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Is Vote Buying Effective? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in West Africa

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  • Pedro C. Vicente

Abstract

Vote buying is a frequent practice during election time in many parts of the world. But no research has been done to quantify its effects on voters` electoral behavior. To address this challenge, we have designed and conducted a randomized experiment during the presidential elections of July 2006 in Sao Tome and Principe. This is a newly found oil-rich West African country that has been facing an increase in `retail` vote buying. Our research design included a randomized campaign against vote buying sponsored by the Electoral Commission of the country, and pre-electoral campaign/post-election panel surveys in treatment (exposed to the campaign) and control locations, including 1034 subjects across 50 different areas. We observe a significant effect of the campaign on perceptions of vote buying, which constitutes the exogenous variation we use to identify effects on voting behavior. We characterize determinants of vote buying (more frequent in swing and rural locations), and find that vote buying energizes the electorate by increasing turnout. Crucially, we capture real effects on candidates` relative performance, by identifying the challenger to be driving more votes through vote buying (after the treatment), which is consistent with the timeline of events (late challenger candidacy). This result controls for changes in information about the candidates (e.g. policy platforms) and location-specific minutes spent by international electoral observers.

Suggested Citation

  • Pedro C. Vicente, 2007. "Is Vote Buying Effective? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in West Africa," Economics Series Working Papers 318, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxf:wpaper:318
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    File URL: http://www.economics.ox.ac.uk/materials/working_papers/paper318.pdf
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    Cited by:

    1. Andrés Cendales, 2012. "Vote Buying, Political Patronage and Selective Plunder," Latin American Journal of Economics-formerly Cuadernos de Economía, Instituto de Economía. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile., vol. 49(2), pages 237-276, November.
    2. León, Gianmarco, 2017. "Turnout, political preferences and information: Experimental evidence from Peru," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 127(C), pages 56-71.
    3. Isaksson, Ann-Sofie & Kotsadam, Andreas & Nerman, Måns, 2012. "The Gender Gap in African Political Participation: Individual and contextual determinants," Working Papers in Economics 530, University of Gothenburg, Department of Economics.
    4. Chad Kendall & Tommaso Nannicini & Francesco Trebbi, 2015. "How Do Voters Respond to Information? Evidence from a Randomized Campaign," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(1), pages 322-353, January.
    5. Dercon, Stefan & Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana, 2012. "Triggers and Characteristics of the 2007 Kenyan Electoral Violence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(4), pages 731-744.
    6. Lisa Chauvet & Paul Collier, 2009. "Elections and economic policy in developing countries," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 24, pages 509-550, 07.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Vote buying; Electoral politics; Political economy; Randomized experiment; West Africa;

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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