WP78: It’s all relative: Competing models of vote choice in Benin

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Working papers
Battle, Martin and Jennifer C. Seely

Since the Third Wave of democratization swept the African continent in the early 1990s, a sufficient number of democratic elections have taken place on the continent to begin to analyze voting patterns. Benin, for example, has successfully held several rounds of free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections since 1991, but little is known about how the individual citizens of Benin cast their votes and why, or about the strategies of parties and candidates for appealing to voters. Now that Benin has been included in the third round of the Afrobarometer surveys, however, we have to opportunity to supplement census and election data with micro-level information on citizen preferences and choices. In this paper, we create a model to test what factors – social, economic, and political – impact voter support for certain parties and candidates. We use a multinomial choice model to explore contextual factors, such as concentration of ethnic group in respondent’s area, by marrying census data to the Afrobarometer’s individual level data. We find that different candidates appeal to voters for different reasons, and that ethnicity alone is usually not enough to explain support for a candidate. Moreover, we find that when ethnicity is a factor, having a concentration of the ethnic group in your region can enhance the effect of ethnicity on political preferences. Focusing on Benin, a stable democracy with a number of elections to consider, this study provides an in-depth analysis as part of a larger effort to understand the importance of ethnicity in African elections. It also represents an important step in understanding the micro-foundational determinants of African political outcomes.