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Regular version of the site

Article

Read my Lips (but only if I was elected)! Experimental Evidence on the Effects of Electoral Competition on Promises, Shirking and Trust

Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. 2017. Vol. 142. P. 348-367.
Walkowitz G., Weiss A.

We experimentally test whether electoral competition reduces shirking behavior by office-
holders and increases citizens’ trust. Using a novel multi-person investment game with
voting, we indeed find that elected office-holders shirk less (i.e., they back-transfer more
to citizens relative to investments) than randomly appointed office-holders. Surpris-
ingly, this effect is not driven by electoral competition inflating office-holders’ promises.
Instead, elected office-holders feel more committed to their promises than their randomly
appointed counterparts. Elections initially also increase citizens’ trust because voters select
candidates with the “right” kind of promises: neither low nor non-credibly high. However,
over the course of the entire experiment, we find no evidence that electoral competition
increases citizens’ trust.