WP106: Is clientelism at work in African elections? A study of voting behavior in Kenya and Zambia

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Working papers
Young, Daniel

In this study I challenge the notion that personalism and clientelism structure voting behavior in Africa. Using a unique combination of data sources - survey responses from the Afrobarometer project merged with constituency-level election returns - I test the relative power of two interpersonal, clientelistic interactions between voters and members of parliament (MPs), vs. how often MPs visit their constituency, in predicting election outcomes. Consistent with the argument that voters are more interested in local public goods than private goods, I find that neither being offered a gift in return for a vote,nor being in direct contact with an MP makes voters more likely to support their MP, but that visiting the constituency helps an incumbent's re-election bid. These results contribute to a burgeoning agenda on voting behavior in Africa that focuses on the agency of individual voters.

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