Julien Labonne, Oxford University: "Candidate Promises, Citizens Knowledge and Vote-Buying. Experimental Evidence from the Philippines"


We report results of a novel experiment in the Philippines that sheds light on the dynamics of vote buying and the sources of incumbent advantage.  In particular, we examine the effect of an intervention in which we provide voters with credible information about the major spending promises of candidates. All mayoral candidates in twelve municipalities were asked to indicate how they would allocate their municipal budget. We disseminated this information to voters in 142 randomly selected villages in twelve municipalities. Four findings are notable.  First, voters who received this information were significantly more knowledgeable about candidates' proposed policies. Second, they were also more likely to report that candidate spending was an important determinant of their vote choice.  Third, treated voters were more likely to be targeted for vote buying.  Fourth, candidate vote shares were not affected by the treatment.  What explains the last two, apparently anomalous findings?  Consistent with arguments that incumbent advantage is rooted in asymmetric information, the treatment had a significant effect in incumbent-dominated municipalities: the knowledge and vote-buying impacts were higher in incumbent-dominated municipalities.