Rejecting Ethnic Pandering in Urban Africa

A Survey Experiment on Voter Preferences in Nairobi, Kenya
Faculty Scholarship
Monday, January 3, 2022
Visiting Lecturer
Associate Professor

Ethnic pandering, in which candidates promise to cater to the interests of coethnic voters, is presumed to be an effective  strategy for increasing electoral support in Africa's emerging multiethnic democracies. However, ethnic political mobilization may be disdained by citizens for its divisive and polarizing effects, particularly in urban areas. As a result, pandering may fall on deaf ears among Africa's urban voters. This study examines how voters in Kenya's capital city, Nairobi, respond to ethnic pandering using data from a vignette experiment conducted in 2015 and a replication study implemented in 2016. Results show that respondents are more supportive of candidates who make ethnically inclusive rather than targeted appeals, regardless of whether the candidate is identified as a coethnic. We propose that the results are driven by a broad distaste among urban voters for parochial politics, rather than by strategic calculations related to candidate viability.

Political Research Quarterly
2021, Vol. 0(0) 1–15

DOI: 10.1177/10659129211040516

Urbanization and the Transformation of Ethnic Political Preferences in Africa: An Experimental Study in Kenya, awarded Spring 2016