Electoral Rules and Political Selection: Theory and Evidence from a Field Experiment in Afghanistan
81 Pages Posted: 10 Jul 2013 Last revised: 24 Sep 2015
Date Written: November 10, 2014
Voters commonly face a choice between competent candidates and those with policy preferences similar to their own. The paper explores how electoral rules, such as district magnitude, mediate this trade-off and affect the composition of representative bodies and 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 elected in elections with a single multi-member district are better educated and exhibit less extreme policy preferences.
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