Information Acquisition and Projecting Invincibility in Authoritarian Elections
56 Pages Posted: 8 Jan 2016 Last revised: 3 May 2019
Date Written: May 14, 2018
What role do elections play in nondemocracies? We propose an empirical test that can distinguish between two major families of theories on authoritarian elections: that elections can be used to maintain an image of invincibility of the regime (Influence Theory), and that elections can be used to get information about the popularity of the regime (Information Theory). While these theories might not be mutually exclusive, we show that they generate different predictions about the spatial allocation of electoral manipulations. Under the Influence Theory, electoral manipulations happen in areas where the potential for a successful protest is high. Under the Information Theory, electoral manipulation should happen only in places where the potential for a successful protest is low. Using data from the 2011 parliamentary election in Russia and a regionally representative public opinion survey from one of the Kremlin's pollsters conducted before the election, we find that electoral manipulations were more likely to happen in regions where the level of protest potential is lower. When the protest potential goes up by 10 percentage points, the estimates of electoral manipulation in a subsequent election go down by a half of their standard deviation, thus corroborating the Information Theory.
Keywords: Autocracy, Elections, Electoral Fraud
JEL Classification: D72, D78
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation