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Political Selection in Local Elections: Evidence from Rural Uganda

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Political selection can be crucial to the quality of governance. Yet our general knowledge of the individual characteristics that determine who becomes a politician remains scant – primarily due to data limitations. Dal Bo and Finan (2018) emphasize how the quality of political candidates is typically measured by a few objective characteristics – aside from demographics (like age and gender), quality is usually measured by education, preoffice income levels and type of occupation.Even more challenging to capture are determinants of “valence” (Stokes 1963): attributes that the electorate care about beyond a candidate’s stated policy platform. Added to this, typically we do not have data on the unelected political candidates, or those who decided not to re-run for election (Dal Bo et al. 2017).

This paper contributes to the knowledge gap by collecting detailed data on the quality, perceptions, attitudes, and promises of all candidates involved in a recent local election in rural Uganda.

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