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Civic Education in Violent Elections: Evidence from Côte d’Ivoire’s 2015 Election

Institutions & Governance Côte d'Ivoire

This paper examines whether democracy promotion programs such as civic education can affect citizens’ attitudes toward democracy, elections, and even violence in countries where multiparty competition has been associated with violent instability. We studied this question in Côte d’Ivoire, where the 2010 election renewed a devastating civil war. In the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, we randomized a civic education program in neighborhoods of Abidjan, the country’s de facto capital. Contrary to expectations, we find that exposure to civic education induced voters to adopt more negative views of the electoral process, including likelihood of fraud, as well as to express greater fear of violence during the election. Exposure to civic education also provoked voters to report support for the use of political violence. We theorize that these citizens may be more likely to express or engage in political discussion due to the treatment, but the mechanisms merit further investigation.

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