Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs

Philip Keefer ─ Media Effects on Preferences for Clientelist Candidates

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

McKinney Conference Room

Can access to mass media that broadcasts public interest messages shift citizens’ support away from clientelist candidates? This paper examines the impact of community radio on responses to novel survey vignettes that make an explicit trade-off between political promises of jobs for a few, characteristic of clientelist systems, versus promises of public services for all. Exploiting a natural experiment in the media market in northern Benin, we find that respondents in villages with greater radio access are less likely to express support for candidates who offer jobs at the expense of public health or education. Radio access does not reduce support for candidates who offer gifts at the time of elections. We demonstrate the particular mechanism for radio’s impact: it increases citizens’ demand for public health and education services, thereby reducing their support for candidates who make clientelist offers at the expense of public health and education spending.

Philip Keefer is Principal Economic Advisor, Institutions for Development at the Inter-American Development Bank.

Development and Governance Seminar