Eat Widely, Vote Wisely? Lessons from a Campaign Against Vote Buying in Uganda

72 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2020

See all articles by Christopher Blattman

Christopher Blattman

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Horacio Larreguy Arbesu

Harvard University

Benjamin Marx

Sciences Po - Department of Economics

Otis Reid

Independent

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 2020

Abstract

We estimate the effects of one of the largest anti-vote-buying campaigns ever studied---half a million voters exposed across 1427 villages---in Uganda's 2016 elections. Working with civil society organizations, we designed the study to estimate how voters and candidates responded to their campaign in treatment and spillover villages, and how impacts varied with treatment intensity. Despite its heavy footprint, the intervention did not reduce offers of gifts in exchange for votes. However, it had sizable effects in the polling booth. Votes swung from well-funded incumbents (who buy most votes) towards their poorly-financed challengers. Qualitative and quantitative evidence suggests the swing arose from tactical responses by candidates as well as changes in village norms. Specifically, while the campaign struggled to instill norms of refusing gifts, it convinced some voters to abandon reciprocity---to accept gifts but vote for their preferred candidate. This leveling of the electoral playing field led challengers to buy votes in markets where they had previously been deterred from entering.

Keywords: Africa, Elections, field experiment, voting behavior

JEL Classification: C93, D72, O55

Suggested Citation

Blattman, Christopher and Larreguy Arbesu, Horacio and Marx, Benjamin and Reid, Otis, Eat Widely, Vote Wisely? Lessons from a Campaign Against Vote Buying in Uganda (June 2020). CEPR Discussion Paper No. DP14919, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3638023

Christopher Blattman (Contact Author)

University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1101 East 58th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Horacio Larreguy Arbesu

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Benjamin Marx

Sciences Po - Department of Economics ( email )

28, rue des Saints peres
Paris, 75007
France

Otis Reid

Independent ( email )

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