Saad Gulzar (Stanford), "Making Candidate Selection In Parties More Representative with Public Opinion Data: A Field Experiment in Nepal"
Building upon a recent work co-authored with Zuhad Hai (Stanford) and Binod Kumar Paudel (Communication University of China), this talk focuses on candidate selection in political parties through the assessment of public opinion date. Leaders of political parties do not always take actions that strictly reflect the preferences of the electorate. This divergence may be strategic in the sense that party elites are exercising their political expertise, or it could be the case that party leaders are uninformed about public opinion and take actions to approximate the preferences of the electorate. We test for this by working with a political party in Nepal and embedding an experiment during a critical task performed by party leaders in a majority of democracies: candidate selection. We document that before candidates are officially chosen, party leader preferences for candidates match those of the voters in only a third of cases. We then randomly provide public opinion information on potential candidates to party leaders when they meet to deliberate on candidate selection. We find not only that leaders adjust behavior in light of the public opinion information, but that party's electoral performance also improves through a one-fifth improvement in its vote share. These results suggest that party leaders' preferences may diverge from the electorates' because of limited information on public opinion and that the provision of this information can be welfare improving for both parties and citizens.
Saad Gulzar is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Stanford University. He received his Ph.D. in Political Science at New York University in 2017. His research interests lie in the political economy of development and comparative politics, with a regional focus on South Asia. He studies political participation and development by working closely with citizens, politicians, political parties, and government agencies. His publications appeared in the American Political Science Review and the Journal of Politics.