Monday, August 17th
ShahBano Ijaz (UCSD), Voter Preferences and Foreign Aid: Evidence from Pakistan
What kind of candidates do voters in aid-dependent countries prefer? Recent literature in political science has attributed the electoral consequences of foreign aid to credit claiming by politicians (Cruz and Schneider 2017) or to the ability of politicians to allocate these funds strategically (Briggs 2012; Jablonski 2014). However, both these mechanisms assume an asymmetry of information between voters and politicians: if voters were better informed about politicians’ programmatic efforts, they would not reward politicians for foreign aid. However, in countries with low tax-to-GDP ratios and high aid dependency, voters adapt their expectations in the light of foreign aid and elect politicians with characteristics that make them more likely to secure and efficiently disburse foreign aid. In this paper, I conduct a survey experiment amongst Pakistani undergraduate students and find that voters are more likely to choose candidates with foreign degrees and previous experience with the World Bank. I also find that voters are more likely to opt for programs with individually targeted benefits in the form of cash handouts. This suggests that voters explicitly choose characteristics that signal candidates’ performance along the foreign aid dimension, rather than voting on the basis of misattributed credit. It also suggests that foreign aid does not necessarily diminish voters’ perception of the local government (Dolan 2020).