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Tribalism as a Minimax-Regret Strategy: Evidence from Voting in the 2007 Kenyan Elections

  • Mwangi S. Kimenyi

    (University of Connecticut)

  • Roxana Gutierrez Romero

    (University of Oxford)

Although many studies find that voting in Africa approximates an ethnic census in that voting is primarily along ethnic lines, hardly any of the studies have sought to explain ethnic voting following a rational choice framework. Using data of voter opinions from a survey conducted two weeks before the December 2007 Kenyan elections, we find that the expected benefits associated with a win by each of the presidential candidates varied significantly across voters from different ethnic groups. We hypothesize that decision to participate in the elections was influenced by the expected benefits as per the minimax-regret voting model. We test the predictions of this model using data of voter turnout in the December 2007 elections and find that turnout across ethnic groups varied systematically with expected benefits. The results suggest that individuals participated in the elections primarily to avoid the maximum regret should a candidate from another ethnic group win. The results therefore offer credence to the minimax regret model as proposed by Ferejohn and Fiorina (1974) and refute the Downsian expected utility model.

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Paper provided by University of Connecticut, Department of Economics in its series Working papers with number 2008-35.

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Length: 12 pages
Date of creation: Jun 2008
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:uct:uconnp:2008-35
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  1. Mwangi Kimenyi & William Shughart, 2010. "The political economy of constitutional choice: a study of the 2005 Kenyan constitutional referendum," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 1-27, March.
  2. Benny Geys, 2006. "'Rational' Theories of Voter Turnout: A Review," Political Studies Review, Political Studies Association, vol. 4(1), pages 16-35.
  3. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
  4. Palfrey, Thomas R. & Rosenthal, Howard, 1984. "Participation and the provision of discrete public goods: a strategic analysis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2), pages 171-193, July.
  5. Michael Bratton & Mwangi S. Kimenyi, 2008. "Voting in Kenya: Putting Ethnicity in Perspective," Working papers 2008-09, University of Connecticut, Department of Economics.
  6. Timothy J. Feddersen, 2004. "Rational Choice Theory and the Paradox of Not Voting," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 99-112, Winter.
  7. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
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