The Role of Ethnic Identity and Economic Issues in the 2007 Kenyan Elections
This paper investigates the factors that shaped Kenyan’s voting intentions in the 2007 presidential election. Using data from a public opinion survey conducted two weeks before the election we are able to evaluate the relative importance of what shaped voting behavior comprehensively, taking into account factors such as ethnicity, access to public services, incidence of poverty and wealth differences across ethnic groups and across generations. We find strong evidence that ethnic identity was the main factor determining voting intentions and to a lesser extent grievances, economic well-being, and access to public and private goods. However, the relative importance of these factors depends on whether Kenyan voters identify themselves first and foremost in terms of their ethnicity, occupation or nationality. Those who identify themselves in terms of their ethnicity were influenced the most by access to public services. This evidence supports theories that suggest ethnic identity is a proxy used by voters to assess which candidate will give them greater access to public goods.
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