Who Debates,Wins? Experimental Evidence on Debate Participation and Radio Broadcasting in a Liberian Election?

Horacio Larreguy (Harvard University)

October 11, 2018, 11:00–12:30


Room MF 323

Development, Labor and Public Policy Seminar


We study a nationwide debate initiative ahead of Liberia’s 2017 elections for House of Representatives designed to solicit and rebroadcast policy promises from candidates. Leveraging random variation in candidates’ debate participation and the intensity of debate radio broadcasting we shock the supply of programmatic information by candidates. We find substantively large effects on citizen learning, political engagement, and voter coordination concentrated in districts where a higher share of leading candidates—incumbents and their challengers—were induced to participate. In those districts, challengers decreased their on-the-ground campaigning efforts, while incumbents increased their radio exposure. The initiative electorally benefited incumbent candidates in the districts where they were motivated to participate. These incumbents, but not their challengers, selected into debate participation based on the quality of their policy platforms and tended to dominate their debates against less experienced challengers. The results point to the importance of understanding selection into the supply of programmatic information when evaluating the effects of its provision. ByJeremy Bowles and Horacio Larreguy

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