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Information and Accountability: Learning from seven coordinated field experiments

Monday February 5, 2018, at 13:30
Room 24.120 (First floor). Mercè Rodoreda building 24
Research seminar

Macartan Humphreys (Columbia University and WZB Berlin)

Simple logics suggest that the quality of democratic performance depends on the information available to voters about the performance of politicians. Absent information on politician performance voters are limited in their ability to select effective leaders and to use the ballot box as an incentive mechanism. Simple as the logic may be, there are both theoretical and empirical reasons to question it. In theory voters may base decisions on criteria other than performance. Empirical results appear inconsistent across contexts. In this study seven teams coordinated randomized interventions in six countries to assess whether exogenous shocks to information make voters more likely to support politicians that perform well and to sanction that that perform poorly. A Metanalysis across all studies finds little or no evidence of voter responsiveness to political information when deciding whether to vote and who to vote for.

Macartan Humphreys (Ph.D., Harvard, 2003) works on the political economy of development and formal political theory. Ongoing research focuses on political inequality, post-conflict development, identity politics, and democratic development with a current focus on the use of field experiments to study democratic decision-making in post-conflict and developing areas. He has conducted field research in Chad, Ghana, Haiti, Indonesia, Liberia, Mali, Sao Tome and Principe, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Uganda, and elsewhere. Recent work has appeared in the American Political Science Review, World Politics, the Economic Journal, and elsewhere. He has authored or coauthored books on ethnic politics, natural resource management, and game theory and politics. A former Trudeau fellow and scholar of the Harvard Academy, he is a Professor of Political Science at Columbia University and Director of research on Institutions and Political Inequality at the WZB in Berlin.