Do rumors of ballot monitoring decrease belief in ballot secrecy?

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The secret ballot has been adopted in nearly all democracies world-wide and ensuring widespread secrecy is not technically difficult. Ballot monitoring strategies circumventing basic secrecy safeguards are too labor intensive to be performed on scales necessary to swing elections, so why do campaigns engage in these activities? We believe parties engage in these isolated forms of monitoring to promulgate the belief that it is possible to monitor a person’s vote. If people believe that votes can be monitored, then they may not feel free to vote sincerely and instead cast ballots with an eye to appeasing powerful groups. In this way, doubts about ballot secrecy not only potentially distort election results but also create an environment where individuals are at risk to be victims of electoral bribery (e.g., vote buying or patronage jobs) or coercion (e.g., voter intimidation or threats to cut off public funds). We are requesting $9,800 to conduct framing experiments in Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador that test whether these stories of ballot monitoring affect beliefs about ballot secrecy. Moreover, we also want to test a frame reaffirming the secrecy of the ballot. If the surveys find frames that bolster beliefs in ballot secrecy, we will use the results to propose field experiments to NGOs concerned with reducing vote buying.