Do Citizens Reward Good Service? Voter Responses to Basic Service Provision in Southern Africa

78 Pages Posted: 3 Oct 2015  

Daniel de Kadt

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science

Evan S. Lieberman

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 1, 2015

Abstract

Theories of democratic governance posit that citizens should reward politicians for good service and punish them for bad. But does electoral accountability work as theorized, especially in developing country contexts? We contribute a new empirical answer to this question. We study Southern African democracies, where infrastructural investment in basic services has expanded widely, but not universally. We first analyze whether increases in local service provision predict increases in voting returns at various levels of geographic aggregation. We then analyze geo-coded, individual-level survey data that allow us to consider the relationship between service delivery, political attitudes and voting intentions. Together, these analyses demonstrate, quite unequivocally, that citizens do not reward good service. We explore the mechanisms that may account for this surprising finding.

Keywords: Democracy, accountability, elections, voting, attitudes, service provision, Southern Africa

Suggested Citation

de Kadt, Daniel and Lieberman, Evan S., Do Citizens Reward Good Service? Voter Responses to Basic Service Provision in Southern Africa (October 1, 2015). MIT Political Science Department Research Paper No. 2015-25. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2668334 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2668334

Daniel De Kadt

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Political Science ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Evan S. Lieberman (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Department of Political Science ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139
United States

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