Rewarding Merit or Luck? Electoral Accountability in Comparative Perspective

Does voting based on economic performance hold governments accountable? In this paper, we argue that when alternative sources of information about the competence of incumbent governments are not available, it may be rational for citizens to cast an economic vote even when the economy is mostly determined by exogenous factors. In such context, however, economic voting is unlikely to promote democratic accountability. We show, empirically, that in much of the developing world exogenous shocks are far more relevant to explain economic outcomes than in the developed world, but that rates economic voting are similar throughout. Our findings imply that economic voting rewards merit in developed nations, but luck elsewhere, and cast doubt on the effectiveness of the economic vote as an instrument of democratic accountability in the developing world.