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Sci Adv. 2019 Jul 3;5(7):eaaw2612. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaw2612. eCollection 2019 Jul.

Voter information campaigns and political accountability: Cumulative findings from a preregistered meta-analysis of coordinated trials.

Author information

1
Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA, USA.
2
Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
3
Department of Political Science, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
4
WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Berlin, Brandenburg, Germany.
5
School of Global Policy and Strategy, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
6
Department of Political Science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
7
Government Department, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA, USA.
8
Department of Political Science, Boston University, Boston, MA, USA.
9
Bren School of Environmental Science and Management and Department of Political Science, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA, USA.
10
School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.
11
Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA.
12
Department of Political Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA.
13
Development Impact Evaluation, The World Bank, Washington, DC, USA.
14
Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, London, UK.
15
Department of Political Science, George Washington University, Washington, DC, USA.
16
Department of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA.
17
Institute of African Affairs, German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Germany.
18
Department of Politics, New York University, New York, NY, USA.
19
PPGA de Ciência Política, Universidade Federal de Pernambuco, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil.
20
Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, USA.
21
Division of Social Science, New York University Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
22
Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, India.
23
Ashoka University, Sonipat, Haryana, India.

Abstract

Voters may be unable to hold politicians to account if they lack basic information about their representatives' performance. Civil society groups and international donors therefore advocate using voter information campaigns to improve democratic accountability. Yet, are these campaigns effective? Limited replication, measurement heterogeneity, and publication biases may undermine the reliability of published research. We implemented a new approach to cumulative learning, coordinating the design of seven randomized controlled trials to be fielded in six countries by independent research teams. Uncommon for multisite trials in the social sciences, we jointly preregistered a meta-analysis of results in advance of seeing the data. We find no evidence overall that typical, nonpartisan voter information campaigns shape voter behavior, although exploratory and subgroup analyses suggest conditions under which informational campaigns could be more effective. Such null estimated effects are too seldom published, yet they can be critical for scientific progress and cumulative, policy-relevant learning.

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