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Eat Widely, Vote Wisely? Lessons from a Campaign Against Vote Buying in Uganda

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  • Blattman, Chris
  • Larreguy, Horacio
  • Marx, Benjamin
  • Reid, Otis

Abstract

We estimate the effects of one of the largest anti-vote-buying campaigns ever studied—with half a million voters exposed across 1427 villages—in Uganda’s 2016 elections. Working with civil society organizations, we designed the study to estimate how voters and candidates responded to their campaign in treatment and spillover villages, and how impacts varied with campaign intensity. Despite its heavy footprint, the campaign did not reduce politician offers of gifts in exchange for votes. However, it had sizable effects on people’s votes. Votes swung from well-funded incumbents (who buy most votes) towards their poorly-financed challengers. We argue the swing arose from changes in village social norms plus the tactical response of candidates. While the campaign struggled to instill norms of refusing gifts, it leveled the electoral playing field by convincing some voters to abandon norms of reciprocity—thus accepting gifts from politicians but voting for their preferred candidate.

Suggested Citation

  • Blattman, Chris & Larreguy, Horacio & Marx, Benjamin & Reid, Otis, 2019. "Eat Widely, Vote Wisely? Lessons from a Campaign Against Vote Buying in Uganda," SocArXiv u34pr, Center for Open Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:osf:socarx:u34pr
    DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/u34pr
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    4. Gustavo J. Bobonis & Paul J. Gertler & Marco Gonzalez-Navarro & Simeon Nichter, 2022. "Vulnerability and Clientelism," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 112(11), pages 3627-3659, November.
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    7. Jeremy Bowles & Horacio Larreguy, 2019. "Who Debates, Who Wins? At-Scale Experimental Evidence on Debate Participation in a Liberian Election," CID Working Papers 375, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    8. Beber, Bernd & Scacco, Alexandra, 2012. "What the Numbers Say: A Digit-Based Test for Election Fraud," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 20(2), pages 211-234, April.
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    13. Timothy Besley & Torsten Persson & Daniel M. Sturm, 2010. "Political Competition, Policy and Growth: Theory and Evidence from the US," The Review of Economic Studies, Review of Economic Studies Ltd, vol. 77(4), pages 1329-1352.
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    15. Frey, Anderson, 2019. "Cash transfers, clientelism, and political enfranchisement: Evidence from Brazil," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 176(C), pages 1-17.
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    Cited by:

    1. Raúl Duarte & Frederico Finan & Horacio Larreguy & Laura Schechter, 2019. "Brokering Votes With Information Spread Via Social Networks," NBER Working Papers 26241, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Leopoldo Fergusson & Horacio Larreguy & Juan Felipe Riaño, 2022. "Political Competition and State Capacity: Evidence from a Land Allocation Program in Mexico," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 132(648), pages 2815-2834.
    3. Simon Haenni & Guilherme Lichand, 2020. "Harming to signal: child marriage vs. public donations in Malawi," IEW - Working Papers 348, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Mar 2021.
    4. Schechter, Laura & Vasudevan, Srinivasan, 2023. "Persuading voters to punish corrupt vote-buying candidates: Experimental evidence from a large-scale radio campaign in India," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 160(C).
    5. Jeremy Bowles & Horacio Larreguy & Shelley Liu, 2020. "How Weakly Institutionalized Parties Monitor Brokers in Developing Democracies: Evidence from Postconflict Liberia," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 64(4), pages 952-967, October.
    6. Gustavo J. Bobonis & Paul Gertler & Marco Gonzalez-Navarro & Simeon Nichter, 2023. "Does Combating Corruption Reduce Clientelism?," NBER Working Papers 31266, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Kao, Kristen & Lust, Ellen & Rakner, Lise, 2022. "Vote-buying, anti-corruption campaigns, and identity in African elections," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 160(C).
    8. Larreguy, Horacio & Bowles, Jeremy, 2020. "Who Debates, Who Wins? At-Scale Experimental Evidence on the Supply of Policy Information in a Liberian Election," IAST Working Papers 20-112, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse (IAST).
    9. Gallego, Jorge & Guardado, Jenny & Wantchekon, Leonard, 2023. "Do gifts buy votes? Evidence from sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 162(C).
    10. Jeremy Bowles & Horacio Larreguy, 2019. "Who Debates, Who Wins? At-Scale Experimental Evidence on Debate Participation in a Liberian Election," CID Working Papers 375, Center for International Development at Harvard University.
    11. Richard Akresh & Daniel Halim & Marieke Kleemans, 2023. "Long-Term and Intergenerational Effects of Education: Evidence from School Construction in Indonesia," The Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 133(650), pages 582-612.

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    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • O55 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies - - - Africa

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