My research broadly encompasses social media, ethnic politics, political communication, political behavior, and governance outcomes. The research agenda is centered on South Asia. While I am methodologically pluralistic, I rely on experimental methods – particularly survey experiments, large surveys, complemented with qualitative techniques. Below are some of the projects I am working on right now. Feel free to contact me for more details, including abstracts and texts of the projects.


1. Misinformation through Social Networks, Political Behavior, and Good Governance 

[Awarded a $50,000 grant from Facebook Inc.]

Research questions:

1. Does misinformation spread via social networks impact voting preferences in
developing countries, and why?
2. Does misinformation distributed through social networks change longstanding
political party affiliation, and why?
3. Does misinformation influence attitudes toward ethnic out-groups?
4. Does ethnically targeted misinformation influence demand for public goods?
5. Related to the above, does economic clientelist misinformation appealing to
targeted ethnic identities have greater (or worse) influence in changing public
policy attitudes than misinformation involving public goods, and why?

Field and survey experiments in India and Afghanistan will be carried out over phases in 2019.

2. Political Participation of Women and Public Goods Provisioning in Ethnically Divided Societies

[Funding: US $ 25,000. The International Growth Centre.]

The project aims to deliver insights on the following questions that would likely be beneficial for political parties, policy-makers, and academics.

1. In an ethnically divided society, what matters to voters more – security or economic development?
2. Are women at a disadvantage as political candidates in locales with caste violence?
3. What kind of incentives should parties, and female candidates, offer to voters in such ethnically divided areas to win elections?
4. Does reservation for women in legislative seats work? In contrast, should political parties nominate women in
seats with caste-based reservations?
5. What are the signals female candidates should offer to increase public trust in their candidacy vis-a-vis rival male
candidates in areas where women have been historically rarely elected?

Survey experiments and qualitative focus-group interviews were carried out in December 2020.

3. Social Media, Intergroup Relations, and Public Opinion in Ethnically Segregated and Diverse Communities in India

[Funder: University of Virginia. US $ 20,000, July 2021 and US $ 66,000, December 2021]

This pilot project investigates the ways offline and online segregation affects belief in misinformation and, in turn, people’s attitudes and behavior in historically marginalized communities. In particular, we examine how online information about intergroup relations affects intergroup trust, support for public goods provision, and vote choice. The broader version of the project aims to be one of the largest studies of its kind examining how misinformation is influencing identity politics, ethnic relations and investigating potential solutions to the challenge of misinformation in the world’s two largest democracies – the US and India.

4. State Effectiveness and Citizen Behavior: Experiments on the Role of State Actors in Eliciting Pro-Developmental Behavior Change in India

[Funding: Under consideration; National Science Foundation, August 2022. US $ 268,000]

A key role of states is to provide important collective and individual benefits to citizens such as protecting the environment, reducing the spread of infectious disease, and expanding access to education and healthcare. However, in order for these benefits to be realized, citizens must usually take some action. Yet, time and again, citizens often fail to adopt these seemingly simple but necessary behaviors.

Motivated by this problem, the key question that undergirds our proposed research is: When and how are state actors effective in eliciting pro-developmental behavioral change in citizens? Building on past scholarship and our own prior work, we theorize that the effectiveness of state actors in this regard should vary according to (a) whether the state actor is elected or unelected, (b) the level of government at which the actor operates and (c) whether the appeal made emphasizes private benefits or social norms.
To examine these arguments, we propose to build on previous research we conducted in the North Indian state of Bihar. This research – involving a large survey, a conjoint survey experiment, as well as numerous qualitative interviews with state actors and citizens – has highlighted the challenges the state has faced in bringing about change in key social policy areas despite its considerable efforts to do so.

Papers published or under peer review: 

  • Ethnonationalist Gender Norms: How Parties Shape Voter Attitudes to Women Candidates in India (Forthcoming: American Journal of Political Science)
  • Electing Women in Ethnically Divided Societies: Candidates, Campaigns, and Intersectionality in Bihar, India (Forthcoming: Comparative Political Studies)
  • Do Local Gender Quotas “Spillover” to Higher Tiers? Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Bihar, India (Under review: Journal of Politics)
  • Identity Matters: WhatsApp, Misinformation and Voter Attitudes in India
  • Do Ethnic Electoral Quotas Reduce Ethnic Violence?

Working papers:

  • WhatsApp, Misinformation and Demand for Public Goods Provision in Ethnically Divided Societies
  • How Do Ethnic Parties Win: Violence, Clientelism & Public Goods Provision

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