Common Knowledge, Relative Performance, and Political Accountability
Principal Investigators: Eric Arias, Horacio Larreguy, John Marshall, Pablo Querubin
After over 70 years of single-party rule, Mexico has become a vibrant multi-party democracy since the mid 1990’s. There have been significant efforts to improve accountability and transparency through the creation of federal institutions in charge of overseeing free and fair elections (INE), freedom of access to information (IFAI), and auditing of governments at different administrative levels (ASF). Despite these efforts, corruption is widespread and there are serious failures in basic service delivery. A potential explanation is that Mexican voters remain largely uninformed about the performance of their politicians, which is a necessary condition to achieve political accountability through the electoral process. Moreover, little is known about the most effective way of informing voters in order to empower them to hold politicians accountable. Our informational intervention intends to fill this gap by experimenting with different ways of information provision. The lessons from Mexico can also be translated to other developing democracies—especially in Latin America—that share similar features.
Intervention Date: May – July 2015 (June 7 election)
Our research design is factorial and varies along two main dimensions: the method of delivery (private vs. social), and the type of provided information (local vs. relative). In the private treatment, voters will receive information privately through leaflets distributed door-to-door by enumerators. In the social treatment, we will couple the leaflet delivery with cars with loudspeakers attracting attention to the leaflet delivery. In the local-information treatment, we will provide information about the incumbent party in voters’ municipality alone, while in the relative-information treatment we will couple it with information about the performance of incumbent and challenging parties in similar municipalities.
- Voters are more likely to punish poor performance in the social than in the private information treatment.
- Voters punish poor-performing politicians more severely when they also receive:
- information that comparable incumbents from challenging parties performed better;
- information that comparable incumbents from the local incumbent’s party also performed poorly;
- the combination of 1 and 2
- The strength of these results will vary with voter priors and the extent to which voters believe candidates within and between parties are correlated.