Democratic regimes need leaders with a positive attitude and high intrinsic motivation to serve their constituents. In this paper we investigate the level of pro-social motivation of leaders, how they differ from those of villagers, whether they change when becoming elected and the dynamics over several years. A regression discontinuity design based on close elections combined with a panel of incentivized lab-in-the-field measures of solidarity reveals that becoming elected as a local leader strengthens leader’s beliefs about pro-sociality of constituents and results in higher pro-sociality. These intrinsic psychological effects on marginally elected leaders hold two and six years after the election and can also be found when using a difference-in-difference approach. Our results are supported by a separate experiment measuring expectations towards local leaders.
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