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From Violence to Voting: War and political participation in Uganda

  • Christopher Blattman

    ()

    (Center for Global Development & Yale University)

What is the political legacy of violent conflict? This paper presents evidence for a link between war, violence and increased individual political participation and leadership among former combatants and victims of violence, and uses this link to understand the deeper determinants of individual political behavior. The setting is northern Uganda, where rebel recruitment methods generated quasiexperimental variation in who became a rebel conscript and who did not. Original survey data shows that the exogenous element of conscription (by abduction) leads to significantly greater political participation later in life. The principal determinant of this increased political participation, moreover, appears to be war violence experienced. Meanwhile, abduction and violence do not appear to affect multiple nonpolitical types of community participation. I show that these patterns are not easily explained by models of participation based on simple rational preferences, social preferences, mobilization by elites, or information availability. Only ‘expressive’ theories of participation appear consistent with the patterns observed, whereby exposure to violence augments the value a person places on the act of political expression itself. The implications for general theories of political participation are discussed.

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Paper provided by Households in Conflict Network in its series HiCN Working Papers with number 42.

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Length: 44 pages
Date of creation: Jan 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hic:wpaper:42
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.hicn.org

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  1. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
  2. Stefano DellaVigna & Ethan Kaplan, 2006. "The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting," NBER Working Papers 12169, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Timothy J. Fedderson & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1996. "Abstention in Elections with Asymmetric Information and Diverse Preferences," Discussion Papers 1195, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  12. Harsanyi, John C., 1992. "Game and decision theoretic models in ethics," Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, in: R.J. Aumann & S. Hart (ed.), Handbook of Game Theory with Economic Applications, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 19, pages 669-707 Elsevier.
  13. Carter, John R & Guerette, Stephen D, 1992. " An Experimental Study of Expressive Voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 73(3), pages 251-60, April.
  14. Greene, Kenneth V & Nelson, Phillip J, 2002. " If Extremists Vote How Do They Express Themselves? An Empirical Test of an Expressive Theory of Voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 113(3-4), pages 425-36, December.
  15. John Fitzgerald & Peter Gottschalk & Robert Moffitt, 1998. "An Analysis of Sample Attrition in Panel Data: The Michigan Panel Study of income Dynamics," Economics Working Paper Archive 379, The Johns Hopkins University,Department of Economics.
  16. Barry Nalebuff & Ron Shachar, 1999. "Follow the Leader: Theory and Evidence on Political Participation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 525-547, June.
  17. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
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