Rallying the Faithful or Gathering Information? Testing the Mobilization Theory of Single-Party Elections
46 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2018
Date Written: June 18, 2018
Do single-party elections benefit autocrats and citizens? Recent work eschews mobilization and co-optation arguments, suggesting that elections provide information on voter preferences. This paper challenges that theory, arguing that “citizen information” theory assumes a modicum of competitiveness and voter attentiveness not likely to exist. Instead, consistent with the classic mobilization view, electoral behavior is driven by party strength. Using unique data from Vietnam, which for the first time combines actual electoral returns with district-level survey data, this paper shows show little evidence of strategic voting, competitiveness driving turnout, or knowledge of candidates. Instead, connection to the party drives participation. The findings and theory have important implications for the burgeoning literature on information acquisition tools and elections in single-party regimes. In short, while single-party regimes have many tools to acquire information, elections should not be included among them. More importantly, elections should not be legitimized as reflective of citizen preferences.
Keywords: authoritarian regimes, elections, electoral fraud, authoritarian institutions
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