Votes and Violence: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Nigeria


  • Paul Collier,

    1. Centre for the Study of African Economies (CSAE), University of Oxford and Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)
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  • Pedro C. Vicente

    Corresponding author
    1. Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Bureau for Research and Economic Analysis of Development (BREAD)
    • Corresponding author: Pedro C. Vicente, Nova School of Business and Economics, Universidade Nova de Lisboa Campus de Campolide, 1099-032 Lisboa, Portugal. Email:

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  • We thank the editors, three anonymous referees, Christian Ahlin, Robert Bates, Cátia Batista, Tim Besley, Michael Bratton, David Clingingsmith, Michael Conlin, Esther Duflo, Marcel Fafchamps, Claudio Ferraz, Yvan Guichaoua, Masa Kudamatsu, Rocco Macchiavello, Alice Mesnard, Abdul Mustapha, Laura Valderrama and Eric Werker for helpful suggestions. We are particularly indebted to Ojobo Atukulu, Otive Igbuzor and Olutayo Olujide at ActionAid International Nigeria, Austin Emeanua, campaigners Nwakaudu Chijoke Mark, Gbolahan Olubowale, George-Hill Anthony, Monday Itoghor, Umar Farouk, Emmanuel Nehemiah, Henry Mang and their field teams and to the surveyors headed by Taofeeq Akinremi, Gbenga Adewunmi, the late Oluwasegun Olaniyan, and Moses Olusola: their professionalism, courage and dedication to this project were truly outstanding. We also acknowledge the kind institutional collaboration of the Afrobarometer. We thank seminar participants at the LSE-Oxford iiG meetings, CSAE, NCDE, EEA, NEUDC, CEPR, AEA/ASSA and IGC conferences and at various seminars for useful comments. We acknowledge financial support from the Department for International Development (DFID), the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and the Open Society Institute, in the context of the iiG Consortium – ‘Improving Institutions for Pro-poor Growth’. All errors are the responsibility of the authors.


Elections are now common in low-income societies. However, they are frequently flawed. We investigate a Nigerian election marred by violence. We designed and conducted a nationwide field experiment based on anti-violence campaigning. The campaign appealed to collective action through electoral participation, and worked through town meetings, popular theatres and door-to-door distribution of materials. We find that the campaign decreased violence perceptions and increased empowerment to counteract violence. We observe a rise in voter turnout and infer that the intimidation was dissociated from incumbents. These effects are accompanied by a reduction in the intensity of actual violence, as measured by journalists.