How International Post-Conflict Reforms Improve Public Opinion of State Bureaucracies: Experimental Evidence with the Liberian National Police

Sabrina Karim | Assistant Professor, Cornell University

Monday, October 1, 2018 12:15 PM to 1:30 PM


As governments move to consolidate territory, they increase the state’s presence in areas of limited statehood. There are at least two ways that this presence may influence the public opinion of those living in such areas: Face-to-face interactions with bureaucrats may improve public opinion of the bureaucracy. Additionally, interactions with bureaucrats who represent the population could improve public opinion. I test these two mechanisms using a novel field experiment in rural Liberia. Households in remote parts of Liberia were visited by either male or female police officers, or no police officers at all. The results from the field experiment show that face-to-face interactions with police officers improved perceptions of police restraint and police effectiveness. Increases in women’s representation in policing did not improve nor corrode public opinion. The short-term implication is that as governments move to increase their presence, interactions with bureaucrats shape public perceptions of the state.