The Business of Politics: Campaign Costs and Party Switching

Abstract

Party switching among legislative candidates has important implications for accountability and representation in democratizing countries. We argue that party switching is significantly influenced by campaign costs tied to the nature of clientelistic politics that persists in such countries. Where candidates are expected to personally finance their campaigns, particularly the costs associated with handouts for voters, they will be induced to affiliate with larger parties that can lower those costs through organizational support and personal inducements. Campaign costs also drive candidate selection as parties recruit candidates who can independently pay for their campaigns. We corroborate these expectations with an original survey and embedded choice experiment conducted among parliamentary candidates in Zambia. The conjoint analysis of party profiles demonstrates that candidates prefer larger parties that offer particularistic benefits, while the survey reveals that business owners are the most likely to be recruited as candidates as well as the most likely to defect.

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