​​​Political Endorsements and Cross-Ethnic Voting in Africa

​​​Political Endorsements and Cross-Ethnic Voting in Africa

Abstract

​Can political endorsements convince citizens to transcend ethnic divisions to vote for candidates from different ethnic groups? Despite the important role that endorsements play in facilitating coalition formation in multiethnic societies, there is little systematic understanding of whether or how explicitly cross-ethnic endorsements can affect voter evaluations of candidates. We hypothesize that voters are more likely to support non-coethnic candidates when endorsements from their coethnics provide information about a candidate’s expected distributive behavior in office. To assess this claim, we conduct a randomized experiment in Kenya, where violence often accompanies political competition between ethnic groups. We use simulated radio news segments to experimentally manipulate the ethnic relationship among voters, candidates, and endorsers. We find that endorsements issued by coethnics significantly increase voters’ support for candidates from other groups. We find evidence suggesting that improved perceptions of candidate credibility as well common interest between voters and candidates may account for such cross-ethnic voting.

Publication
Working Paper (Under Review)
Date