This paper presents results from a pilot field experiment where a low-cost and scalable technology – Interactive Voice Response (IVR) – helped me improve political communication in Pakistan by allowing a politician to robocall a large number of his constituents in his own voice to ask them questions and receive feedback. We find that constituent take-up of the technology is high – 86.5 percent of constituents who are contacted answer the call, and 35.6 percent of those who answered the call then answered questions. We find that those who received the calls stated improved perceptions of government competence and place greater emphasis on incumbent performance in their stated voting decision making calculus. The calls also improve evaluations of the incumbent, especially when estimating support using an endorsement experiment. A follow-up call by the politician cross-randomizes whether the politician exhibits responsiveness to the feedback from voters. We find that the positive effects of the call may be driven by responsive contact from the politician, although the evidence is less clear. The main takeaway of the pilot is that communication from politicians using IVR can encourage constituents to engage more effectively with the democratic process in some ways.
Miriam Golden is Professor of Political Science. Her undergraduate education took place at the University of California at Berkeley and the London School of Economics and Political Science, and she received her Ph.D. from Cornell University. Professor Golden's research is in the area of political economy. With economist Raymond Fisman, Professor Golden has recently authored Corruption: What Everyone Needs to Know (Oxford University Press, 2017). She has conducted field research on issues of corruption and political malfeasance in Europe, Asia, and Africa. Her current field project concerns political responsiveness in Pakistan, and uses experimental design.