Economics of Governance

, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 305–327 | Cite as

Information and energy policy preferences: a survey experiment on public opinion about electricity pricing reform in rural India

  • Michaël Aklin
  • Patrick BayerEmail author
  • S. P. Harish
  • Johannes Urpelainen
Original Paper


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.


Electricity Power sector Survey experiment Investment India Rural development 

JEL Classification

O13 Q48 Q58 



We thank the Institute for Social and Economic Research and Policy (ISERP) at Columbia University for financial support and the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW) in New Delhi for research support. We thank the Mass Oriented Research and Social Elevation Lab (MORSEL) for conducting the surveys. We are grateful to seminar audiences at Columbia University and CEEW for their thoughts. Patrick Bayer gratefully acknowledges funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for a postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. We are grateful to Catalina Angel for careful proofreading of the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10101_2014_146_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (81 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (pdf 80 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michaël Aklin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Patrick Bayer
    • 3
    Email author
  • S. P. Harish
    • 1
  • Johannes Urpelainen
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PoliticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political Science, Program in International & Area StudiesWashington University in St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  4. 4.Department of PoliticsColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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