Policy deliberation and voter persuasion: estimating intrinsic causal effects of town hall meetings

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Institutions are a vital part of the way we make decisions about policies and implement them, but most randomised experiments only focus on the policy itself. In this lecture, I call for more rigorous evaluations of political institutions and policymaking and discuss how this can work in practice with reference to work my colleagues and I did in Benin and the Philippines. We randomly assigned districts in both countries to use either standard, clientilistic campaign messaging or broad-based, policy-oriented campaign messaging with deliberation at town hall meetings. In the both countries, we see a greater vote share for the party that participated in policy-focused deliberation. In Benin, deliberation also increased voter turnout. People demand better politics, and if politicians change their behaviour, they are rewarded. I hope to see more experiments like these, which separate institutional effects from policy effects and help overcome issues like clientelism that plague politics in the developing world.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)295-304
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Development Effectiveness
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 3 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development


  • Policy deliberation
  • randomised experiments
  • voting behaviour


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