Value for Money? Community Targeting in Vote-Buying and Politician Accountability

Value for Money? Community Targeting in Vote-Buying and Politician Accountability

By Jessica Leight, Dana Foarta, Rohini Pande, Laura Ralston
December 19,2017Working Paper No. 3613

Community targeting of vote payments — defined as the saturation of entire neighborhoods with cash prior to elections — is widespread in the developing world. In this paper, we utilize laboratory experiments conducted in the U.S. and Kenya to demonstrate that, relative to individual targeting, a vote-buying regime that distributes payments widely renders voters more tolerant of politician rent-seeking, and increases the level of politician rent-seeking observed in equilibrium. The most parsimonious model of preferences consistent with these patterns is a model in which both politicians and voters are characterized by multifaceted social preferences, encompassing reciprocity, altruism, and inequality aversion.