Posted: 21 Mar 2016 Last revised: 8 Aug 2016
Date Written: 2016
This paper examines whether democracy promotion programs typically supported by international donors -- civic education and election observation -- can affect citizens' attitudes and political behaviors in countries where violence has become a routine part of the electoral process. This is the context found during Côte d'Ivoire's 2015 presidential election, the first such election held in the country after the previous election led to a civil war. In the run-up to the election, we conducted a survey of potential voters to assess their confidence in the electoral process, their approval of violent tactics, and their participation in election activities. Respondents in four regions of the country and nine neighborhoods of the country's largest city, Abidjan, were randomly exposed to experimental treatment conditions regarding local voter education, monitoring by domestic observers, or monitoring by international observers. Additionally, in randomly selected neighborhoods of Abidjan, we collaborated with a local civil society organization to conduct a field experiment that provided residents with an actual voter education campaign. Our findings appreciably nuance, if not challenge, the received wisdom on the benefits of democracy promotion programs in four ways. First, we find that voter responses to the experimental primes were significantly shaped by local political conditions: Abidjan respondents reacted in systematically different ways when compared to those in the four rural regions. Second, voters exposed to the voter education prime had more negative attitudes toward the state of democracy in their country and whether it was safe to vote. Third, the election observation primes did not systematically affect voters' responses on most questions. Fourth, respondents exposed to the field experiment in Abidjan were significantly less likely to believe it would be safe to vote, more likely to fear becoming the target of violence, and less likely to trust the police.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Arriola, Leonardo R. and Davis, Justine and Matanock, Aila M. and Travaglianti, Manuela, Effects of Civic Education and Electoral Observation During Violent Elections (2016). ASA 2016 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2750578