Central Data Catalog

Citation Information

Type Working Paper
Title Nuanced Accountability: Voter Responses to Service Delivery in Southern Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2016
URL https://www.gwu.edu/~iiep/events/GW_Africa_Conference2016/Presentations/Lieberman.pdf
Various theories of democratic governance posit that citizens should vote for incumbent
politicians when they provide good service, and vote for the opposition when service delivery
is poor. But does electoral accountability work as theorized, especially in developing country
contexts? Studying Southern African democracies, where infrastructural investment in basic
services has expanded widely but not universally, we contribute a new empirical answer to
this question. Analyzing the relationship between service provision and voting, we find a surprising
negative relationship: improvements in service provision predict decreases in support
for dominant party incumbents. Though stronger in areas where opposition parties control
local government, the negative relationship persists even in those areas where local government
is run by the nationally dominant party. Survey data provides suggestive evidence
that citizen concerns about corruption and ratcheting preferences for service delivery may be
driving citizen attitudes and behaviors. Voters may thus be responsive to service delivery,
but perhaps in ways that are more nuanced than extant theories previously recognized.

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