Brief 28: Democracy Promotion In Cambodia

Survey questionWhat does a Member of the National Assembly do?Do you have the right to talk to your representative about your concerns?Would you or have you signed a petition?Would you or have you attended a political party event?It does not matter how I vote, nothing will change.
Answer coding1 = Attempted Answer, 0 = Unable to Answer1 = Yes, 0 = No1 = Yes, 0 = No1 = Yes, 0 = NoStrongly agree…, don’t know…, strongly disagree (2,1,0,-1,-2)
Pre-treatment average:.35.55.50.50.31
Effect of town-hall meeting+.18***(0.02)+.15***(0.025)+.12***(0.024)+.15***(0.014)-0.04(0.089)
Observations1,3161,3161,3161,3161,316
  1. This study provides some of the first rigorous, micro-level evidence to suggest that interventions seeking to promote democracy through direct interaction with their elected representatives can successfully increase knowledge about the political system, and encourage voters to express agreement with democratic norms, even in a repressive context.
  2. One potential concern for policy-makers interested in scaling up such interventions might be that they lead voters to develop unrealistic expectations with respect to their political system, particularly in a repressive environment. This study suggests that direct engagement with representatives does not dupe voters into blindly trusting in the political system.
  3. Another source of concern is that such interventions might lead voters to undertake risky actions. The town-hall meetings appear to have caused a greater reported willingness to take part in all manner of political actions, some of which may be risky, so this is a real concern that policy-makers should be wary of. In certain cases, it may be irresponsible of the implementing body to encourage forms of political participation that are likely to result in serious risks to the individuals undertaking them. On the other hand, in some cases, risky actions such as protest can also be a driver of significant political liberalization.
  4. Finally, the town-hall meetings appear to have encouraged greater political competition by changing voting behavior. This is a very promising development and suggests that experience interacting with representatives from multiple political parties may be an important tool of democracy promotion in electoral authoritarian regimes.