We combine survey and field experiments during the Philippine mayoral elections in 2013 to test a model of retrospective voting with asymmetric information between voters and politicians. Results from the survey experiment indicate that because incumbents benefit from a lack of voter awareness about government capabilities, simply providing information to voters can reduce support for incumbents. At the same time, using real-world information campaigns to address this information asymmetry might not necessarily change electoral outcomes because incumbents have incentives to respond to the decrease in support by increasing transfers to voters. In the field experiment, we randomly distributed information about the existence of government programs and measure both the voter effects and the subsequent politician response. Consistent with an incumbent response to a decrease in voter support, there was a significant increase in incumbent vote buying in treatment villages.
Cesi Cruz is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of British Columbia.