We use a cluster-randomized field experiment to study two strategies to promote free democratic expression among rural voters in Liberia's 2011 general election. The context is one of a fragile state in which destructive legacies of Liberia's 1989–2003 civil war continue to dominate people's lives. A nine-month civic education intervention administered by Liberian civil society organization partners provided training on election procedures and a forum for monthly discussion of governance issues. A nine-month security committee intervention administered in partnership with the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Liberia provided a forum for villagers and international peacekeepers to discuss security threats and develop violence early warning and reaction procedures, with the aim of improving citizens’ perceptions of security during the election. We evaluate these programs’ effects on actual voter behavior in addition to surveyed attitudes. We find that civic education increased enthusiasm for electoral participation, produced a coordinated shift from parochial to national candidates, and increased willingness to report on manipulation. A program combining the two interventions had similar effects. The security committees produced a modest reduction in parochial voting. The policy implications are that third-party actors can play a productive role in helping to overcome barriers to information, voter coordination, and security.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Sociology and Political Science
- Economics and Econometrics