When Does Information Influence Voters? The Joint Importance of Salience and Coordination
Claire Adida, Jessica Gottlieb, Eric Kramon, and Gwyneth McClendon
Comparative Political Studies (2019).
Scholars argue that access to information about a politician’s programmatic performance helps voters reward good performers and punish poor ones. But in places where resources are made conditional on collective electoral behavior, voters may not want to defect to vote for a strong legislative performer if they do not believe that others will. We argue that two conditions must hold for information about politician performance to affect voter behavior: Voters must care about the information and believe that others in their constituency care as well. In a field experiment around legislative elections in Benin, voters rewarded good programmatic performance only when information was both made relevant to voters and widely disseminated within the electoral district. Otherwise, access to positive legislative performance information actually lowered vote share for the incumbent’s party. These results demonstrate the joint importance of Salience and voter coordination in shaping information’s impact in clientelistic democracies.