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Left Behind? Citizen Responsiveness to Government Performance Information


Do citizens respond to policy-based information signals about government performance? Using multiple big datasets—which link for the first time large-scale school administrative records and individual validated voting behavior—I show that citizens react to exogenous school failure signals provided by No Child Left Behind. These signals cause a noticeable increase in turnout in local school board elections and increase the competitiveness of these races. Additionally, I present evidence that school failure signals cause citizens to vote with their feet by exiting failing schools, suggesting that exit plays an underexplored role in democratic accountability. However, performance signals elicit a response unequally, with failure primarily mobilizing high propensity citizens and encouraging exit among those who are white, affluent, and more likely to vote. Hence, while performance signals spur a response, they do so only for a select few, leaving many others behind.

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Corresponding author
John Holbein is Ph.D. Candidate, Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University (
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American Political Science Review
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