Sarah Bush: Who’s There? Election Observer Identity and the Local Credibility of Elections


Room TBA, McGill University, CA

The Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship presents:

Who’s There? Election Observer Identity and the Local Credibility of Elections

Sarah Bush (Temple University)

You can learn more about Professor Temple by clicking here

Abstract: Prior research has sought to understand the rise of election observers and their consequences for outcomes such as fraud, protest, and violence. These studies are important, but they overlook a significant individual-level dynamic that observers themselves care about: the effect that election observers have on local attitudes about elections. How does election observer identity affect the local credibility of elections? We argue that the activities of election observers can enhance the local credibility of elections, but only when locals perceive observers as being both capable of detecting fraud and unbiased in that pursuit. Importantly, not all observer groups are seen as equally capable and unbiased. Evidence from a large-scale, nationally-representative experiment in Tunisia supports the argument. A key finding is that observers from the Arab League—an organization criticized internationally for low-quality election observation—enhanced credibility the most as they were the observers perceived locally as both relatively capable and unbiased.

For more information on the CSDC speaker series, please visit:

This series is sponsored by the Inter-university Centre for the Study of Democratic Citizenship, which is funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC).