Voter Mobilization and Trust in Electoral Institutions: Evidence from Kenya
In a large-scale randomized experiment implemented with Kenya’s Electoral Commission in 2013, text messages intended to mobilize voters boosted electoral participation. However, the messages also decreased trust in electoral institutions after the election. This decrease was stronger for individuals on the losing side of the election and in areas that experienced election-related violence. We hypothesize that the mobilization campaign backfired because the Electoral Commission promised a transparent and orderly electoral process but failed to deliver on these expectations. Several potential mechanisms account for the intervention’s unexpected effects, including a simple model where signaling capacity via mobilization messages can negatively affect beliefs about the fairness of the election.
We are grateful to Suleiman Asman, Bonnyface Mwangi, Gayathri Ramani, and Eleanor Wiseman for outstanding research management and assistance in the field, and we thank Diego Aparicio, Layane El Hor, and Shweta Bhogale for excellent research assistance in Cambridge. We benefited from helpful comments and suggestions from Eli Berman, Esther Duflo, Horacio Larreguy, Benjamin Olken, as well as seminar audiences at the 2013 APSA Annual Meeting, Brown University, Duke University, the MIT Sloan Centennial, University of Capetown, University of Washington Seattle, Williams College, Yale University, and the Spring 2016 WGAPE Meeting. We gratefully acknowledge financial support from the MIT Sloan School of Management, the Program on Innovation in Markets and Organizations at MIT Sloan and the J-PAL Governance Initiative. The experiment was registered at the American Economic Association RCT registry in April 2014, available at https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/30. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
I would like to report that I was employed as a Project Associate (2010-2011), and subsequently as a Project Coordinator (2011-2013) by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), a non-profit based in New Haven, CT, USA.
Besides this position, I have no relevant financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper.Vincent Pons
I would like to report that I am the cofounder of a start‐up that provides campaign technology for politics and business in Europe, LiegeyMullerPons (http://www.liegeymullerpons.fr/en/).
Besides this position, I have no relevant financial interests that relate to the research described in this paper.
Benjamin Marx & Vincent Pons & Tavneet Suri, 2021. "Voter Mobilisation and Trust in Electoral Institutions: Evidence from Kenya," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 131(638), pages 2585-2612. citation courtesy of