Perspectives on Politics

Research Article

Experimenting in Democracy Promotion: International Observers and the 2004 Presidential Elections in Indonesia

Susan D. Hydea1

a1 Yale University. E-mail:


Randomized field experiments have gained attention within the social sciences and the field of democracy promotion as an influential tool for causal inference and a potentially powerful method of impact evaluation. With an eye toward facilitating field experimentation in democracy promotion, I present the first field-experimental study of international election monitoring, which should be of interest to both practitioners and academics. I discuss field experiments as a promising method for evaluating the effects of democracy assistance programs. Applied to the 2004 presidential elections in Indonesia, the random assignment of international election observers reveals that even though the election was widely regarded as democratic, the presence of observers had a measurable effect on votes cast for the incumbent candidate, indicating that such democracy assistance can influence election quality even in the absence of blatant election-day fraud.

Susan Hyde is Assistant Professor of Political Science and International Affairs at Yale University (


The author thanks Jeffrey Isaac and two anonymous reviews for their extremely helpful comments, as well as Eric Bjornlund, David Carroll, Avery Davis-Roberts, Clark Gibson, Vladimir Pran, and David Pottie for making this study possible and for providing extensive feedback. Thanks are also due to Thad Dunning, Don Green, David Lake, Mat McCubbins, and Irfan Nooruddin for numerous comments on the project, to Gary Cox, J. Morgan Kousser, Sarah Bush, and Jon Immel, and participants at seminars at The Ohio State University, Princeton University, Columbia University, and New York University.

A list of permanent links to supplementary materials provided by the author precedes the references section.