Donating Time for Democracy: Encouraging Prosocial Behavior through Civic Education, Commitment Devices, and Group Communication

Many civic institutions like democracy require a substantial degree of citizen engagement and prosocial behavior. In Mexican elections, citizens staff polling booths and count votes, providing a privately-costly public good. However, it is becoming harder to convince citizens to donate time: over 50% drop out or don’t show up on election day. We propose 4 randomized interventions on 200,000+ citizens in 4 states, that could affect willingness to provide this public good: (1) Civic education face-to- face and via mobile phones. (2) Prosocial commitment device: a public pledge to show up on election day. We also interact (1) and (2) following the intuition that commitment can help translate current preferences for prosocial behavior into future actions. (3) Communication through social media to induce sense of group membership/identity and mutual responsibility, and to facilitate coordination. (4) Selective information about group demographic composition to study effects of discrimination. Outcome variables include pre-electoral dropout rates, election-day participation, procedural and vote- counting mistakes in polling stations, future turnout of poll-booth workers, turnout spillovers on household members, and various attitudinal variables.

RFP Cycle:
Off-cycle 2017
  • Pilot project