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Political Responsiveness to Conflict Victims: Evidence from a Countrywide Audit Experiment in Colombia

Joan Barceló and Mauricio Vela Barón

American Political Science Review, 2024, vol. 118, issue 1, 21-37

Abstract: Violence leaves significant social groups at a long-term disadvantage, including for generating income and accessing public services. In this article, we conduct a nationwide field experiment with local authorities in Colombia to evaluate how politicians respond to conflict victims in providing access to social services. We find that local officials are more likely to respond to requests for help from victims than from ordinary citizens and return friendlier and more helpful responses. Although politicians invest additional efforts to respond to conflict victims, we show that their responsiveness, affect, and helpfulness vary based on the ideological match between the party in power and the identity of the perpetrator of violence. Using interviews, we present evidence that elected officials respond to victims to signal their commitment to peace and to separate themselves from violent groups on their ideological side. These findings provide new insights into the dynamics of political representation in postconflict societies.

Date: 2024
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