local executive, and thus leading to higher and better quality public goods provision. Yet we find no systematic evidence for such positive mechanism. Moreover, we find preliminary negative and signifficant effects on fiscal and administrative efficiency, particularly in small cities. Our results indicate a more nuanced relationship between legislative size and government efficiency, and complement the theoretical literature on public overspending.
  • Presented in the 2017 EPSA Annual Meeting

Social Norms and the Persistence of Corruption: Experimental evidence of individuals' attitudes and behavior related to corruption in Latin America
Natalia Garbiras-Díaz

Despite systematic efforts by both countries and the international community to reduce its prevalence, corruption remains a pervasive phenomenon across the developing world. What explains the persistence of corruption? Furthermore, can social norms account for some of this persistence? In this paper, I study the effect of injunctive norms (the perceived moral rules that determine the approval or disapproval of social behavior) and descriptive norms (the perceived frequency of a conduct in a particular context) on individuals' behavior and attitudes towards corruption. I explore this question using a survey experiment conducted in Argentina, which isolates alternative explanations for corruption. I randomly show respondents vignettes that manipulate either the descriptive or injunctive norm. I then ask them to answer a series of questions that measure their attitudes toward bribery (e.g., the extent to which they consider bribery to be justifiable, among other questions), as well as other behavioral outcomes. While I find empirical evidence for the effect of descriptive norms on both individuals' attitudes and behavior related to corruption; I find no statistical support for the effect of injunctive norms on any of the analyzed outcomes. Taken together, results suggest that descriptive norms operate as informational devices, and that correcting misperceptions about these may serve as an antidote against corruption. To the best of my knowledge, little work has been done to identify the causal effect of social norms, and their interactions, on corruption. In this respect, this paper makes two contributions. From a theoretical perspective, it contributes to a growing body of research on the effect of culture on corruption, providing evidence on the causal relationship between social norms and attitudes toward bribery. From a policy perspective, it sheds light on methods to successfully design anti-corruption campaigns that reduce individuals' likelihood to engage in petty corruption.

Conflict exposure and state capacity: Explaining popular attitudes towards the peace agreement in Colombia (Under review)
Aila M. Matanock, Miguel García-Sánchez, and Natalia Garbiras-Díaz

There is no clear consensus on the effect of exposure to conflict on attitudes towards the peaceagreement signed between the Colombian government and the FARC. A group of studies sug-gests that exposure to FARC violence increased support for peace (Dávalos et al., 2018; Tellez, 2019). Others show that attitudes towards the peace process are not strongly correlated withconflict experiences (Hazlett and Parente, 2020; Liendo and Braithwaite, 2018; Nussio et al.,2015). In this paper, we weigh in on this debate. We argue that existing work on the linkbetween conflict exposure and support for peace has overlooked a key moderating variable:we believe that the structural factor behind attitudes towards peace is state capacity. Usingnew survey data from a matched sample of municipalities, which differ on conflict levels, weoffer quasi-experimental evidence. We test the effect of conflict exposure on citizens’ attitudestowards three sets of outcomes: general attitudes towards peace; provisions included in theaccord that directly benefit former combatants; and those potentially benefit regular citizensvia development programs. We find that citizens living in regions more affected by conflictare more favorable to the peace agreement and its provisions, but only among municipali-ties with low levels of state capacity. This relationship disappears among municipalities withhigher state capacity. We also find that these supportive attitudes are limited to provisionsthat offer them some evident benefit; it does not extend to provisions that primarily benefitformer combatants. Finally, and related to the mechanism, we find that citizens only in lowerstate capacity municipalities that have been affected by conflict are more optimistic about theagreement improving their welfare.

Actitudes de exintegrantes de las Farc–EP frente a la reincorporación
Ana Arjona, Leopoldo Fergusson, Natalia Garbiras-Díaz, Juana García-Duque, Tatiana Hiller, Lewis Polo and Michael Weintraub

En agosto del 2019 se cumplieron dos años de la reincorporación de las Farc-EP. Este proceso es uno de los principales desafíos de la implementación del Acuerdo Final firmado entre el Estado colombiano y la organización guerrillera en noviembre de 2016. Los avances en materia de reincorporación garantizarán su sostenibilidad. En este documento analizamos las actitudes de los exintegrantes frente al proceso en esta primera etapa, tomando los resultados del Registro Nacional de Reincorporación (RNR), realizado entre la Agencia Nacional de Reincorporación (ARN) y el componente Farc del Consejo Nacional de Reincorporación (CNR). Tras mostrar que hay aspectos positivos en las actitudes de las personas en proceso de reincorporación, y algunos que deben mirarse con preocupación, estudiamos qué características de los exintegrantes y su entorno se asocian con mejores actitudes y condiciones para la implementación del proceso de reincorporación. Complementamos este análisis contrastando las actitudes de la población en proceso de reincorporación con las de la población civil, haciendo paralelos, en términos de los retos de política pública, para ambos grupos. La evidencia presentada sirve para canalizar esfuerzos en donde más parecen necesitarse.


University of California, Berkeley

PS 231B: Quantitative Analysis in Political Research
    Graduate-level course, UC Berkeley, Spring 2017
    Graduate Student Instructor for Professor Thad Dunning

PS 3: Introduction to Empirical Analysis and Quantitative Methods
    Undergraduate-level course, UC Berkeley, Fall 2016
    Graduate Student Instructor (GSI) and head GSI for Professor Laura Stoker
PS 2: Introduction to Comparative Politics
    Undergraduate-level course, UC Berkeley, Spring 2016
    Graduate Student Instructor for Professor Steve M. Fish
ECON 110: Game Theory in the Social Sciences
    Undergraduate-level course, UC Berkeley, Fall 2015
    Graduate Student Instructor for Professor Robert Powell


Teaching Assistant for the EGAP Learning Days
    Workshop 2 in Santiago, Chile May 2016

Instructor for the EGAP Learning Days
    Workshop 5 in Guatemala City, Guatemala August 2017
    Workshop 7 in Montevideo, Uruguay February 2018
    Workshop 8 in Bogotá, Colombia April 2019

Universidad de Los Andes
    Methodology Workshop (undergraduate) with Juan Carlos Rodríguez-Raga (Fall 2012)
    Game Theory (undergraduate) with Oskar Nupia (Spring 2011)
    Fundamentals of Methodology (undergraduate) with Miguel García-Sánchez (Spring 2011)


Title: Paving the way for the rise of outsiders: candidate and voter behavior in the era of political disillusionment
Committee: Thad Dunning (Chair), Aila Matanock, Ruth Collier & Ernesto Dal Bó

My dissertation studies the causes and consequences of anti-establishment political candidates. Across many young and advanced democracies alike, citizens are disillusioned with political and party systems. In this context, I argue that anti-establishment and anti-corruption appeals provide promising campaign devices for political challengers seeking to mobilize those disenchanted voters. Yet, the effectiveness of these appeals varies across informational and institutional environments, as I explore in different parts of my dissertation.

Does compulsory voting breed anti-establishment voting? Evidence from Brazilian presidential elections
Public opinion surveys show rising levels of distrust in parties and anti-elite preferences among voters worldwide. By capitalizing on this sentiment, anti-establishment candidates have increasingly won office in new and established democracies alike. Yet, certain institutional arrangements may be more conducive to the electoral success of these candidates. In this paper, I argue that compulsory voting may boost anti-establishment candidates by encouraging turnout among voters who would have otherwise abstained. At the voting booth, these voters are more likely to vote for candidates who align with their anti-establishment sentiment. I test this theory in the context of Brazil’s 2018 presidential election, leveraging age thresholds that make voting compulsory at the individual level as well as randomized variation in the proportion of compulsory voters across voting booths. I demonstrate that compulsory voting led to a sizable increase in electoral support for anti-establishment presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro. My findings underscore how critical turnout is for the prospects of anti-establishment candidates, as well as the unexpected effect of an institution often thought to bolster the quality of democracy.

Monitoring the Vote or Voting to Monitor? Evidence from Two Large Scale Field Experiments in Colombia With Mateo Montenegro
Can crowdsourcing technologies aimed at augmenting civil oversight of elections increase electoral integrity? We report the results of two large-scale field experiments designed to assess the effectiveness of online crowdsourcing technologies in increasing the engagement of civil society in electoral monitoring around elections in Colombia. We leveraged Facebook advertisements to encourage citizen reporting of electoral irregularities through official websites, and also varied whether candidates were informed about the campaign in a subset of municipalities. In addition to the expected informational effects – whereby citizen reports increased, and politicians reduced their engagement in electoral irregularities – the results highlight powerful salience effects, which operated by making electoral irregularities more top-of-mind to citizens. Specifically, the advertisements generated a large shift in the vote share of candidates perceived to be less corrupt and away from those perceived to be more corrupt. We argue that these salience effects are driven by a shift in voter preferences towards candidates they perceived as ‘cleaner’. We formally test this hypothesis in a follow-up experiment around the 2019 mayoral elections in which we vary the salience of electoral irregularities in the advertisements sent through Facebook. As expected, we find that the advertisements featuring messages emphasizing the salience of electoral misdeeds generate a larger shift in the votes for ‘cleaner’ candidates than the ones only providing information about the reporting website.

Outsiders' campaign strategies: valence shocks and anti-corruption appeals in the context of local elections in Brazil In progress.