Job Market Paper

Abstract: During the 2014 Indian general elections, we carried out a large-scale field experiment to evaluate the electoral effects of an information campaign to persuade voters to reject politicians who engaged in vote buying. We broadcast ads on randomly selected radio stations, emphasizing the incentives of politicians who distribute “gifts” to voters and the likely economic consequences of electing them. The ads appealed to voters to act in their economic self-interest and urged them to renege on any promises to vote for such politicians. By strategically timing the broadcasts after the prescribed electioneering period but before voters went to the polls, we are able to estimate the electoral effects of educating and persuading voters while holding politician behavior fixed. Prior to the announcement of the election results we interviewed approximately 400 journalists, asking them to identify parties that had engaged in vote buying in different areas. Using official electoral data, we find that exposure to the radio campaign significantly decreased the vote share of these putative vote-buying parties, with estimates ranging from 4 to 7 percentage points (depending on specification) and had a small negative but statistically insignificant effect on the voter turnout rate.

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