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Ethnicity and the Swing Vote in Africa’s Emerging Democracies: Evidence from Kenya

  • Jeremy Horowitz

Who are Africa’s swing voters? This article argues that in settings where ethnicity is politically salient, core and swing are defined by whether ethnic groups have a co-ethnic leader in the election. For members of ethnic groups with a co-ethnic in the race, there is typically less uncertainty about which party or candidate will best represent the group’s interests. For members of groups without a co-ethnic in the race, uncertainty is often greater, making these voters potentially more receptive to campaign persuasion and more likely to change voting intentions during the campaign. Consistent with these expectations, panel data from Kenya’s 2013 presidential election shows that voters from groups without a co-ethnic in the race were more than two and a half times more likely to change their voting intentions during the campaign period.

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Government Department, Dartmouth College (email: For suggestions and feedback, I gratefully acknowledge three anonymous reviewers, Leo Arriola, Karen Ferree, Jeff Conroy-Krutz, Elena Gadjanova, Kris Inman, Brendan Nyhan, Yusaku Horiuchi, Ryan Jablonski, Kristin Michelitch, Carolyn Logan, seminar participants at Dartmouth, Northwestern and SOAS, and conference participants at APSA, MPSA and ASA. For help in designing and implementing the panel survey in Kenya, I thank Melissa Baker and the staff at TNS-RMS in Nairobi. For research assistance, I thank Peter Saisi, Alex Minsk, Miriam Kilimo and Precious Kilimo. Data replication sets are available in Harvard Dataverse at: http://doi:10.7910/DVN/ZYCCZM and online appendices are available at

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