Home > News > Do Election Monitors Increase Turnout?
136 views 3 min 0 Comment

Do Election Monitors Increase Turnout?

- March 28, 2011

As we head towards “elections in Egypt”:http://www.examiner.com/foreign-policy-in-national/egypt-parliamentary-elections-set-for-sept-2011-presidential-may-be-later this fall, it seems pertinent to consider research on the effects of different ways of conducting elections in new democracies. One of the most important tools of clean elections is said to be the presence of international election monitors. The trouble with studying the effect of monitors, however, is that monitors are not randomly assigned to countries; instead, they are of course often sent to countries where there are worries about the quality of democracy. Thus just looking at the cross-national correlation between the presence of election monitors and, for example, the quality of democracy may produce biased results. One solution to this dilemma is to use experimental methods of analysis.

This is exactly what “Professor Dawn Brancati”:http://polisci.wustl.edu/Dawn_Brancati of Washington University in St. Louis did in a field experiment in Kosovo during 2009/2010 municipal elections. In a paper presented at the recent “NYU CESS Conference on Experimental Political Science”:http://cess.nyu.edu/conferences/3-2011/, Brancati reported on the results of an experiment whereby she randomly assigned certain residents to receive additional information about the presence of international observers during the elections. The bottom line from her study: residents receiving this information had higher levels of perception of democracy in the country, but were no more likely to participate in the elections. Here is the abstract from the paper:

bq. Democracy promotion has been at the forefront of Western foreign policies since the end of the Cold War, but its effectiveness in practice is unclear. I investigate in this paper the effectiveness of an important form of democracy promotion, electoral monitoring, in terms of its impact on citizens’ perceptions of democracy and their subsequent participation in politics through a field experiment in Kosova. Perceptions of democracy are fundamental to democratic stability influencing people’s engagement with politics and satisfaction with the government among other things. The experiment shows that knowledge of electoral monitors raises citizens’ perceptions of the level of democracy in their country, but it does not increase turnout at the polls. The experiment further shows that citizens perceive monitors as less helpful in promoting democracy after elections occur than before, most likely because people do not know how much fraud the monitors actually caught and how much fraud would have happened had the monitors not been present in the first place.

The “full paper is available here”:http://cess.nyu.edu/conferences/3-2011/papers/5.pdf.

Topics on this page