GLD Working Papers

Moving from race- to performance-based politics: Swing voters in South Africa’s 2016 local elections

Adam S. Harris


Who are the swing voters in South Africa’s racially-charged elections? This study is among the first to systematically investigate the correlates of the swing vote in South Africa. I argue that race, cohort, performance, and partisan networks influence the likelihood that an individual is a swing voter. To investigate these arguments, this study uses original exit poll survey data from South Africa’s 2016 local elections. The results indicate that swing voters in the 2016 elections are those who have weaker racial identities, weaker attachments to their racial group’s party, are born free, have lower assessments of ANC performance, and have fewer friends and family who support their preferred party. The paper also predicts what drives swing voters to support a certain party. The results have key implications for race and identity-based voting in South Africa and dominant regimes across the continent.


To Punish or to Pardon?

Kristen Kao and Mara Redlich Revkin


Rebel groups that govern territory require the support of large numbers of civilians. After conflict ends, these civilians are often perceived as rebel collaborators. Yet, we know relatively little about what victimized populations think is the appropriate response to collaborators. This gap in our knowledge has serious implications for the durability of peace. Through experiments embedded in an original survey of Mosul, an Iraqi city that experienced governance by the Islamic State, we identify the effects of hypothetical collaborators' (1) identity traits and (2) type of collaboration on preferences for punishment, forgiveness, and reintegration. Contrary to the government's harsh and indiscriminate approach to prosecuting collaborators, participants prefer more lenient punishments—or no punishment—for some. We find that the nature of collaboration matters more than the identity of the collaborator. Our design helps identify the conditions under which former rebel collaborators may be successfully reintegrated into post-conflict societies.


Expectations, Responsiveness, and Electoral Accountability


This working paper examines varied logics of vote choice beyond the canonical model of democratic accountability through a series of essays. The essays that follow consider how ethnic identities, social ties, and information on performance affect voters’ expectations of candidates’ responsiveness, and corresponding choices when voters go to the polls. They also show that the factors that drive voting may depend on the office at stake. These studies are characterized by a range of methodological innovations that permit the authors to identify causal effects.

This paper was first published as a newsletter by the American Political Science Association’s Comparative Democratization section. The APSA-CD website can be found here.

Not the Only Game in Town: Local-Level Representation in Transitions

Janine Clark, Emanuela Dalmasso and Ellen Lust


This paper examines the relationship between national and sub-national actors in the context of political transitions, exploring the debates over representation in early periods of democratic processes, how pressures to alter the composition of local council arise as part of power struggles among central elites, and the conditions under which local councils resist or succumb to such pressures. We argue that local councils take on an important political role in transitions, becoming politicized even in the absence of local elections. We examine these dynamics in Tunisia, where the appointed special delegations (SDs) that were put in place in the aftermath of the regime collapse subsequently came under pressure for change after the October 2011 National Constituent Assembly elections. Drawing on a unique dataset of Tunisian municipalities and in-depth case studies of four Tunisian municipalities (Hammamet, Gafsa, Zarzis, and Nefta) conducted before and after the transition, we argue that the troika’s success in changing SD composition to favor their parties depended on the ability of the SDs, with support of leftist parties and the Tunisian General Labour Union (Union Générale Tunisiennedu Travail, UGTT), to fight back. Where local branches of the country’s leftist political parties and union rallied to the SDs’ defense, appointed SD members could maintain their positions; where local SD members did not have such support and where the troika remained united, they lost their positions. Importantly whether SDs maintained their composition or changed, they were politicized in the process. Recognizing the conditions under which central elites are able to capture municipal councils helps to bring the role of representation and governance into the study of transitions, shedding light on local-national relations in periods of uncertainty and change.

Money Machine: Do the Poor Demand Clientelism?

Kristen Kao, Ellen Lust and Lise Rakner


The literature on clientelism suggests that the poor are particularly likely to exchange their votes for cash or material goods. In this supply-side perspective, candidates are more likely to offer goods in return for votes to the poor because the poor sell their votes at a lower price, are more likely to act reciprocally, and are less likely to see vote-buying as morally unacceptable. We know much less about the poor’s demand for vote-buying. Studies suggest that the middle class punishes vote-buying candidates, but assume that the poor welcome offers. Employing a rating-based, conjoint analysis in Malawi to examine the poor’s preferences over vote-buying, we find that the poor are repelled by candidates who promise an immediate exchange of particularistic goods for votes and prefer candidates who promise community goods. This highlights the need to consider the possibility that candidates incur costs when offering to buy votes in poor communities