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Voting in Kenya: Putting Ethnicity in Perspective

  • Michael Bratton

    (Michigan State University)

  • Mwangi S. Kimenyi

    (University of Connecticut)

Do Kenyans vote according to ethnic identities or policy interests? Based on results from a national probability sample survey conducted in the first week of December 2007, this article shows that, while ethnic origins drive voting patterns, elections in Kenya amount to more than a mere ethnic census. We start by reviewing how Kenyans see themselves, which is mainly in non-ethnic terms. We then report on how they see others, whom they fear will organize politically along ethnic lines. People therefore vote defensively in ethnic blocs, but not exclusively. In Decem- ber 2007, they also took particular policy issues into account, including living standards, corruption and majimbo (federalism). We demonstrate that the relative weight that individuals grant to ethnic and policy voting depends in good part on how they define their group identities, with "ethnics" engaging in identity voting and "non-ethnics" giving more weight to interests and issues.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2008-09.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: Mar 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2008-09
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Web page: http://www.econ.uconn.edu/

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  1. Norris, Pippa & Mattes, Robert, 2003. "Does Ethnicity Determine Support for the Governing Party? The Structural and Attitudinal Basis of Partisan Identification in 12 African Nations," Working Paper Series rwp03-009, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  2. Gero Erdmann, 2007. "The Cleavage Model, Ethnicity and Voter Alignment in Africa: Conceptual and Methodological Problems Revisited," GIGA Working Paper Series 63, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
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