In the last few years, the world has been experiencing a decline in support for democratic regimes. This fact is evident from surveys (such as the World Values Survey) and electoral results across the globe. As documented by Guriev and Papaioannou (2022), the proportion of populist regimes with autocratic tendencies has grown heavily since the beginning of the century. A recent paper by Acemoglu et al. (2021) shows that democracies breed their support only when they are successful, specifically regarding specific socio-economic outcomes (growth, equality, peace, low levels of corruption, public goods). Interestingly, in the last years pre-COVID, the world has also experienced relative prosperity, which poses a puzzle: why is democracy losing support if it is relatively successful?
We hypothesize that, in the modern world, misinformation (which is widespread) could soften the relationship between successful democracies and support for democracy because many people wrongly perceive that an autocracy (or a populist government with certain autocratic tendencies) could outperform their current democratic regimes. Acemoglu et al (2019) show that, indeed, democracies cause growth and, recently Funke et al. (2020) show that populism reduces growth, but it is likely that people ignore these relationships and thus have a mistaken belief about which system has a better economic performance. If this is true, an information intervention based on scientific facts, showing that democracies that are not populist have on average better performances, could trigger an increase in support for democracy.
We propose implementing a survey/questionnaire experiment in Argentina before the upcoming presidential elections. Survey shows that Argentinians are tired of the apparent economic failures of the system (GDP per capita is virtually stagnated since 2011) and thus seem to be supporting populist candidates with clear autocratic tendencies.
Our survey experiment will have five arms:
a) A short video describing Acemoglu et al's (2019) result in a simple way, explaining that on average democracies grow faster than autocracies. It will also describe (first) the characteristics of a democracy and autocracy.
b) A short video describing Funke et al's (2020) result in a simple way, explaining that on average right wing populist governments have lower growth rates. It will also describe (first) the characteristics of a right-wing and a left-wing populist government.
c) A short video describing Funke et al's (2020) result in a simple way, explaining that on average left wing populist governments have lower growth rates. It will also describe (first) the characteristics of a right-wing and a left-wing populist government.
d) A short video describing (first) the characteristics of a right-wing and a left-wing populist government, without mentioning their economic performance. (CONTROL 1)
e) A short video describing (first) the characteristics of democracies and autocracies without mentioning their economic performance. (CONTROL 2)
We will elicit beliefs about political system and economic performance (pre and post-treatment), about attitudes towards democratic and populist (right and left) governments and, finally, voting preferences for the incoming election in Argentina.