WP95: Voting in Kenya: Putting ethnicity in perspective

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Working papers
Bratton Michael and Mwangi S. Kimenyi

Do Kenyans vote according to ethnic identities or policy interests? Based on results from a national probability sample survey conducted in December 2007, this article shows that, while ethnic origins drive voting patterns, elections in Kenya amount to more than a mere ethnic census. We start by reviewing how Kenyans see themselves, which is mainly in non-ethnic terms. We then report on how they see others, whom they fear will organize politically along ethnic lines. People therefore vote defensively in ethnic blocs, but not exclusively. In December 2007, they also took particular policy issues into account, including living standards, corruption and majimbo (federalism). We demonstrate that the relative weight that individuals grant to ethnic and policy voting depends in good part on how they define their group identities, with "ethnics" engaging mainly in identity voting and "non-ethnics" giving more weight to interests and issues.

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