Implications of Social Networks for Voting Behaviour: Survey Evidence from South Africa
Presenter(s): Collette Schulz Herzenberg
Venue: Room 4.29 Leslie Social Science Building
Abstract / Description:
In South Africa’s highly divided society voters live in politically homogenous social environments. As a result, many voters are likely to reside in homogenous political information networks where their partisan identities reflect widely among their personal discussants. This paper argues that political discussion within social networks plays a primary role in shaping political attitudes and vote choice. Moreover, the extent of partisan homogeneity or heterogeneity within interpersonal discussant networks has important, yet distinct implications for voting behaviour. Using the 2004 and 2009 post elections surveys the research examines distributions of politically homogenous versus heterogeneous networks in South Africa and finds that network types are fairly evenly distributed and voters are not overly embedded in either network type. The research also demonstrates the consequences of the different network types on voting behavior by showing that homogenous discussion networks tend to encourage greater participation at the polls but also less defections and far greater consistency in vote choice. The analysis also shows how momentous socio-political events at the time of a particular election can change the nature of social networks, with consequences for electoral outcomes.