Vote Buying and Social Desirability Bias: Experimental Evidence from Nicaragua

Authors


  • Ezequiel Gonzalez-Ocantos is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (egonzal4@nd.edu). Chad Kiewiet de Jonge is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (ckiewiet@nd.edu). Carlos Meléndez is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (cmelend1@nd.edu). Javier Osorio is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (fosorioz@nd.edu). David W. Nickerson is Associate Professor of Political Science, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (dnickers@nd.edu).

  • The authors would like to thank Darren Davis, Fran Hagopian, Victoria Murillo, Anabella Expaña-Nájera, Simeon Nichter, Ana de la O, Maya Parson, Shannon Walsh, and Rebecca Weitz-Shapiro for generous feedback; Paul Avey, Robert Braithwaite, and Christopher Sullivan for their collaboration in designing the survey; and Borge y Asociados for fielding the survey. Nickerson would like to thank the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at Princeton University for the time to write the article and the Dean of the College of Arts and Letters at the University of Notre Dame for providing funds for the survey. Appendices and material for replicating the statistical analysis can be found at http://www.nd.edu/~dnickers.

Abstract

Qualitative studies of vote buying find the practice to be common in many Latin American countries, but quantitative studies using surveys find little evidence of vote buying. Social desirability bias can account for this discrepancy. We employ a survey-based list experiment to minimize the problem. After the 2008 Nicaraguan municipal elections, we asked about vote-buying behavior by campaigns using a list experiment and the questions traditionally used by studies of vote buying on a nationally representative survey. Our list experiment estimated that 24% of registered voters in Nicaragua were offered a gift or service in exchange for votes, whereas only 2% reported the behavior when asked directly. This detected social desirability bias is nonrandom and analysis based on traditional obtrusive measures of vote buying is unreliable. We also provide systematic evidence that shows the importance of monitoring strategies by parties in determining who is targeted for vote buying.

Ancillary