Pande, Rohini, Abhijit Banerjee, Selvan Kumar, and Felix Su. 2011. “Do Informed Voters Make Better Choices?”.
In the run-up to elections in a large Indian city, residents in a random sample of slums received newspapers containing report cards on politicians. The report card for a jurisdiction presented information, obtained under India’s disclosure laws, on the performance of the incumbent legislator and the qualifications of the incumbent and two main challengers. Relative to the control slums, treatment slums saw higher turnout, reduced vote buying, and higher vote share for better performing incumbents and relatively more qualified incumbents. Moreover, voters demonstrated sophistication in how they use report card information to judge performance and qualifications – they used their knowledge on the incidence of public good spending in slums to evaluate jurisdiction-level information on public good spending by the incumbent, and used challenger qualifications as a yardstick to judge incumbent qualifications.