Does Ethnic Solidarity Facilitate Electoral Support for Nation-Building Policies?: Evidence from a Political Experiment

DRI Working Paper No. 58
By Yves Atchade and Leonard Wantchekon

Would voters support or reject a co-ethnic candidate if she were to adopt a platform that appeals equally to all ethnic groups? We address this counterfactual question using experimental data collected in the context of the 2001 elections in Benin. A hierarchical probit model with a structural equation is used to analyze the data. We adopt a Bayesian approach together with Markov Chain Monte Carlo to handle the computations. We ad that ethnic ties strengthen electoral support for national public goods platforms. The effect is stronger among those who are culturally less distant from most other voters; that is, those who speak several languages, watch television regularly, and travel frequently. We argue that the positive effect of ethnic ties would have remained, even if the experiment had taken place in more urban and ethnically diverse districts. We conclude that ethnic solidarity can help secure electoral support for nation-building policies as long as such policies are adopted by political leaders.