Are African Voters Really Ethnic or Clientelistic? Survey Evidence from Ghana

Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 123, Spring 2008

Posted: 12 Sep 2007 Last revised: 9 Jan 2014

See all articles by Staffan I. Lindberg

Staffan I. Lindberg

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute; Göteborg University - Department of Political Science

Minion K.C. Morrison

University of Missouri at Saint Louis

Abstract

This article explores voting behavior in one of Africa's new democracies. Recognizing that much of the literature assumes African political behavior to be subsumed in ethnic ties and clientelism, we ask if individual voting behavior in Africa is driven by evaluative rationales based on retrospective or prospective judgments of the performance of parties or representatives, or by non-evaluative rationales characterized by clientelism and proxy voting. Based on a survey of voters in two recent elections in Ghana, one of the most surprising findings is that an overwhelming majority of the respondents do not vote based on clientelism, or due to ethnic or family ties but cast their ballots after evaluation of candidates and parties. Despite the significance of ethnicity among elites in Africa, voters are seemingly not influenced primarily by it. This leads us to hypothesize that citizens in "transitional democracies" often reason and behave as relatively "mature" democratic voters by consciously appraising the past performance of the promised policy programs of candidates and parties. We also found in the Ghanaian case that as expected clientelism is more likely where political competition is high. This seems to suggest a dilemma in newly democratizing poor countries: while high-level competition is generally thought to be a desirable characteristic of a democratic regime, competition may also work to raise the frequency of political corruption.

Keywords: Africa, elections, voters, ethnicity, clientelism, ballot, parties, democratization, Ghana

Suggested Citation

Lindberg, Staffan I. and Morrison, Minion K.C., Are African Voters Really Ethnic or Clientelistic? Survey Evidence from Ghana. Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 123, Spring 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1014010

Staffan I. Lindberg (Contact Author)

Göteborg University - Varieties of Democracy Institute ( email )

Sprängkullsgatan 19
Gothenburg, Gothenburg 405 30
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.pol.gu.se/varianter-pa-demokrati--v-dem-/

Göteborg University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 711
Gothenburg, S-405 30
Sweden

HOME PAGE: http://www.pol.gu.se

Minion K.C. Morrison

University of Missouri at Saint Louis ( email )

1 University Blvd.
St Louis, MO 63121
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
1,719
PlumX Metrics