Building Trust and Cooperation in Weak States: Persuasion and Source Accountability in Liberia during the 2014-2015 Ebola Crisis

Posted: 5 Mar 2019

See all articles by Lily Tsai

Lily Tsai

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Benjamin Morse

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science

Robert Blair

Brown University; Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Date Written: February 25, 2019

Abstract

How do governments in weak states persuade suspicious citizens to trust them and comply with emergency measures during crises? To answer this question, we study the effectiveness of the Liberian government’s door-to-door canvassing campaign during the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic by combining data from an original, representative survey of Monrovia conducted during the crisis with plausibly as-if random variation in where the campaign was and was not able to reach. We find that the campaign was remarkably effective at increasing adherence to safety precautions, support for contentious control policies, and general trust in government. To uncover the pathways through which the campaign proved so effective, we conducted over 100 in-depth qualitative interviews in 38 randomly sampled communities. Analysis of these interviews suggests that local intermediaries were effective because their embeddedness in communities subjected them to monitoring and sanctioning, thereby assuring their fellow residents that they were accountable and thus credible.

Keywords: Ebola Virus Disease, trust in government, Liberia, household surveys, epidemics

Suggested Citation

Tsai, Lily and Morse, Benjamin and Blair, Robert, Building Trust and Cooperation in Weak States: Persuasion and Source Accountability in Liberia during the 2014-2015 Ebola Crisis (February 25, 2019). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2019-01; Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Research Paper No. 2019-01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3341637

Lily Tsai (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Benjamin Morse

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
E53-406
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

Robert Blair

Brown University ( email )

Box 1860
Providence, RI 02912
United States

Brown University - Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

111 Thayer Street
Box 1970
Providence, RI 02912-1970
United States

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