Able and Mostly Willing: An Empirical Anatomy of Information's Effect on Voter‐Driven Accountability in Senegal

Abhit Bhandari, Horacio Larreguy, and John Marshall


Political accountability may be constrained by the reach and relevance of information campaigns in developing democracies and—upon receiving information—voters' ability and will to hold politicians accountable. To illuminate voter‐level constraints and information relevance absent dissemination constraints, we conducted a field experiment around Senegal's 2017 parliamentary elections to examine the core theoretical steps linking receiving different types of incumbent performance information to electoral and nonelectoral accountability. Voters immediately processed information as Bayesians, found temporally benchmarked local performance outcomes particularly informative, and updated their beliefs for at least a month. Learning that incumbents generally performed better than expected, voters durably requested greater politician contact after elections while incumbent vote choice increased among likely voters and voters prioritizing local projects when appraising incumbents. In contrast, information about incumbent duties did not systematically influence beliefs or accountability. These findings suggest voters were able and mostly willing to use relevant information to hold politicians to account.

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Published in

American Journal of Political Science, vol. 67, n. 4, October 2023, pp. 1040–1066