The basis of social identity in Afghanistan is the concept of qawm. As qawm refers to an individual’s solidarity group, such as village, tribe, subtribe, or even ethnic group, it captures broad in-group/out-group distinctions. We analyze a survey experiment to explore how qawm affiliation affects individual perceptions of politicians running for a fictitious local election. Contrary to expectations derived from the literatures on Afghanistan and on identity politics, we find qawm affiliation does not influence voter choice or perceived importance that a fellow qawm member should be elected. Moreover, qawm affiliation actually undermines individual perceptions a candidate will work on behalf of voters if elected. We explore two general mechanisms that may explain these findings, including weakening social ties and salience of the qawm.
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