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Information Dissemination, Competitive Pressure, and Politician Performance between Elections: A Field Experiment in Uganda

  • GUY GROSSMAN (a1) and KRISTIN MICHELITCH (a2)
Abstract

Politicians shirk when their performance is obscure to constituents. We theorize that when politician performance information is disseminated early in the electoral term, politicians will subsequently improve their performance in anticipation of changes in citizens’ evaluative criteria and possible challenger entry in the next election. However, politicians may only respond in constituencies where opposition has previously mounted. We test these predictions in partnership with a Ugandan civil society organization in a multiyear field experiment conducted in 20 district governments between the 2011 and 2016 elections. While the organization published yearly job duty performance scorecards for all incumbents, it disseminated the scorecards to constituents for randomly selected politicians. These dissemination efforts induced politicians to improve performance across a range of measures, but only in competitive constituencies. Service delivery was unaffected. We conclude that, conditional on electoral pressure, transparency can improve politicians’ performance between elections but not outcomes outside of their control.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Guy Grossman is an Assistant Professor, University of Pennsylvania, 208 S. 37th Street Room 217, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6215 (ggros@sas.upenn.edu).
Kristin Michelitch is an Assistant Professor, Vanderbilt University, Commons Center PMB 0505, 230 Appleton Place, Nashville, TN 37203-5721 (kristin.michelitch@vanderbilt.edu).
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We thank Areum Han, Ana Garcia Hernandez, Christine Goldrick, Lindsay Van Landeghem, Simon Robertson, Maximilian Seunik, and Austin Walker for invaluable research assistance. This project would not have been possible without our ACODE team partners, especially Godber Tumushabe, Arthur Bainomugisha, Eugene Ssemakula, Lillian Tamale, Phoebe Atakunda, Naomi Kabarungi, and Naomi Asimo. We are grateful to the Democratic Governance Facility and the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for its generous funding. This study benefited tremendously from presenting an early design memo at the EGAP-7 meeting at the University of British Columbia. We thank the following for detailed comments: Josh Clinton, Jonathan Hiskey, Dave Lewis, Pia Raffler, Alan Wiseman, and participants at the Yale Leitner Seminar, Princeton Comparative Politics Colloquia, NYU Abu Dhabi Speaker Seminar, Vanderbilt CSDI Seminar, Southern Political Science Association Africa Political Economy Workshop, University of Minnesota Comparative Politics Series, Washington University’s Workshop on Elite Accountability, Watson Institute’s Development and Governance Seminar, Colby College, University of Illinois, and the EGAP-17 meeting at Yale University.

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