Mobilizing opposition voters under electoral authoritarianism: A field experiment in Russia

Leonid Peisakhin, Arturas Rozenas, Sergey Sanovich

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Under electoral authoritarianism opposition supporters often abstain from voting because they think that their votes will not make a difference. Opposition parties try to counteract this apathy by informational campaigns that stress how voting can impact the outcome of the election and policy. Evidence from established democracies suggests that such campaigns are generally ineffective, but it remains an open question whether the same holds in elections under authoritarianism where information is scarce. We follow a large-scale campaign experiment by an opposition candidate in Russia’s 2016 parliamentary election, which distributed 240,000 fliers to 75% of the district’s households. Relative to a control flier, priming voters about the closeness of the election or the link between voting and policy outcomes had no practically meaningful impact on turnout or votes. Contrary to some existing theories and the stated expectations of politicians, information about the value of voting appears as ineffective in uncompetitive electoral autocracies as it is in democracies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalResearch and Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020


  • Authoritarianism
  • experimental methods
  • hybrid regimes
  • mobilization
  • voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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