Enduring Disapointment: How social psychology explains party ties in emerging democracies
Committee: Noah Nathan (co-chair, MIT), Allen Hicken (co-chair), Charlotte Cavaille, and Ted Brader.
Supported by grants from the International Policy Center at the Ford School of Public Policy, Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan African Studies Center, the Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, and the University of Michigan International Institute. Data was collected with assistance from CDD-Ghana and an outstanding team of field research assistants.
This project asks how parties in developing democracies leverage psychological and subjective rewards flowing from voters' social identities to elevate engagement and support. It departs from previous instrumental models of identity and political behavior to elevate the role of motives that do not carry clear material value and may be unconscious to voters themselves. Through original fieldwork including a lab-in-the-field experiement with Ghanaian voters, I show not only that identities are psychological in nature, but that they can readily be primed-- demonstrating a new channel by which voters come to support young, weak, or underperforming parties. I also demonstrate that counter to prevailing wisdom, partisanship is a salient and powerful social identity for many voters despite the ubiquity of ethnicity.
How close is "close": Capturing political belonging in developing democracies with multi-item measures (download)
Abstract: Political identities in the developing world have typically been studied as ascriptive and instrumental in nature. Recently, scholars have begun to afford social categories and partisanship itself subjective and affective dimensions. While a deep literature describes variation on a binary notion of partisan belonging, this paper treats quasi-continuous variation in affective group attachments as the dependent variable. Using original survey data from a diverse sample of Ghanaian voters and a six-item measure of partisanship, I explore and compare the origins of partisan identity. I show that several predictors that have been theorized to drive partisanship in the Global South do not appear associated with this concept of partisanship, while several commonly studied factors from advanced democracies do transfer well to the Ghanaian case. I compare to a similar measure of ethnic belonging and show the often-aligned identities appear to be supported by a largely divergent set of factors. Lastly, I find this measurement approach should be attractive to scholars that seek to explain how poorly-performing candidates and parties succeed.