Cumulative Knowledge in the Social Sciences: The Case of Improving Voters’ Information

31 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2018 Last revised: 21 Mar 2022

See all articles by Federica Izzo

Federica Izzo

London School of Economics, Department of Government

Torun Dewan

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government

Date Written: August 26, 2018

Abstract

Two (non-exhaustive) conditions are necessary for knowledge accumulation: unbiasedness and comparability. Research designs should be unbiased so that researchers obtain correct estimates of an underlying quantity. Empirical specifications should permit comparability so that researchers measure the same quantity across distinct studies. The first condition is covered by the causal revolution, the second is the object of this paper. Using the example of interventions providing additional information to voters, we highlight the difficulty to obtain comparability even after removing all concerns linked to external validity, all statistical noise, and all sources of bias. Commonly used specifications reach comparability only under specific, non-testable conditions. We propose several recommendations to restore comparability.

Keywords: electoral accountability, accumulation of knowledge, comparability, bias, theoretical implications of empirical models

JEL Classification: D72, D80, C99, C81, H40

Suggested Citation

Izzo, Federica and Dewan, Torun and Wolton, Stephane, Cumulative Knowledge in the Social Sciences: The Case of Improving Voters’ Information (August 26, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3239047 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3239047

Federica Izzo (Contact Author)

London School of Economics, Department of Government ( email )

Northampton NN7 1NE
United Kingdom

Torun Dewan

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Northampton NN7 1NE
United Kingdom

Stephane Wolton

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) - Department of Government ( email )

Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

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