Explaining the African Vote

22 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 4 Sep 2009

See all articles by Barak Hoffman

Barak Hoffman

World Bank

Clark Gibson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Karen E. Ferree

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

James D. Long

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

In a shocking victory in Ghana’s 2008 presidential election, the opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) prevailed over the incumbent New Patriotic Party (NPP) by one-half of one percentage point, after trailing far behind the NPP according to most opinion polls. What were the attributes of voters for each party? Standard theories about elections in Africa suggest that they are little more than ethnic headcounts and that parties typically are a thin cover for ethnicity. Data from a survey we conducted shortly before the 2008 seriously challenges this view. The NDC and the NPP drew support from a range of ethnic groups and there was little evidence of ethnic block voting. Moreover, while supporters of each party do not fit a clear ethnic profile, they possess strong beliefs about the parties. In addition, in the final weeks of the election, a sizable proportion of the electorate remained undecided and was amenable to voting for either party. For these reasons we contend that the perceptions of the NDC and the NPP shaped the outcome of Ghana’s 2008 election far more than the ethnic identity of its candidates.

Suggested Citation

Hoffman, Barak and Gibson, Clark C. and Ferree, Karen E. and Long, James D., Explaining the African Vote (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1450123

Barak Hoffman (Contact Author)

World Bank ( email )

1818 H Street, NW
Washington, DC 20433
United States

Clark C. Gibson

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

Karen E. Ferree

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

James D. Long

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

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