Using a survey experiment, the authors randomize indirect and direct questions about support for state forces. The indirect measure is a list experiment, a method used in other contexts to reduce pressure on respondents to falsify preferences, due to fear of coercion or social sanctioning. Under a list experiment, one group receives a list of control items, and another group receives the same list with an item of interest added, and respondents in each sample are asked how many items they support.
The authors conducted a field experiment in Pernambuco, Brazil, to test whether voters punish politicians that are accused of malfeasance. The authors randomly sampled 3,200 voters two weeks prior to the 2016 municipal elections. A segment of respondents were randomly assigned to receive fliers with information about whether the incumbent mayor was in compliance with government laws and regulations. Other respondents received no information at all.