Texting Complaints to Politicians: Name Personalization and Politicians' Encouragement in Citizen Mobilization

Citation:
Grossman, G, Michelitch K, Santamaria M.  2016.  Texting Complaints to Politicians: Name Personalization and Politicians' Encouragement in Citizen Mobilization. Comparative Political Studies.

Abstract:

Poor government accountability is responsible for many public services delivery problems in low-income countries. Mobile phone-based platforms that allow reporting of public service deficiencies directly to public officials have recently emerged as a mechanism through which governments might be held accountable. We hypothesize that low levels of citizen participation, common to many community monitoring and reporting initiatives, are rooted in low political efficacy. We use a text-message reporting platform in Uganda to investigate the impact of two mobilization strategies on citizens' willingness to report service deficiencies. In a factorial design, we test the impact of (a) personalizing mobilization requests and/or (b) reminding participants that elected officials wish to hear about any deficiencies. Both treatments, designed to increase internal and external efficacy, respectively, have a large, positive effect on participation, but they largely serve as substitutes for each other. Interestingly, traditionally marginalized constituents---females and non-leader villagers---largely drive these results.

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