Making Policies Matter: Voter Responses to Campaign Promises
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.