Horacio Larreguy (Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México, ITAM), "Accountability Under Polarization" (w/ José Ramón Enríquez, John Marshall, & Alberto Simpser)
Political polarization can undermine electoral accountability by distorting how citizens process objective information about incumbent government performance. We study how voting behavior is affected when nudging citizens in a polarized environment to incorporate information about government performance. In particular, we experimentally evaluate in 500 Mexican municipalities the electoral effects of a local NGO's Facebook ad campaign providing citizens with benchmarked information about COVID-19 cases and deaths in their municipality in the run-up to the 2021 elections. On its own, the information had a backfiring effect, increasing (reducing) the vote share received by the local incumbent party with relatively high (low) levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths. A randomly assigned anti-polarization treatment, however, reversed the backfiring: voters electorally rewarded (punished) incumbents with relatively low (high) levels of COVID-19 cases and deaths. The backfiring effect is driven by areas with high past vote share for the incumbent, higher shares of citizens with communal values, and behavior indicative of more-stressed citizens. Our findings demonstrate how biases in information processing can undermine electoral accountability in polarized contexts with high levels of mistrust and heightened emotions, and the potential for nudges to restore electoral accountability.
Co-sponsored by FAS and IQSS, the Alberto Alesina Seminar on Political Economy supports research-related activities that integrate the study of economics and politics, whether by studying economic behavior in the political process or political behavior in the marketplace. In general, positive political economy is concerned with showing how observed differences among institutions affect political and economic outcomes in various social, economic, and political systems and how the institutions themselves change and develop in response to individual and collective beliefs, preferences, and strategies.
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