Electoral rules and political selection: Theory and evidence from a field experiment in Afghanistan

Recognition Program

Authors: Andrew Beath, Fotini Christia, Georgy Egorov and Ruben Enikolopov

Review of Economic Studies, Vol. 83, No 3, 932-968, July, 2016

Voters commonly face a choice between competent candidates and those with policy preferences similar to their own. This article explores how electoral rules, such as district magnitude, mediate this trade-off and affect the composition of representative bodies and the quality of policy outcomes. We show formally that anticipation of bargaining over policy causes voters in elections with multiple single-member districts to prefer candidates with polarized policy positions over more competent candidates. Results from a unique field experiment in Afghanistan are consistent with these predictions. Specifically, representatives selected by elections with a single multi-member district are better educated and exhibit less extreme policy preferences.

This paper is acknowledged by the Barcelona GSE Research Recognition Program