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Audits for accountability: evidence from municipal by-elections in South Africa

Berliner, Daniel ORCID: 0000-0002-0285-0215 and Wehner, Joachim ORCID: 0000-0002-1951-308X (2022) Audits for accountability: evidence from municipal by-elections in South Africa. Journal of Politics, 84 (3). 1581 - 1594. ISSN 0022-3816

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Identification Number: 10.1086/716951


Theories of retrospective accountability assume that voters punish poor governance and reward improvements, yet empirical evidence remains mixed. We extend this research to a new context, assessing the impact of audits on electoral outcomes in South African municipalities. Our novel identification strategy focuses on by-elections triggered by deaths in office of local councilors and compares those taking place before and after audit results are announced each year. We find that timely audit information affects the vote share of the responsible party, with voters rewarding improvements and punishing poor audits by about 5 percentage points. Additional individual-level survey evidence confirms the underpinning behavioral response more generally. Our study is the first to demonstrate the electoral accountability effects of audit information at full scale, involving universal spatial and temporal coverage as well as public and organic dissemination.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Southern Political Science Association
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JQ Political institutions Asia
J Political Science > JF Political institutions (General)
Date Deposited: 09 Sep 2021 16:51
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2024 04:48

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