Will access to information on political dynasties alter voting behavior? Evidence from a Philippine youth voting experiment

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Many young democracies are characterized by the proliferation of political dynasties, i.e. elected politicians from the same clan spanning across time and across different elected positions. In the Philippines, there has been growing concern that political dynasties are on the rise, as more elected officials hail from political clans. Lack of information on political dynasties could be a potential reason behind this. Using a randomized control trial framework, this paper seeks to evaluate the impact of young voters’ access to information on political dynasties (i.e. the socioeconomic correlates of this phenomenon) vis-à-vis their voting choices for top local government positions and the Senate in the Philippines. The two main delivery systems for the information are: a) a five-minute cartoon highlighting the main findings of a study on political dynasties in the Philippine Congress; and b) a lecture by one of the co-authors of that study. This paper finds some evidence that the lecture and the cartoon had an effect in terms of reducing votes for dynasties. Second, the lecture has a much greater impact than the cartoon in terms of its estimated effect on the voting preference of the participants. The study findings suggest that access to information on political dynasties has potentially large effects on electoral outcomes, should the result hold for a large share of young voters. Based on a simplified illustration, the lecture on political dynasties could potentially result in about less than half a million fewer votes for dynastic politicians for the top senate spot; and up to five million less votes for dynastic senatorial candidates for the 12 slots. Again, it should be emphasized that this is a mere illustration and not a projection of effects on actual elections. Nevertheless, the results are compelling in their potential magnitude, should these estimates hold true for the larger youth population.