Coordinating Voters against Criminal Politicians: Evidence from a Mobile Experiment in India

Citation:

Siddharth George, Sarika Gupta, Manoj Kumar, and Yusuf Neggers. Working Paper. “Coordinating Voters against Criminal Politicians: Evidence from a Mobile Experiment in India”.

Abstract:

Adverse selection to political office is now a salient concern in some mature democracies, but it is commonplace in the developing world. In India, 9% of legislators face charges for murder, kidnapping, rape or armed robbery. Using a field experiment around the Uttar Pradesh state assembly elections, we test the theory that criminal politicians get elected because voters lack information to screen candidates and coordinate on good candidates. We partnered with 3 telecom providers and ran a voter information campaign involving over 600,000 voters. Voters in treated villages received a voice call and text message informing them about the criminal charges of all candidates in their constituency. Our campaign caused clean candidates to receive 6pp more votes and the most violent criminal candidates (ie. murderers) to receive 7.7pp fewer votes. Effects were strongest for the coordination treatment arm, in which individuals were informed that many other voters had also received the message. The results suggest that voter frictions such as information asymmetry and coordination failure may cause bad political equilibria to persist. 
Last updated on 11/29/2018