Cumulative Knowledge in the Social Sciences: The Case of Improving Voters’ Information
50 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2018
Date Written: August 26, 2018
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: Suggested Citation