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

50 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2018

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

What happens when voters become better informed about their representatives’ actions or performance? The empirical literature reports mixed findings on incumbents’ electoral fortunes for both good and bad news. We introduce a political agency model, meant to inform empirical research, in which voters are fully rational, unconstrained, and unbiased. We show that researchers should not expect information campaigns to always work or produce similar effects. Identical interventions in similar contexts can give different results. The same intervention measured in different ways can give different results. The analysis also highlights that the comparability of empirical estimates is non-monotonic in the geographical spread of observations. We offer recommendations to improve the accumulation of knowledge. By constructing variables related to governance outcomes and interacting them with treatment status in their regression analyses, researchers can recover fully comparable estimates of information treatment effects. Further, to avoid attenuation bias, good and bad news should be defined in absolute, not relative terms.

Keywords: Electoral Accountability, Reproduction, Accumulation of Knowledge, Comparability, Bias

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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