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Election Fraud and Government Legitimacy in Afghanistan
Last registered on July 01, 2016

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Election Fraud and Government Legitimacy in Afghanistan
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001378
Initial registration date
July 01, 2016
Last updated
July 01, 2016 9:09 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
UC San Diego
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
University of Washington
PI Affiliation
Department of Economics, UC San Diego
PI Affiliation
Department of Political Science, UC San Diego
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2010-08-01
End date
2010-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
In a 2015 AER paper, we investigate the relationship between political networks, weak institutions, and election fraud during the 2010 parliamentary election in Afghanistan combining: (i) data on political connections between candidates and election officials; (ii) a nationwide controlled evaluation of a novel monitoring technology; and (iii) direct measurements of aggregation fraud. We find considerable evidence of aggregation fraud in favor of connected candidates and that the announcement of a new monitoring technology reduced theft of election materials by about 60 percent and vote counts for connected candidates by about 25 percent. The results have implications for electoral competition and are potentially actionable for policymakers.

In a separate 2014 NBER Working Paper, we explore the role of election fairness in building government legitimacy. Using the random assignment of an innovative election fraud-reducing intervention in Afghanistan, we find that decreasing electoral misconduct improves multiple survey measures of attitudes toward government, including: (1) whether Afghanistan is a democracy; (2) whether the police should resolve disputes; (3) whether members of parliament provide services; and (4) willingness to report insurgent behavior to security forces.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Berman, Eli et al. 2016. "Election Fraud and Government Legitimacy in Afghanistan." AEA RCT Registry. July 01. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1378-1.0.
Former Citation
Berman, Eli et al. 2016. "Election Fraud and Government Legitimacy in Afghanistan." AEA RCT Registry. July 01. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1378/history/9213.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
We evaluated the impact of photographic monitoring technology on vote aggregation fraud and perceptions of government legitimacy during the 2010 parliamentary elections in Afghanistan. We designed a photographic monitoring system called “photo quick count”, under which field monitors photographed the vote tallies posted at individual polling centers prior to aggregation and compared them with the corresponding vote total after aggregation, which were posted on the Independent Election Commission’s website.

To measure the effect of monitoring on electoral fraud, we randomly assigned 238 polling stations to receive letters announcing the use of “photo quick count”. Letters were delivered to polling stations in the treatment group during voting hours on election day, September 18, 2010. The letters explained that we would photograph vote tallies on the following day in order to document discrepancies arising during aggregation.

The remaining 233 polling stations served as a comparison group and did not receive a letter. Field monitors visited all 471 polling centers the following day to photograph the publicly posted election returns forms. Three months after the election, researchers conducted a survey to measure individuals’ perceptions of government legitimacy.
Intervention Start Date
2010-09-18
Intervention End Date
2010-09-19
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
2015 AER paper:
- Aggregation fraud
- Vote counts for politically connected candidates
- Theft or damage of election materials

2014 NBER Working Paper:
Questions on perceived government legitimacy include: (1) whether Afghanistan is a democracy; (2) whether the police should resolve disputes; (3) whether members of parliament provide services; and (4) willingness to report insurgent behavior to security forces.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
During the period of our study, Afghanistan was an active warzone. To keep our field staff safe, we selected polling centers that met three safety criteria: (i) achieving the highest security rating given by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and the Afghan National Police (ANP); (ii) being located in a provincial center, which are much safer than rural areas; and (iii) being scheduled to operate on election day by the Independent Elections Commission. Our experimental sample comprises 471 polling centers (7.8 percent of polling centers operating on election day) in 19 of the 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan.

On election day (September 18, 2010) we randomly announced the use of photoquick count by delivering letters to 238 of the 471 polling centers in our experimental sample. We call this treatment our Letter Treatment. We instructed our Afghan field staff to deliver letters to polling center managers after 10am and before polling concluded at 4pm. Staff visited all 471 polling centers the following day in order to take a picture of the election returns form. The letter announced to polling center managers that researchers would photograph declaration of results forms the following day (September 19) in order to document discrepancies arising during aggregation.

Two points about the experimental protocol bear emphasis. First, if we had not notified managers of monitoring on election day, they would have been unaware of our treatment as no election staff should be present at the polling center on the day after the election. Correspondingly, our staff report encountering election officials while they were taking photographs on the day following the election at only 2 of our 471 polling centers. Second, the experimental sample was known only to the research team. Polling center managers in the treatment group were informed of their status, but no election officials had a means of determining which sites we had selected as controls. We asked polling center managers to acknowledge receipt by signing the letter. Managers at 17 polling centers (7 percent of centers receiving letters) refused to sign. We designate a polling center as treated if the manager received a letter (Letter Treatment = 1). Our results remain robust to redefining treatment as both receiving and signing a letter.

To inform our treatment assignment, we fielded a baseline survey of households living in the immediate vicinity of 450 of the polling centers in our experimental sample a month before the election (August 2010). On election day, we added 21 polling centers in Kabul after obtaining additional funding. We do not have baseline survey data for these 21 polling centers and so place them all in a single strata when assigning treatment. To ensure balance, we stratify treatment on province. In the 450 polling centers for which we have baseline data, we also stratify on the share of respondents from the baseline survey reporting at least occasional access to electricity and on respondents reporting that the district governor carries the most responsibility for keeping elections fair. We estimate all core specifications both with and without stratum fixed effects.

For the 2014 paper, to measure the effect of election fairness on legitimacy, we combine the results of the letter intervention with data from a post-election survey which we conducted in December 2010, roughly three months after the election and only shortly after the Independent Election Commission certified final results. Respondents came from households living in the immediate vicinity of 450 of the 471 polling centers in our experimental sample, for a total of 2,904 respondents. To obtain a representative sample of respondents living near polling centers - generally neighborhood landmarks such as mosques, schools or markets - enumerators employed a random walk pattern starting at the polling center, with random selection of every fourth house or structure until either six or eight subjects had been surveyed. In keeping with Afghan custom, men and women were interviewed by field staff of their own gender. Respondents within households were randomly selected using Kish grid. The survey had 50 percent female respondents. Enumerators conducted the survey in either Dari or Pashto. We measure perceptions of government using individuals’ responses to four questions. The first two questions probe attitudes that might contribute to procedural legitimacy; the second two questions measure attitudes related to outcome legitimacy, i.e. competence in service provision. We use all four questions since any single question is unlikely to capture fully a citizen’s conception of legitimacy. While we sought to distinguish between legitimacy related to procedure and competence, our specific questions may straddle the concepts. The survey asks other questions about attitudes to government as well.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Computer.
Randomization Unit
Polling centers
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
471 polling centers
Sample size: planned number of observations
2015 AER paper: 48,018 candidate-polling substation observations 2014 NBER Working paper: 2,904 survey respondents
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Treatment group: 238 polling stations received letters announcing the use of “photo quick count”
Control group: 233 polling stations served as a comparison group and did not receive a letter.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
September 19, 2010, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
December 31, 2010, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
471 polling centers
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
Yes
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
To address attrition, we estimate bounds on the effect of treatment in the presence of nonrandom attrition. Using this method, we aim to trim observations that report outcomes only under treatment from the estimation sample, allowing impacts to be estimated using only units where outcomes would be observed irrespective of treatment assignment.

Total Number of Observations:
2015 AER paper: 48,018 candidate-polling substation observations
2014 NBER Working paper: 2,313 survey respondents
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
Treatment group: 238 polling stations received letters announcing the use of “photo quick count” Control group: 233 polling stations served as a comparison group and did not receive a letter
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
Yes
Program Files
Program Files
Yes
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
We investigate the relationship between political networks, weak institutions, and election fraud during the 2010 parliamentary election in Afghanistan combining: (i) data on political connections between candidates and election officials; (ii) a nationwide controlled evaluation of a novel monitoring technology; and (iii) direct measurements of aggregation fraud. We find considerable evidence of aggregation fraud in favor of connected candidates and that the announcement of a new monitoring technology reduced theft of election materials by about 60 percent and vote counts for connected candidates by about 25 percent. The results have implications for electoral competition and are potentially actionable for policymakers.
Citation
Callen, Michael, and James Long. 2015. “Institutional Corruption and Election Fraud: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan.” American Economic Review, 105(1): 354-381.
Abstract
International development agencies invest heavily in institution building in fragile states, including expensive interventions to support democratic elections. Yet little evidence exists on whether elections enhance the domestic legitimacy of governments. Using the random assignment of an innovative election fraud-reducing intervention in Afghanistan, we find that decreasing electoral misconduct improves multiple survey measures of attitudes toward government, including: (1) whether Afghanistan is a democracy; (2) whether the police should resolve disputes; (3) whether members of parliament provide services; and (4) willingness to report insurgent behavior to security forces.
Citation
Berman, Eli, Michael Callen, Clark Gibson, and James Long. “Election Fairness and Government Legitimacy in Afghanistan.” NBER Working Paper 19949, March 2014.