Lily Tsai, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) – Department of Political Science
How can governments in low-trust settings overcome their credibility deficit when promoting public welfare? To answer this question, we evaluate the effectiveness of the Liberian government’s door-to-door canvassing campaign during the 2014-2015 Ebola epidemic, which aimed to persuade residents to voluntarily comply with policies for containing the disease. Combining data from an original representative survey of Monrovia during the crisis with variation in the campaign’s reach and using multiple identification strategies, we find that the informational campaign was remarkably effective at increasing adherence to safety precautions, support for contentious control policies, and general trust in government. To uncover the pathways through which the campaign proved so effective, we conducted over 80 in-depth qualitative interviews in 40 randomly sampled communities. This investigation suggests that local intermediaries were effective because their embeddedness in communities subjected them to monitoring and sanctioning, thereby assuring their fellow residents that they were accountable and thus credible.
Suggested Citation: Tsai, Lily and Morse, Benjamin and Blair, Robert, Building Credibility and Cooperation in Low-Trust Settings: Persuasion and Source Accountability in Liberia During the 2014-2015 Ebola Crisis (April 8, 2020). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2020-3. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3571562.
Image: Community Health Volunteers with Ebola prevention kits walking through West Point in Monrovia, Liberia (Morgana Wingard/ UNDP).