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Working paper

WP103: Tribalism as a minimax-regret strategy: Evidence from voting in the 2007 Kenyan elections

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Although many studies find that voting in Africa approximates an ethnic census in that voting is primarily along ethnic lines, few studies have sought to explain such voting behavior using a rational choice framework. In this note, we use data of voter opinions from a survey conducted two weeks before the 2007 Kenyan presidential elections to evaluate the primary motivation for voting. We analyze voter responses on a number of issues and show that there are major differences in expected benefits across ethnic groups depending on the winning presidential candidate. We demonstrate that the decision to participate in the election is largely influenced by the expected benefits such that voting is primarily on the basis of minimax-regret strategy. We test the predictions of this model using actual data on voter turnout in the December 2007 elections. Our results offer credence to the minimax regret model as proposed by Ferejohn and Fiorina (1974) and refute the Downsian expected utility model.

Mwangi Kimenyi

Mwangi S. Kimenyi is Professor in the Department of Economics at the University of Connecticut

Roxana Romero

Roxana Gutierrez Romero is a researcher in the Department of International Development at the University of Oxford.