Working paper number: 449 Author: Robert Mattes and Matthias Krönke Unit: CSSR
The authors provide evidence that partisan identification exists in African polities, though its extent varies considerably across countries. Moreover, the authors find that partisanship helps people organize their political world. It shapes the way they vote, and also exercises important influences on citizens’ propensity to become involved in a wide range of democratic politics, whether during or between elections. Finally, the authors produce several nuggets of evidence which suggest that partisanship in Africa constitutes, at least for many voters, a ‘standing choice’ rather than a fixed identity. That is, while voter support for ruling parties is shaped by ethnicity (and other demographic background factors), it is not determined by them. Voter evaluations of the overall direction of the economy, national economic trends, and government responsibility for those trends, matter. Moreover, aggregate levels of identification with the ruling party, or what other scholars have called ‘macropartisanship’, have undergone important, and in some cases dramatic, shifts over time. And in some cases, partisanship moves in close correlation with shifts in voter sentiment. All of this should be seen as evidence of an important, little-appreciated dimension of vertical accountability in Africa’s multi-party regimes.