How to win an election? Substance not cash.

I’m at the Experiments in Governance and Politics conference today, with many excellent papers.

Politicians, take heed once more. Deliberating policy platforms is cheaper and more effective than rallies and vote-buying.

The experiment took place during the March 2011 elections in Benin and involved 150 randomly selected villages. The treatment group had town hall meetings where voters deliberated over their candidate’s electoral platforms with no cash distribution. The control group had the standard campaign, i.e. one-way communication of the candidate’s platform by himself or his local broker, followed (most of the time) by cash distribution.

We find that the treatment has a positive effect on turnout. In addition, using village level election returns, we find no significant difference in electoral support for the experimental candidate between treatment and control villages.

…the positive treatment effect is driven in large part by active information sharing by those who attended the meetings.

See the full paper, by Leonard Wantchekon.