Political Activists as Free-Riders: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment

79 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2019

See all articles by Anselm Hager

Anselm Hager

University of Oxford

Lukas Hensel

University of Oxford

Johannes Hermle

University of Bonn

Christopher Roth

University of Warwick, Faculty of Social Studies, Department of Economics, Students

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Abstract

How does a citizen's decision to participate in political activism depend on the participation of others? We examine this core question of collective action in a nation-wide natural field experiment in collaboration with a major European party during a recent national election. In a seemingly unrelated party survey, we randomly assign canvassers to true information about the canvassing intentions of their peers. Using survey evidence and behavioral data from the party's smartphone canvassing application, we find that treated canvassers significantly reduce both their canvassing intentions and behavior when learning that their peers participate more in canvassing than previously believed. These treatment effects are particularly large for supporters who have weaker social ties to the party, and for supporters with higher career concerns within the party. The evidence implies that effort choices of political activists are, on average, strategic substitutes. However, social ties to other activists can act as a force for strategic complementarity.

Keywords: political activism, natural field experiment, strategic behavior, beliefs

JEL Classification: D8, P16

Suggested Citation

Hager, Anselm and Hensel, Lukas and Hermle, Johannes and Roth, Christopher, Political Activists as Free-Riders: Evidence from a Natural Field Experiment. IZA Discussion Paper No. 12759, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3488186 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3488186

Anselm Hager (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

Lukas Hensel

University of Oxford ( email )

South Parks Road
Oxford, OX1 3QZ
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://https://sites.google.com/view/lukashenseleconomics

Johannes Hermle

University of Bonn ( email )

Regina-Pacis-Weg 3
Postfach 2220
Bonn, D-53012
Germany

Christopher Roth

University of Warwick, Faculty of Social Studies, Department of Economics, Students ( email )

Coventry, CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

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