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Do Informed Voters Make Better Choices? Experimental Evidence from Urban India

By: Abhijit V. Banerjee, Selvan Kumar, Rohini Pande, Felix Su

Disclosure laws for politicians exist in over a hundred countries. But can disclosures about incumbent performance and candidate qualifications influence electoral accountability in settings characterized by weak institutions and less educated populations? In the run-up to elections in Delhi, we implemented a field experiment where we provided slum dwellers with newspapers containing report cards on candidate qualifications and their legislator’s performance. Information was obtained under India’s disclosure laws. We observe striking changes along three dimensions. Access to report cards increased voter turnout, reduced the incidence of cash-based vote buying and caused electoral gains for better performing incumbents. In using information about qualifications, we observe significant voter sophistication – voters make comparisons across candidates to overcome political agency problems and reward better performing incumbents.

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Uploaded on: Dec 08, 2015
Last Updated: Dec 15, 2015
Year Published: 2010
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