Making Policies Matter: Voter Responses to Campaign Promises

75 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2018

See all articles by Cesi Cruz

Cesi Cruz

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Political Science

Philip Keefer

Inter-American Development Bank

Julien Labonne

University of Oxford - Blavatnik School of Government

Francesco Trebbi

Vancouver School of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: June 2018

Abstract

Can campaign promises change voter behavior, even where clientelism and vote buying are pervasive? We elicit multidimensional campaign promises from political candidates in consecutive mayoral elections in the Philippines. Voters who are randomly informed about these promises rationally update their beliefs about candidates, along both policy and valence dimensions. Those who receive information about current promises are more likely to vote for candidates with policy promises closest to their own preferences. Those informed about current and past campaign promises reward incumbents who fulfilled their past promises; they perceive them to be more honest and competent. However, voters with clientelist ties to candidates respond weakly to campaign promises. A structural model allows us to disentangle information effects on beliefs and preferences by comparing actual incumbent vote shares with shares in counterfactual elections: both effects are substantial. Even in a clientelist democracy, counterfactual incumbent vote shares deviate more from actual shares when policy and valence play no role in campaigning than when vote-buying plays no role. Finally, a cost benefit analysis reveals that vote-buying is nevertheless more effective than information campaigns, explaining why candidates do not use them.

Suggested Citation

Cruz, Cesi and Keefer, Philip and Labonne, Julien and Trebbi, Francesco, Making Policies Matter: Voter Responses to Campaign Promises (June 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24785, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3210439

Cesi Cruz (Contact Author)

University of British Columbia (UBC) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Vancouver, V6T 1Z1
Canada

Philip Keefer

Inter-American Development Bank ( email )

1300 New York Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20577
United States
202-623-1961 (Phone)

Julien Labonne

University of Oxford - Blavatnik School of Government ( email )

10 Merton St
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4JJ
United Kingdom

Francesco Trebbi

Vancouver School of Economics ( email )

University of British Columbia
6000 Iona Dr.
Vancouver Canada, BC V6T 1L4
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.arts.ubc.ca/ftrebbi/

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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