Are Swing Voters Instruments of Democracy or Farmers of Clientelism? Evidence from Ghana
60 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2010 Last revised: 20 Aug 2010
Date Written: 2010
This paper is one of the first to systematically identify the relative influence of ethnic identity, campaign strategies of political parties’ candidates , poverty, evaluations of public and private goods performance in making citizens turning new democracies into swing voters. It brings together three of the major research streams in comparative politics – the literatures on development, democracy, and political clientelism – to properly situate the swing voter as – potentially – the pivotal instrument of democracy and antidote to the public goods deficit in failed developmental states. The paper contributes to the study of voting behavior by providing a more adequate operationalization of the propensity to swing vote as multi-component outcome and by introducing a unique empirical design analyzing survey data conduced ahead of Ghana’s critical 2008 elections with count regression models. Our analyses confirm theoretical expectations that constituency competitiveness, poverty, education, and access to information all impact the likelihood of swing voting. More critically, the paper shows the importance of voter evaluations of public and collective goods provision by incumbent politicians on vote choice volatility and in doing so challenges the empirical consensus on the limited retrospection of the African voter.
Keywords: elections, democracy, voters, count modelling
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