Hitting Them With Carrots: Voter Intimidation and Vote Buying in Russia
From robocalls to vote buying to electoral intimidation scholars have identified many ways that politicians mobilize voters to the polls. We develop a simple argument about the conditions under which autocrats will use positive inducements such as vote buying and negative inducement such as employee coercion of workers. Using survey experiments and crowd-sourced electoral violation reports from the 2011-12 election cycle in Russia, we find little evidence that vote buying was practiced on a large scale in this election. This finding is consistent with arguments about the decline of vote buying in middle-income countries. Voter intimidation, however, was relatively common, especially among employed voters and in Russia’s many single company towns where employers have much leverage over employees. In these single company towns, the consequences of job loss are so grave that employer intimidation may often be sufficient to induce compliance even without direct monitoring of voter behavior. Outside of company towns where employers have less leverage, active forms of monitoring may supplement intimidation in order to encourage compliance. These results suggest that employers can be reliable vote brokers; that voter intimidation can persist in a middle-income country; and that, under some conditions intimidation may be employed without the need for active monitoring.