Do citizens vote for incumbents who deliver basic services?

Much of the “blame” for the failures of democratic development is often heaped onto politicians for being non-responsive to voters. While this is certainly one important reason why electoral accountability doesn’t always work as a mechanism for promoting pro-poor policies in poor countries, it is also important to ask whether citizens, as voters, respond in the manner that we might expect from democratic theory? Specifically, do they vote for (against) incumbents once services are (not) provided?

Daniel de Kadt (PhD student, MIT) and I have been working on a few papers investigafropaperno161_do_voters_reward_good_services_in_southern_africa_Page_01ating the politics of voting and service delivery in Southern Africa, and we recently released this Afrobarometer series working paper. We find, to our surprise, that when citizens in Southern Africa gain access to basic infrastructural services they are less likely to vote for the dominant incumbent party. An updated version of this paper is currently under review.

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