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Do Fair Elections Enhance Perceptions of Government? Experimental Evidence from Afghanistan

Michael Callen, UCSD

Friday, October 12, 2012
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
4357 Bunche Hall

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International development agencies invest heavily in institution building in fragile states, including expensive interventions supporting democratic elections. Yet little evidence exists on whether democratic elections enhance the domestic legitimacy of governments, in the sense that they increase the consent of residents to be governed. Using the random assignment of an election fraud-reducing intervention, we find that decreasing visible electoral misconduct improves four survey measures of consent, and of attitudes toward government: (i) disputes should be brought to the Afghan National Police; (ii) improvised explosive devices (IEDs) should be reported; (iii) Afghanistan is a democracy; and (iv) parliamentarians can improve service provision. These results are consistent with theories of legitimate government based on conditional consent, such as reciprocity and signaling. Additional evidence consistent with election fairness increasing contingent consent is that these results attenuate if respondents knew that the fraud intervention was external.


Sponsor(s): Political Science