Making Policies Matter: Voter Responses to Campaign Promises

Cesi Cruz (University of British Columbia)
Philip Keefer (Inter-American Development Bank)
Julien Labonne (Oxford University)
Francesco Trebbi (University of British Columbia)

Abstract : We elicit multidimensional policy platforms from political candidates in consecutive mayoral elections in the Philippines and show that voters who are randomly informed about these promises rationally update their beliefs about candidates, along both policy and valence dimensions. Those who receive information about current campaign promises are more likely to vote for candidates with policy promises closest to their own preferences. Those informed about current and past campaign promises reward incumbents who fulfilled their past promises, as they perceive them to be more honest and competent. Voters with clientelist ties to candidates do not respond to information on campaign promises. We estimate a structural model that allows us to disentangle campaign information effects on beliefs (through updating) and psychological effects on preferences (through making policy salient to voters). Both effects are present in the data. Counterfactual exercises also demonstrate that policy and valence play a significant quantitative role in explaining vote shares. Finally, although these campaign promises have a significant impact, a cost-benefit analysis reveals that vote buying is more cost effective than information campaigns, establishing a rationale for why candidates in these environments do not use them in practice.

Hiding Control: Oligarchs, Predation, and Political Connections

John Earle (George Mason University)
Scott Gehlbach (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
Anton Shirikov (University of Wisconsin–Madison)
Solomiya Shpak (George Mason University)

Abstract : When firms are threatened with predation by competitors or the state, wealthy individuals may hide control of productive assets through opaque ownership chains and offshore firms. Leveraging a decision-theoretic model of hiding and political connections, we explore this relationship empirically with a study of Ukraine around the time of the Orange Revolution. Combining information from investigative journalists on control of over 300 key enterprises with rich data on formal ownership ties, we find that oligarchs who were in the opposition before the Orange Revolution were more likely to hide control through a variety of mechanisms. We also observe that oligarchs who were close to the regime in 2004 reversed course after the Orange Revolution, turning to offshore entities to protect their suddenly vulnerable assets. Exploiting presumed geographic variation in political connections, we find similar patterns of hiding in a larger sample of over 14,000 firms.

Testing Legislator Responsiveness to Citizens and Firms in Single-party Regimes: a Field Experiment in the Vietnamese National Assembly

Edmund Malesky (Duke University)
Jason Todd (Duke University)
Anh Tran (Indiana University)
Anh Le (Facebook)

Abstract : Our project aims to establish whether targeted provision of constituents’ preferences increases the responsiveness of delegates to the Vietnamese National Assembly (VNA). Utilizing a randomized control trial, we assign legislators to one of three groups: (1) those briefed on the opinions of their provincial citizenry; (2) those presented with the preferences of local firms; and (3) those receiving no informational treatment whatsoever. We also employ a saturation design, applying the treatments to differing shares of delegates across provinces. After the summer 2018 session, we collected behavioral data on delegates from the legislative session, including answers to a VNA Library survey about debate preparation; the identity of speakers in group caucuses, query sessions, and floor debates; and the textual content of those speeches. We find consistent evidence that citizen-treated delegates were more responsive, via debate preparation and the decision to speak; evidence from speech content is more mixed. More speculatively, we find little evidence of spillover from treated to untreated delegates, but substantial evidence of treatment reinforcement. Citizen-treated delegates grew more responsive as more of their peers possessed identical information.