Improving governance and public service delivery with voter information campaigns

$200,000 | India | Stage 2

THE PROBLEM: The urban poor make up a large proportion of India’s voting population, but like in many developing country democracies, they have not translated their potential political weight into improved public service delivery and other benefits. Evidence suggests that voter information campaigns can mobilize citizens to vote in their interests, but little is known about the influence on politicians’ behavior.

THE PROJECT: With support from DIV, Abhijit Banerjee (MIT) and Rohini Pande (Harvard), with the Institute for Financial Management and Research in Chennai, will use a randomized control trial to evaluate how three novel types of voter mobilization campaigns can empower voters, create accountability mechanisms for politicians and improve services delivery.  The work both scales up and furthers previous studies by Banerjee, Pande, and others, which found that information, when publicly available, is highly valued and utilized, with a significant effect on voter behavior. The new study takes the next step of also evaluating changes in politician behavior, service delivery and the wellbeing of constituents. The study will provide some of the first evidence on how Freedom of Information Acts can aid citizen movements to hold politicians accountable.

PROJECTED COST EFFICIENCY:  The researchers hypothesize that the campaign will both increase spending totals and shift spending categories to better match voters' wishes. The project will assess the change in spending in treatment wards, which could easily dwarf the cost of the intervention, as well as measure whether residents in the treatment groups had fewer days lost to sickness (e.g. due to dirty water or poor sanitation, and differences in receipt of services such as education, electricity and water)

Last updated: February 19, 2013

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