No Representation Without Information: Politician Responsiveness to Citizen Preferences
Abstract: Information asymmetries plague many markets. Studies on the role of information in political accountability usually ask whether citizens know enough about politicians. In this paper, I ask instead whether politicians know enough about citizens to adequately represent them. Using original politician and citizen surveys in Pakistan, I show that politicians hold highly inaccurate beliefs about citizen preferences. In collaboration with a large political party, I conduct a field experiment with 653 politicians to understand how politicians respond when they receive information on citizen preferences. I find that politicians who receive information make recommendations to their party leadership that are closer to what citizens prefer. Directly elected politicians are more responsive than indirectly elected ones. Politicians are more responsive to information about women's preferences compared to men's preferences. I interpret my results using a simple model of belief updating and responsiveness. The model suggests that higher responsiveness to women's preferences should be expected if politicians are less confident in their prior beliefs about women, for which I find evidence in the data. This paper shows that politicians' inaccurate beliefs constrain accountability and public good provision in developing democracies. My results point to the need for better channels for the flow of information from citizens to politicians—channels that include those who are currently underrepresented.