Does the Content and Mode of Delivery of Information Matter for Political Accountability? Evidence from a Field Experiment in Mexico
Eric Arias, Horacio Larreguy, John Marshall, and Pablo Querubín
Evidence that information campaigns help voters select better politicians is mixed. We propose that comparative performance information and public dissemination may moderate information’s effects on electoral accountability, by respectively helping voters to identify malfeasance incumbent parties and facilitating coordination around the information. We test these mechanisms using a large-scale field experiment that provided voters with the results of audit reports documenting mayoral malfeasance before the 2015 Mexican municipal elections. We find that neither benchmarking incumbent performance against mayors from other parties within the state, nor accompanying leaflet delivery with loudspeakers announcing the leaflets’ delivery, significantly moderated the effects of information on voter beliefs or incumbent party vote share. Comparative performance information’s ineffectiveness likely reflects voters’ limited updating from the particular comparison provided, while the loudspeaker created common knowledge without meaningfully facilitating voter coordination. The results highlight challenges in designing informational campaigns to capture the theoretical conditions conducive to electoral accountability.