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Type Conference Paper - 2009 American Political Science Association Conference
Title Who are Africa’s (non) ethnic voters? Evaluating theories on the salience of ethnicity in African electoral politics
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
The political salience of ethnicity in Africa is well-established, but these identities are by no means the sole determiners of individuals’ political preferences and behaviors, either. Substantial variation exists within and between countries in terms of individuals’ likelihood of voting for co-ethnics. In an attempt to identify factors contributing to this variation, this paper draws upon three theoretical approaches. First, some versions of modernization theory suggest that educated, urbanized voters with greater access to mass media will be more likely to embrace global, rather than parochial, identities, and will therefore be more open to voting across ethnic lines. Second, theories of strategic voting would suggest that the relative size of an individual’s ethnic group should impact tendencies toward ethnic voting. Finally, ethnic voting might be more common under some electoral institutions than under others. Hypotheses are tested using data drawn from the third round of the Afrobarometer survey. The dependent variable—ethnic voting—is operationalized according to individuals’ support for the consensus candidate of their ethnic group. The analysis finds support for “classical” modernization theories, and finds significant correlations between the size of an individual’s ethnic group at both the national and local levels and ethnic voting. Finally, ethnic voting seems to be more common, ceteris paribus, under proportional representation rules and less common under majoritarian presidential election rules.

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