The effects of pre-colonial history on contemporary African development have become an important field of study within development economics in recent years. In particular Gennaioli and Rainer (2007) suggest that pre-colonial political centralization has had a positive impact on contemporary levels of development within Africa at the country level. We test the Gennaioli and Rainer (2007) hypothesis at the sub-national level for the first time with evidence from Uganda. Using a variety of datasets we obtain results which are striking in two ways. First, we confirm the Gennaioli and Rainer (2007) hypothesis that pre-colonial centralization is highly correlated with modern-day development outcomes such as GDP, asset ownership and poverty levels, and that these correlations hold at the district, sub-county and individual levels. We also use an instrumental variable approach to confirm this finding using the distance from ancient capital of Mubende as an instrument. However, our second finding is that public goods like immunization coverage and primary school enrollment are not correlated with pre-colonial centralization. These findings are thus consistent with a correlation between pre-colonial centralization and private rather than public goods, thereby suggesting the persistence of poverty and wealth from the pre-colonial period to the present.
This paper addresses the conditions under which donor and non-state actor service provision is likely to undermine or strengthen citizens’ legitimating beliefs. On the one hand, citizens may be less likely to support their government with quasi-voluntary compliance when they credit non-state actors or donors for service provision. On the other hand, the provision of goods and services by donors and non-state actors might strengthen citizens’ confidence in their government and their willingness to defer to governmental laws and regulations if citizens believe that the government is essential to leveraging and managing these resources. The author assesses these competing hypotheses using multi-level analyses of Afrobarometer survey data. The sample, drawn from a continuum of developing societies in Africa, allows for analysis of associations between donor and non-state actor service provision and the sense of obligation to comply with tax authorities, the police and courts. The findings yield support for the hypothesis that the provision of services by donors and non-state actors is strengthening, rather than undermining, the relationship between citizens and the state.
Corruption is a major source of slow development in Africa – the poorest region of the world. While extant research has focused on the causes and consequences of corruption at the macro-level, less effort has been devoted to understanding the micro-foundation of corruption, as well as the mechanisms through which poverty may be related to corruption and bribery. In this paper, we develop a simple model of the relationship between poverty and corruption. The model suggests that poor people are more likely to be victims of corrupt behavior by street-level government bureaucrats. Poor people often rely heavily on services provided by governments and are therefore more likely to be met by demands for bribes in return for obtaining those services. We test this proposition using micro-level survey data from the Afrobarometer. Since individuals are surveyed in different countries, we use multilevel regressions to estimate the effect of poverty on people’s experience with paying bribes. The results show that poor people are indeed much more prone to pay bribes to government officials. This suggests that the people who are worst off materially are also more likely to be victims of corruption.
We show that armed conflict affects social capital as measured by trust and associational membership. Using the case of Uganda and two rounds of nationally representative individual-level data bracketing a large number of battle events, we find that self-reported generalized trust and associational membership decreased during the conflict in districts in which battle events took place. Exploiting the different timing of two distinct waves of violence, we provide suggestive evidence for a rapid recovery of social capital. Evidence from a variety of identification strategies, including difference-in-difference and instrumental variable estimates, suggests that these relationships are causal.
In this paper, I assess the determinants and validity of citizens’ perceptions of election quality. First, I suggest that citizens’ evaluation of the performance of election-related institutions is the most crucial determinant of their election quality perceptions; however, citizens’ personal experience with electoral irregularities, and affiliation with electoral winners also matter. Second, I argue that citizens’ election quality perceptions are generally indicative of prevailing trends within different stages of the election process. I expect citizens’ perceptions to be correlated with other non-perception-based indicators of election quality. I test these hypotheses in the context of the 2007 Nigerian elections, using survey data from the Afrobarometer and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems along with original data coded from petitions filed in Nigerian Election Tribunals. The findings provide robust support for the hypotheses and underscore the importance of gauging citizens’ perceptions of electoral quality. Most important, the results indicate that Nigerians were critical of the quality of the 2007 elections and demand electoral institutions with impartiality and professionalism.
The youth have long represented an important constituency for electoral mobilization in Africa. Yet, despite their numerical importance and the historical relevance of generational identities within the region, very little is really known about the political participation of Africa’s youth. In order to address this issue, we combine country-level variables for 19 of Africa’s more democratic countries with individual-level public opinion data from Afrobarometer survey data. A series of binomial and multinomial logit models are estimated on three key outcome variables: voter turnout in last elections, closeness to political party, and participation in protests. Each outcome variable is analyzed for both a youth group, who we define as those aged 18-30, and a non-youth group. In comparison with older citizens, we find that Africa’s youth tend to vote less and express a lower level of partisanship, which is consistent with findings for the youth in other regions of the world. However, Africa’s youth are not more likely to protest than older citizens. Collectively, these findings cast doubt that the youth are more likely to turn to the street when they are disgruntled but still question the legitimacy of the electoral process as a meaningful conduit for conveying the preferences of Africa’s youth. Today, as the region faces a growing “youth bulge” that is disproportionately burdened by un- and underemployment, capturing the votes of this demographic is becoming more important than ever before.
In February 2011, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni further extended his already twenty-five-year tenure by winning a resounding re-election victory. In the aftermath of the vote, which many had earlier predicted would be competitive or even result in an opposition victory, analysts and opposition supporters ascribed Museveni’s victory to his government’s massive pre-election spending on public goods, and to supposedly widespread vote-buying practices. While the opposition clearly could not compete with Museveni and his National Resistance Movement in terms of access to resources, our analyses of survey data—from two pre-election surveys conducted by Afrobarometer in November/December 2010 and January 2011, and a three-wave pre- and post-election panel study— find little evidence that Museveni benefited significantly from practices such as public goods outlays, district creation, and vote buying. Additionally, we find little evidence that fear and intimidation are responsible for the results, and more support for hypotheses that Museveni’s re-election was driven by an uninspiring opposition slate, widespread satisfaction with macroeconomic growth, and an improved security situation, particularly in the Northern Region.
This paper appears in Michael Bratton (ed), Voting and Democratic Citizenship in Africa (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, April 2013). More information can be found here. Users in Africa may request a gratis electronic copy of this paper from Brian Kennedy, Afrobarometer Publications Manager, at email@example.com.
A key question confronting states that have recently transitioned from authoritarian rule is how to legitimate institutions of the state. No longer charged with serving the narrow interests of a strong and powerful minority, state institutions are often faced with the challenge of transforming in a way that allows them to garner the trust and willing obedience of the majority. The question of the sources of state legitimacy is particularly pertinent in emerging democracies where trust in institutions is often shallow and the authority of the state remains contested. For new democratic states that do manage to secure support, the question then becomes: what are the determinants of this support? Are they instrumental or affective? Are citizens more likely to accept and obey the decisions of the police, courts and tax agency when they are more satisfied with the provision of political and economic goods? And with respect to political goods, is it autocratic memory or democratic reality that best characterizes the relationship between the provision of these goods and perceptions of a legitimate state? In essence, how are states able to translate legitimacy deficits from an authoritarian past into legitimacy dividends in the democratic present? In this paper I argue for the supremacy of political goods, suggesting that those who rate the state positively in providing personal security, political rights and a rule of law, to be more likely to see the state as legitimate. I test these propositions in the context of South Africa, a state that was viewed as illegitimate by the majority of individuals until very recently. Using 2008 Afrobarometer data, I find strong support for my contention that the provision of political goods is a key determinant of legitimacy attitudes.
Sub-Saharan Africa is the part of the world that is most severely affected by HIV/AIDS. Yet, surveys of attitudes to AIDS across African countries show that most people do not attach great importance to the issue. Given the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS, this appears paradoxical. This paper argues that the salience of AIDS is low in Africa because many people are too poor to consider the disease important. This means that AIDS is crowded out by other issues – such as poverty, hunger, and unemployment – that have more immediate consequences for people’s lives. The hypothesis that poverty affects the salience of AIDS is tested using data from the Afrobarometer. Given that individuals are surveyed in different countries, the paper uses multilevel regressions to estimate the impact of poverty and material living conditions on AIDS salience. At both the individual and country level, the results show that poverty and material living conditions have significant effects on the likelihood that individuals consider AIDS a salient political issue. These results clearly support the idea that poverty is a constraint on the importance people attach to AIDS.
Does living in close proximity to members of other ethnic groups make people more or less tolerant of ethnic differences? How does local electoral competition interact with ethnic demography to affect ethnic tolerance? This paper examines these questions by combining survey data with new measures of local ethnic composition and political competition in Kenya. People living in ethnically diverse areas report higher levels of interethnic trust and residentially segregated people are less trusting of members of other ethnic groups. In contrast to research linking national electoral competition and ethnic salience, there is no evidence that local electoral competition increases intolerance. This paper has important implications for the study of the political and economic consequences of ethnic diversity and suggests that even in developing countries, where resource conflict along ethnic lines is acute and sometimes violent, sharing neighborhoods with members of different ethnic groups may lead to tolerance.
In 1994, the combined prospects of rapid demographic change and a radically changed political system held out the promise of rapid movement toward a transformed citizenry, based primarily on an emerging post-apartheid generation imbued with the values of the new South African citizen. But as far as popular demand for democracy goes, the post-apartheid generation is less committed to democracy than their parents or grandparents. Rather than re-drawing the country’s main cleavages along lines of age and generation (as in post-war Germany), many of the key fault lines of apartheid have been replicated within the new generation. While the country’s new schooling curriculum was meant to produce a new type of democrat, only the products of the country’s historically advantaged schools seems to have profited from this process. South African democracy remains dependent on performance based legitimation. But whatever advantages might accrue from the new political experiences of political freedom and a regular, peaceful, electoral process, are diminished by frustrating encounters with the political process, victimization by corrupt officials, and enduring unemployment and poverty.
Why would politicians give up power over the allocation of critical resources to community leaders? This article examines why many African governments have ceded power over the allocation of land to non-elected traditional leaders. In contrast to the existing literature, which suggests traditional leaders’ power is a hang-over from the colonial period that has not been eliminated due to weak state capacity, I argue that African politicians often choose to devolve power to traditional leaders as a means of mobilizing electoral support from non-coethnics. I test the explanatory power of this argument using a new data set including approximately 180 sub-national regions in Africa; the data set was constructed by combining data from surveys with environmental, anthropological and historical data. The article finds that historical and geographic constraints do not fully explain patterns in the devolution of power to chiefs, and that traditional chiefs in a position to mobilize electoral support from politically unaligned ethnic groups are given greater responsibility over the allocation of land. The cross-sectional analysis is complemented by an analysis of changes in land legislation across time in each country, which shows that the prospect of competitive elections often triggers decisions to devolve power to chiefs.
Candidate appeals on the basis of what Western observers would call ideology are rare in contemporary Africa. Given this general absence of ideological cues, top-down approaches to the study of the emergence of political attitudinal structures would suggest that most non-elites will likely not self-label ideologically or structure their political attitudes according to identifiable dimensions. However, bottom-up approaches focus on how individuals can structure their attitudinal dispositions in coherent ways, even in the absence of an elite-generated “discursive superstructure.” In this paper, we first explore the extent to which African parties are in fact ideologically distinguishable, by utilizing Afrobarometer survey data on the median attitudes of parties’ bases. We find that, in more than half of the paired comparisons that we observe, major parties are not distinguishable from one another in terms of their adherents’ attitudes towards the proper role of the state in the economy; the same is true in terms of support for democratic norms. This suggests a relative lack of elite-generated ideological discourse. Following this, we attempt to measure the extent to which Africans structure their attitudes on political issues according to identifiably coherent structures in these areas of state involvement in the economy and democratic institutions. Exploratory factor analyses, which we also conduct using Afrobarometer data, suggest little evidence of such structures and high rates of incoherence in individuals’ responses to sets of seemingly related questions. These findings hold for all countries included in the analyses and are consistent across sub-groups divided on the bases of sex, partisanship, education, media access, urban-rural setting, political knowledge, and stated interest in politics.
By 2010, it has become clear that in most of Africa, traditional authorities are a resilient lot, just as much a part of the “modern” political landscape as any constitution, legislature or local council. Analysts have proposed a wide array of possible explanations for this phenomenon, focusing variously on sources of legitimacy, issues of performance or function, and leadership qualities. They draw sharply different conclusions, most notably with regard to whether they believe that traditional authorities survive and thrive because of the preferences of the mass public, or only at the behest of the state, and in fact in opposition to the popular will. Data collected in 19 countries during Round 4 (2008-2009) of the Afrobarometer allows us to explore these hypotheses more systematically and on a larger scale than previous analyses. The findings are somewhat startling in the intensity of the support for traditional authority that they reveal, presenting a stark challenge to those who still argue that traditional leadership is an unabashedly negative and decidedly undemocratic force in Africa. While Africans find these leaders to be flawed, they nonetheless believe that traditional authorities have an essential role to play in local governance. They place considerable value on the role traditional authorities play in managing and resolving conflict, and on their leadership qualities and their accessibility to ordinary people. There is also evidence to suggest that traditional leaders play an essential symbolic role as representatives of community identity, unity, continuity and stability. In fact, the evidence suggests that traditional leaders derive their support at least as much from who they are as from what they do.
This paper offers a first comprehensive account of popular voting intentions in Africa’s new electoral democracies. With reference to comparative aggregate and survey data from 16 countries, we show that competitive elections in Africa are more than mere ethnic censuses or simple economic referenda. Instead, Africans engage in both ethnic and economic voting. Not surprisingly, people who belong to the ethnic group in power intend to support the ruling party, in contrast to those who feel a sense of discrimination against their cultural group. But, to an even greater extent, would-be voters in Africa consider policy performance, especially the government’s perceived handling of unemployment, inflation, and income distribution. Moreover, a full account of the intention to vote in Africa also requires recognition that citizens are motivated—sincerely or strategically—by partisan considerations; they vote for established ruling parties because they expect that incumbents will win. We show that voters attempt to associate themselves with prospective winners because they wish to gain access to patronage benefits and to avoid retribution after the election. These dynamics are most evident in African countries where dominant parties restrict the range of electoral choice.
Why do citizens assent to pay tax? On what condition do private individuals agree to commit their personal income to a public fund at the disposal of the state? What are the reciprocal responsibilities of the state expected in return for this remarkable act? The paper poses these questions in the context of African states and tests three distinct theoretical perspectives: i) the fiscal exchange thesis that emphasizes the vertical relationship between citizen and state – specifically the services received in return for tax ii) the ‘national political community’ approach, which highlights the horizontal relationship between citizens, in terms of the extent of national identification and iii) the comparative treatment perspective, focused on how the state treats the citizen relative to their compatriots. An ordered probit model is employed to test these theories, using micro data from the latest rounds of surveys conducted by Afrobarometer. The results provide support for certain aspects of the fiscal exchange, no backing for national community approaches and more persuasive support for the comparative treatment thesis. These findings challenge existing accounts, which focus exclusively on fiscal exchange and national community, and suggests new avenues for research, as comparative treatment has to date not been applied in the literature on tax attitudes. The paper concludes by considering the implications of the findings for wider debates about the legitimacy of African states.
In Africa, it is often presumed that ethnicity shapes individuals' evaluations of politicians, and individuals would be particularly likely to rely on ethnic cues where violence or other personal experiences render ethnicity more salient. This paper examines whether individuals' ethnicity affects evaluations of politicians who use election violence or violate other democratic norms. The paper draws on data from a novel survey-embedded experiment conducted by the author in six slums in Nairobi, Kenya, in July 2009. The neighborhoods varied in their level of exposure to violence during the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya and in the prevalence of violence and fraud during elections and primaries prior to this post-election violence. Individuals were asked to evaluate a hypothetical politician who had participated in election-related violence in past elections. Two treatments varied only the name of the politician, which conveyed ethnic information; the third maintained the Kikuyu identity of the hypothetical politician but assigned him a party affiliation associated with a rival ethnic group. The paper findings suggest that individuals rely on ethnic cues in a much more contingent fashion that the literature has often suggested. First, the paper finds that political alliances and shared partisanship play as important a role in shaping individual decision-making as co-ethnicity. Second, contrary to the common wisdom regarding the effects of violence on ethnic salience, this paper finds that co-ethnicity was not a significant predictor of respondents' evaluations in neighborhoods that had been substantially affected by violence. In those neighborhoods, individuals were as likely to sanction their co-ethnics for using violence as they were to sanction a politician from a different ethnic group. In neighborhoods that had not been substantially affected by the post-election violence (and where electoral violence had also been previously less prevalent), co-ethnicity had a strong and positive effect on individuals' evaluations of violent politicians.
Diamond and Morlino (2005) propose a quality of democracy framework that includes eight dimensions, but they suggest that only one of these – responsiveness – is susceptible to measurement using public opinion data. However, we argue that citizen experiences and evaluations are essential pieces of data which may enable us to capture valid “insider” or “ground-up” measures of democratic procedures and substance that may be missed by expert judges and macro-level indicators. In this paper we develop indicators based on public attitude data for all eight dimensions of democracy. Substantively, this subjective mass opinion perspective on the Quality of Democracy gives us insight into what Africans themselves want out of democracy, and how they prioritize its various components. In general, African governments seem to be more interested in supplying – and African citizens seem to be more interested in getting – protection for rights and equality, as well as a strengthened institutional framework. Governments remain deficient in democratizing their interactions with citizens by creating mechanisms of vertical accountability and responsiveness, and citizens, quite frankly, seem considerably less interested in these goals as well. As we explore the places where citizen and expert evaluations diverge, we are drawn to the conclusion that both individual and expert assessments of the quality of democracy deserve to be carefully interrogated. What parts of Africans’ everyday experience of democracy (or lack thereof) are missed by country expert assessments? And what parts of democratic qualities (or flaws) are missed by citizens with limited access to independent sources of information about events and trends that lie beyond their immediate experience? We cannot at this point conclude that either experts or ordinary citizens provide the “true” or “correct” assessment, but rather that both perspectives are essential to fully understanding today’s democratic experience, and the shape of the democratic future, on the continent.
Efforts to do comparative research on political attitudes have been complicated by varying understandings of “democracy.” The Afrobarometer is exploring new techniques to overcome this difficulty.
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