Winner: Asad Liaqat, Harvard University Title of the winning paper: "No representation without information"
The paper “No representation without information” addresses a relevant and timely question through an extremely well-designed field experiment. Liaqat first assesses the extent to which politicians are informed about the policy preferences about different subsets of their constituents and, second, whether they respond to information by adapting their policy platforms. Working with a political party in Lahore, he conducted surveys with over 4,000 constituents and 600 politicians. Liaqat shows that politicians have limited knowledge about their constituents. When provided with information, they are willing to adapt their policy platforms, especially in response to information about groups about whom they had high uncertainty. In particular, even though politicians’ beliefs about both men’s and women’s preferences are similarly inaccurate, they are more confident in their beliefs about men and thus more likely to update their beliefs about women’s preferences. The findings have important implications for our understanding of the role of politicians’ differential uncertainty about constituent groups for representation. We were particularly impressed by the precise empirical strategy, cleanly derived from the theory, and the fact that the paper implements a rare elite study in collaboration with a political party in Pakistan. Beyond the careful and creative design and the close mapping between theory and empirics, the paper convinces with its transparent presentation of results and tests of potential threats to inference. In sum, we deem Liaqat’s paper a highly deserving recipient of this honorable mention.