Politicians are ill informed about Citizens’ Needs- Study
A study by Jameel Poverty Action Lab has concluded that politicians and elected officials are mostly with insufficient or warped understanding of the needs and preferences of the citizens,urging political parties to open up more constructive information flow with the citizens,
The finding is contained in a working paper released this week. The study themed “No Representation without Information: Politician Responsiveness to Citizen Preferences” was conducted by Asad Liaquat.
According to the study,”the descriptive evidence in this paper shows that politicians are insufficiently informed about citizen preferences. The experimental evidence shows that this lack of information is a constraint on democratic accountability.
“In a setting where politicians primarily acquire information about citizen preferences through direct contact with voters, this paper shows that mere contact does not necessarily lead to substantive representation. Instead, higher levels of contact with an unrepresentative sample may even undermine representation as politicians become overconfident in their beliefs.
“This study makes an important contribution by establishing the beliefs of politicians as an essential ingredient of accountability. How these beliefs are formed, the ways in which these beliefs are biased, and how they are updated is central to how citizen voice gets represented in political decision making.
“The central contribution of this paper is that even in the existence of corruption, voter misinformation and other accountability gaps, politicians are responsive to better information about what citizens care about to varying degrees depending on the nature of their prior beliefs.
“These findings have several direct policy implications. Informational failures on the part of politicians lead to the underrepresentation of marginalized populations and add to a disconnect between citizens and politicians, which adversely affects citizens’ trust in democracy.
“To address these problems, political parties should institutionalize better mechanisms for the flow of information from citizens to politicians. These mechanisms should pay particular attention to including those citizens that are underrepresented in existing channels.
“One such mechanism that complements existing informational channels is to introduce regular opinion polling and establishing think tanks within parties with the capacity of interpreting and using these opinion polls.
” Another mechanism that improves current informational channels is to increase the descriptive representation within parties of those who are less likely to directly contact politicians.
“Civil society organizations also have a role to play in promoting the dissemination of better information and creating platforms where marginalized citizens can engage with politicians. This role is especially important in cases where electoral incentives or institutional inertia discourage parties from engaging in internal reform”,the study recommended.