Mixed Records, Cognitive Complexity, and Ethnic Voting in African Elections

30 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2022

See all articles by Karen E. Ferree

Karen E. Ferree

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

Clark Gibson

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

James Long

University of Washington

Date Written: 2020

Abstract

The preference of African voters for co-ethnic candidates is well documented in studies of African political behavior. However, African voters also seem to value good government performance. When does ethnicity trump performance? We theorize that a citizen’s vote choice depends in part on the cognitive complexity she faces when assessing candidates. We argue that citizens incur greater cognitive costs when appraising candidates with mixed – versus uniformly positive or negative – performance records, inducing them to rely more on informational shortcuts like ethnicity to guide their vote. Thus, performance voters may become ethnic voters when the challenges of evaluating performance increase. We test and find support for this hypothesis using a survey experiment implemented in a nationally representative exit poll during Kenya’s 2013 election. Findings demonstrate that ethnic and performance voting is not always the product of fixed dispositions, but instead may emerge in response to voters’ informational context.

Keywords: Africa, Kenya, Accountability, Ethnic voting, Government performance, Survey experiment

Suggested Citation

Ferree, Karen E. and Gibson, Clark C. and Long, James, Mixed Records, Cognitive Complexity, and Ethnic Voting in African Elections (2020). Program on Governance and Local Development Working Paper No. 33, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4082838 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4082838

Karen E. Ferree (Contact Author)

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

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

James Long

University of Washington ( email )

Seattle, WA 98195
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Downloads
5
Abstract Views
78
PlumX Metrics