Going Negative in Autocracy: A Field Experiment at the Moscow Mayoral Elections
25 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2020 Last revised: 2 Sep 2020
Date Written: October 29, 2019
Modern autocracies today hold elections but employ a number of tactics to control election outcomes. In response to unfairness of elections, opposition may organize negative campaign to persuade the electorate to vote against a regime candidate. The goal of this paper is to measure the effectiveness of negative campaigning on the incumbent’s vote share. For the field experiment that we conducted during the 2013 Moscow mayoral election, we published a newspaper criticizing the incumbent mayor. We distributed approximately 130,000 copies near the entrances of 20 randomly selected metro stations during a month prior to the election date. We find that the incumbent mayor’s vote share was lower by 1.89 percentage points at the voting stations located close to the metro stations of the newspaper distribution. We also document heterogeneous effect of the newspaper distribution. In particular, the effect of weekend distribution is 2.4 times greater than workday distribution, evening distribution is approximately 2 times greater than morning distribution.
Keywords: Elections, Electoral Authoritarianism, Negative Campaign, Media, Voting Behavior
JEL Classification: D72, L82, P26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation