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Can Gestures of Goodwill from the State Condition Attitudes in Post-Authoritarian Democracies?: A Field Experiment
Unformatted Document Text:  3 viable constraint against bad government. Thus the mechanisms by which the people insure accountability of elected officials would be non-existent; it would become impossible to correctly measure what citizens want by way of public opinion polling, and a strong party-based democracy would not be feasible. Given the precarious nature of Mexico’s democratic future, I test whether gestures of goodwill on the part of government officials can condition individuals’ attitudes toward democracy. In theory, evidence from the scholarly literature on Mexican democracy would lead us to believe that individuals who feel better represented and who see the regime as democratic are more willing to participate in politics (see, for example, Camp 2004; Klesner and Lawson 2001; McCann and Dominguez 1998; Hiskey and Bowler 2005). If true, this would imply that a favorable impression of government officials and greater awareness of state policies could enhance the overall quality of democracy. Even seemingly trivial and symbolic actions on the part of government officials may have measurable effects on individuals’ willingness to become more involved. In this study, I explore such connections via a field experiment, in which a randomly selected group of households from the Mexican state of Baja California received a letter from the State Secretary of Urban Development. The expectation is that such a gesture from a government official can affect one’s willingness to take part in political life (I explain in greater detail below). In the following sections I continue with a theoretical overview, an account of the experimental procedure, a description of the data and the empirical findings, and a discussion of what these findings mean for Mexico’s new democracy.

Authors: Nishikawa, Katsuo.
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viable constraint against bad government. Thus the mechanisms by which the people
insure accountability of elected officials would be non-existent; it would become
impossible to correctly measure what citizens want by way of public opinion polling, and
a strong party-based democracy would not be feasible.
Given the precarious nature of Mexico’s democratic future, I test whether gestures
of goodwill on the part of government officials can condition individuals’ attitudes
toward democracy. In theory, evidence from the scholarly literature on Mexican
democracy would lead us to believe that individuals who feel better represented and who
see the regime as democratic are more willing to participate in politics (see, for example,
Camp 2004; Klesner and Lawson 2001; McCann and Dominguez 1998; Hiskey and
Bowler 2005). If true, this would imply that a favorable impression of government
officials and greater awareness of state policies could enhance the overall quality of
democracy. Even seemingly trivial and symbolic actions on the part of government
officials may have measurable effects on individuals’ willingness to become more
involved. In this study, I explore such connections via a field experiment, in which a
randomly selected group of households from the Mexican state of Baja California
received a letter from the State Secretary of Urban Development. The expectation is that
such a gesture from a government official can affect one’s willingness to take part in
political life (I explain in greater detail below).
In the following sections I continue with a theoretical overview, an account of the
experimental procedure, a description of the data and the empirical findings, and a
discussion of what these findings mean for Mexico’s new democracy.


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