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Scaling Political Information Campaigns
Last registered on February 01, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Scaling Political Information Campaigns
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0002703
Initial registration date
February 01, 2018
Last updated
February 01, 2018 2:54 PM EST
Location(s)

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Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Stanford GSB
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
Department for International Development
Additional Trial Information
Status
In development
Start date
2018-02-02
End date
2019-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
How do you move from a low information-low accountability political equilibrium to one where voters are informed and politicians feel pressure to perform well? This paper explores two main constraints to this equilibrium shift in the context of a national scale up of a political information campaign in Sierra Leone. The first captures general barriers to scaling a controlled demonstration pilot to serve a much broader population, and the second asks when politicians have incentives (or not) to participate in initiatives that inform voters.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Casey, Katherine and Rachel Glennerster. 2018. "Scaling Political Information Campaigns." AEA RCT Registry. February 01. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.2703-1.0.
Former Citation
Casey, Katherine and Rachel Glennerster. 2018. "Scaling Political Information Campaigns." AEA RCT Registry. February 01. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/2703/history/25432.
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Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Many successful pilot projects in international aid fail to scale up to serve the broader population of the host country. We study barriers to scaling from multiple angles in the context of a political information campaign in Sierra Leone.

As background, results from a 2012 pilot implemented by Search for Common Ground (SFCG) suggest that hosting debates between Parliamentary (MP) candidates from rival political parties and disseminating them via large public film screenings was highly effective in educating voters, informing their vote choices, and increasing accountability pressure on elected MPs (Bidwell, Casey and Glennerster 2016). On the strength of these results, SFCG raised funds to scale their debates pilot to cover nearly half of all Parliamentary constituencies nationwide in 2018. The first component of this research explores whether the original model can be stretched to reach more voters at lower cost; voter willingness to incur travel costs to access information; and whether debate dissemination can be brought into the business model of private cinema halls.

While debates have become quite common in elections around the world, it is not always easy to convince candidates to participate in them. Frontrunners, for instance, often refuse the invitation from rival party candidates or news organizations to participate in debates, presumably as the downside risk of a bad performance outweighs any potential benefits. On the other hand, if one viable candidate agrees to participate, and a media outlet commits to broadcasting it, the incentives tip toward broader participation as reluctant candidates fear losing out on the free campaign publicity. The second component of this research tests a simple model of a candidate's decision to participate in an initiative that informs voters and sees how it changes with the introduction of a guaranteed broadcast platform.
Intervention Start Date
2018-02-02
Intervention End Date
2018-04-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Component 1: voter knowledge, candidate campaign expenditure, willingness to incur costly action to enhance accountability, and (later) MP performance in office

Component 2: candidate interest in participating in debates, ability to coordinate across party, occurrence of debates
Primary Outcomes (explanation)


Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Component 1: Random assignment of SFCG video debates across 45 of 90 constituencies. Within constituencies, data collection will occur in the constituency headquarters, and three VRCs randomly selected from the 25th to 75th percentile of size distribution. In treated constituencies, the primary public screening will be held in constituency headquarters, and then the three randomly selected VRCs will host a secondary screening, mobilization only and control, respectively.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
All randomizations are done in the office on a computer.
Randomization Unit
The unit of randomization is the Parliamentary constituency.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
Component 1: 45 treated and 45 control constituencies
Component 2: 15 video debates (overlaps with T above), 15 pure controls (overlaps with C above), 21 radio airtime, 21 radio information control
Sample size: planned number of observations
Pooling both components: 132 constituencies in total, with at least 264 candidates (exact number of candidates per constituency TBD from NEC official registration), 1,800 voters
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Component 1: at least 2 candidates (total candidates TBD based on NEC official registration) and 20 voters per constituency, generating at least 90 candidates and 900 voters in control and at least 90 candidates and 900 voters in debate treatment

Component 2: at least 2 candidates per constituency, so at least 144 in overall demand estimation, and then at least 30 in video treatment and 30 in pure control (overlaps with component 1), plus at least 42 in radio platform treatment and 42 in radio information control
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
MIT COUHES
IRB Approval Date
2017-08-24
IRB Approval Number
1708065627
IRB Name
Stanford University
IRB Approval Date
2017-10-23
IRB Approval Number
42946
IRB Name
Sierra Leone Ethics and Scientific Review Committee
IRB Approval Date
2017-10-18
IRB Approval Number
N/A