Information and Energy Policy Preferences: A Survey Experiment on Public Opinion about Electricity Pricing Reform in Rural India


A common argument for the lack of economic reform in developing countries is popular opposition. If current economic policies are dysfunctional, could information about alternatives sway the voters? We examine if a simple argument emphasizing the need to increase electricity prices for improved supply can change public opinion in the case of India’s power sector reforms. The evidence comes from a survey experiment in rural Uttar Pradesh, which is both India’s largest state and has one of the lowest levels of household electrification. As expected, people respond to information about the relationship between electricity pricing, capacity investment, and reliability of supply by increasing their support for higher prices. However, no corresponding increase is observed for privatization of electricity generation. For external validity, we analyze an existing national survey on electricity privatization conducted in 2004/2005, finding patterns that support our argument.

Economics of Governance 15(4):305-327. [PDF] [Data and code]