Improving Political Communication: Results of a Pilot Field Experiment in Pakistan

In this report, written for the International Growth Centre, we present results of a pilot intervention conducted in Pakistan in partnership with a Member of a Provincial Assembly. The goal of the work was to improve communication and trust between voters and their elected representative. The technical core of the experiment utilized integrated voice response (IVR) technology. IVR allows politicians to record messages in their own voice and deliver them via robocalls to citizens. Citizens can respond to these questions by pressing keys on their phones. To allow the MPA to use IVR to communicate with voters, the project collected cell phone numbers from a random set of voters, helped the MPA script and record questions, sent out the recordings to voters, and collected and presented the aggregated responses to the MPA. Then follow-up calls were recorded and delivered. With funding from the International Growth Centre (IGC) and the Empirical Studies of Conflict (ESOC) project, a pilot study to generate proof of concept for the IVR component was conducted between February and June 2017. For the pilot, we randomly sampled 1,218 male heads of household who reside in 40 randomly selected communities that are located in 11 randomly selected Village Council areas. The pilot documented successful delivery of the IVR and improvement in some aspects of political engagement by respondents. Response rates on the part of the enrolled were greater than 30 percent. With funding from the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL), the project is now scaling up in partnership with 40 MPAs.