Foreign aid is neither a curse nor a blessing: Explaining the effects of foreign aid on voting behavior and accountability. Jablonski, R., Seim, B., & Ahlback, J. 2023.
Foreign aid is neither a curse nor a blessing: Explaining the effects of foreign aid on voting behavior and accountability [link]Pre-analysis plan  abstract   bibtex   3 downloads  
How does foreign aid change electoral behavior? We provide a theory to reconcile mixed evidence. We argue that when foreign aid is seen by voters as highly politicized, aid can be a double-edged sword for politicians. The net effects of aid on elections will depend on the dispersion of aid and citizen beliefs about how aid should have been distributed. To test our argument, we conducted a survey among 2,331 citizens around a sample of 180 schools in Malawi before and after the delivery of a highly targeted foreign aid project in the education sector. Additionally, we conducted a SMS-based information experiment which varied voter knowledge about the aid allocation process. In line with expectations, we confirm that voters who live in an area that receives foreign aid were more likely to anticipate voting for incumbent councillors and rate incumbent performance as high. Further, we show that aid increased the number of visits by incumbents and we provide anecdotal evidence of more credit claiming activity by politicians. The results of the SMS experiment, however, demonstrate that aid can also be a double-edged sword: when citizens learn about aid, but fail to benefit, we document a sizable backlash against incumbents. Citizens were less likely to be satisfied with or vote for incumbents in this condition. Collectively, these finding imply highly variable net effects of foreign aid on electoral outcomes. The study also implies ways in which donors might minimize adverse political consequences from aid delivery.
@unpublished{JablonskiAidVotes,
  title={Foreign aid is neither a curse nor a blessing: Explaining the effects of foreign aid on voting behavior and accountability},
  author={Jablonski, Ryan and Seim, Brigitte and Ahlback, Johan},
year={2023},
abstract={How does foreign aid change electoral behavior? We provide a theory to reconcile mixed evidence. We argue that when foreign aid is seen by voters as highly politicized, aid can be a double-edged sword for politicians. The net effects of aid on elections will depend on the dispersion of aid and citizen beliefs about how aid \textit{should} have been distributed. To test our argument, we conducted a survey among 2,331 citizens around a sample of 180 schools in Malawi before and after the delivery of a highly targeted foreign aid project in the education sector. Additionally, we conducted a SMS-based information experiment which varied voter knowledge about the aid allocation process. In line with expectations, we confirm that voters who live in an area that receives foreign aid were more likely to anticipate voting for incumbent councillors and rate incumbent performance as high. Further, we show that aid increased the number of visits by incumbents and we provide anecdotal evidence of more credit claiming activity by politicians. The results of the SMS experiment, however, demonstrate that aid can also be a double-edged sword: when citizens learn about aid, but fail to benefit, we document a sizable backlash against incumbents. Citizens were less likely to be satisfied with or vote for incumbents in this condition. Collectively, these finding imply highly variable net effects of foreign aid on electoral outcomes. The study also implies ways in which donors might minimize adverse political consequences from aid delivery.},
url_Pre-Analysis_Plan={http://egap.org/registration/2611}
}

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