For the latest version of this research please see Leah Rosenzweig’s website

Responsive governments listen to the needs and demands of its people and inform their citizens about government activities. In Tanzania, where ordinary citizens often lack the agency to criticize their government officials or make demands of their government, elections establish a direct link between citizen preferences and governance. Elections are a foundational aspect of a responsive government; voting for a government official is a way of voicing leadership preferences to the government, and selecting officials who will prioritize citizens’ needs and address their concerns. However, there is little existing evidence on which heuristics individuals use when determining vote choice, especially in a political system devoid of ideological party differences.

To understand voting decisions in elections, MIT GOV/LAB partnered with Twaweza East Africa, a civil society organization focused on government accountability and citizen engagement. Drawing on qualitative fieldwork and experimental methods, this research addresses key questions about how citizens engage with candidates, parties, and government authorities.