Francesco Drago (Università degli Studi di Messina)
"Voters' Response to Public Policies: Evidence from a Natural Experiment"
How do voters assess policy makers in the presence of incomplete information? We address this question by providing quasi-experimental evidence on voters' electoral response to the realized effects of public policies and by also unmasking the underlying mechanism linking public policies and electoral behavior (voters’ information and beliefs). We exploit a natural experiment arising from the Italian 2006 collective pardon promoted and implemented by the national government. The pardon created idiosyncratic incentives to recidivate across released individuals. Municipalities where resident pardoned individuals had a higher incentive to recidivate experienced a higher recidivism rate. Accordingly, we show that in those municipalities voters “punished” the incumbent national government in the 2008 elections. In addition, we provide evidence of newspapers being more likely to report crime news involving pardoned individuals and of voters holding worse beliefs on the incumbent national government's ability to control crime. Our findings indicate that voters keep politicians accountable by conditioning their vote on the observed effects of their policies.