There exists a large gap in political participation between genders in Pakistan. This project looks to explain part of this gap by studying how social networks condition the political participation of males and females in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Past research has shown that women are less willing to express their political preferences than men (Khan 2017). In addition, research has shown that information about political behaviour and opportunities to discuss political issues can increase female political participation (Gine & Mansuri 2017; Prillaman 2017). As such, understanding how existing social networks lead to the creation of certain norms around political participation and shape the incentives women face when choosing to vote is critical to explaining why women turnout at lower rates. Social networks, interacting with financial and legal constraints, may also explain the gap in voter registration, a first-order problem in Pakistan where there are over 10 million fewer registered women than men.
This project lays the groundwork for studying social networks and how they help women overcome barriers to political participation. The researchers will do this by mapping social networks within and between households in 32 settlements (roughly 4,800 households) in Khyber Pakhtunkwa. Additionally, they will collect the registration status of household members, their past political behaviour, their knowledge about voting laws and politics, and their political preferences. This information will be used to study how men and women talk about politics, with whom they talk about politics, and why certain women face constraints to their voting behaviour. The study will also look at how the social structure of society can explain political behaviour and how norms around female political participation are formed. Critically, this project explores whether the gender gap in political participation exists for individuals who are well-connected, as well as those that are not.
In the future, the researchers hope to help create ties among women in these communities that spur social mobilisation and the spread of political information through networks. By studying the effects of these interventions on downstream voting in the 2018 general elections and the 2019 local government elections, the project hopes to verify what features of social connections are crucial for mobilising traditionally under-mobilised populations.