LAC Main Seminar Series: Poll Workers and the Effects of Supportive Political Participation in Peru

Conveners: David Doyle and Javier Pérez Sandoval, University of Oxford

Speaker: Noam Lupu, Vanderbilt University



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Participatory theories of democracy posit that participation in the political process transforms individuals into better democratic citizens. But empirical research on the individual-level effects of participation focuses overwhelmingly on voting, with mixed results and debate about the mechanisms. This study focuses on a different form of political participation and leverages a natural experiment in Peru to address the challenge posed by certain types of individuals self-selecting into political participation. Prior to every election, Peruvian officials randomly select citizens to serve as poll monitors on Election Day. Following the January 2020 congressional elections, I conducted a two-wave panel survey of these randomly selected poll monitors and also randomly selected alternates. I find that participation as a poll worker increases an individual's senses of empowerment and efficacy, but does not provoke political interest or knowledge. I also find that participation boosts support for and trust in democratic institutions, especially elections, and that it fosters future civic participation. I find some evidence that these effects endure, at least for several months, although my follow-up estimates are less precise. Consistent with participatory theories of democracy, participation of this kind does shape citizens.


noam lupu

Noam Lupu is Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Director of LAPOP Lab at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Party Brands in Crisis (Cambridge University Press, 2016), which received the Gabriel Almond Award and the Juan Linz Award, and coeditor of Unequal Democracies (with Jonas Pontusson, forthcoming at Cambridge University Press) and Campaigns and Voters in Developing Democracies (with Virginia Oliveros and Luis Schiumerini, University of Michigan Press, 2019). His research has appeared in American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review,Comparative Political Studies, Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, and World Politics, among other outlets. In 2021, he received the Theda Skocpol Price for Emerging Scholars from the Comparative Politics section of the American Political Science Association and the Emerging Scholar Award from the Elections, Public Opinion, and Voting Behavior section. He received his Ph.D. from Princeton in 2011.