Horacio Larreguy: Who Debates, Who Wins? At-Scale Experimental Evidence on Debate Participation in a Liberian Election

Horacio LarreguyFebruary 20
Monroe 120

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. By encouraging debate participation more intensely in some districts than in others, we shock the supply of programmatic information from leading candidates. We find substantively large effects on citizen learning, political engagement, and voter coordination concentrated in treated districts, where higher shares of leading candidates were induced to participate. In those districts, challengers decreased their on-the-ground campaigning efforts while incumbents increased their radio campaigning. The intervention electorally benefited incumbents, particularly those predicted to perform well in the debates and those whose policy priorities were more closely aligned with their constituents. Complying incumbents were more likely than their challengers to self-select into debate participation based on the quality of their policy platforms. The results point to the importance of understanding selection into the supply of programmatic information when evaluating the effects of its provision.

Horacio Larreguy received his PhD in Economics from the MIT in 2013 and is an Associate Professor of Government at Harvard University. He is interested in political accountability, and his work is mostly in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, he works on clientelism and vote buying, the importance of information for political accountability, whether education fosters political participation, and whenever possible, he looks at the relevance of social networks for these and other issues. Horacio’s methodological focus is on causal identification using both observational and experimental data. He has conducted very large-scale experiments in Liberia, Mexico, Senegal and Uganda.  Horacio has published and forthcoming work at the AEJ: Applied Economics, American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Journal of the European Economic Association, Review of Economics and Statistics, among other journals.  Horacio has served as a consultant for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).