Providing Voters with Information on Politicians’ Performance in Benin
Researchers: Claire Adida (UC San Diego), Jessica Gottlieb (Texas A&M), Eric Kramon (George Washington University), Gwyneth McClendon (Harvard)
Through this study we hope to better understand the contexts under which information about politician performance affects citizens’ political behavior. The study is located in Benin where voters currently care little about how well members of parliment perform formal legislative activities and instead vote largely based on the provision of clientelistic constituency services. To the extent that national legislation is required for the effective provision of local public goods, voters should, in theory, want national representatives to be good legislators. We argue that voters and politicians in clientelistic countries like Benin are, however, in an equilibrium in which voters fail to coordinate on holding politicians responsible for poor legislative performance. The study will implement interventions aimed at shifting this equilibrium and changing the dimension along which voters hold politicians responsible, from constituency service to legislative performance.
A two-armed experiment will vary both the type of information provided and whether the information is deemed common or private knowledge. In advance of the spring 2015 elections in Benin, the first intervention provides information about the implications of legislative performance for the provision of local public goods. The second intervention varies the intensity of treatment and thus whether voters know how other voters have been treated.The results of the study may provide invaluable evidence on the kinds of simple policy interventions that are easily scalable and that can change both voter expectations and their ability to coordinate around information. With increased political participation, the ultimate benefit for society is increased accountability in African politics.