LA JOLLA, CA

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO

Grant: $233,825 - National Science Foundation - Jul. 19, 2009

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Award Description: Despite pouring millions of dollars into programs to further the democratization of Africa, donors remain uninformed about one of the most important facets of politics on the continent: Why do Africans vote they way they do? Most observers of African elections view the process as a mere ethnic headcount: all citizens vote for their own ethnic group regardless of the performance of the incumbent government and without reference to the issues of the day. Yet there is scant evidence to support this view. In the vast majority of African countries a single ethnic group cannot achieve a majority of the votes. Ethnic coalitions break down and shift frequently and politicians from the same ethnic group are members of different political parties. The salience of ethnicity to politics in African countries varies widely and elections produce violence in some cases but not others. Moreover, our knowledge of the motivations of African voters remains murky, based primarily upon anecdotal reports, studies of a small number of (unscientifically selected) cases, or surveys that measure attitudes but not actual electoral behavior. Surprisingly, few scholars up to this point have employed the most powerful tool to measure vote choice: the exit poll. The investigators plan to explore the determinants of voting in Namibia, a transitioning democracy that features a dominant ethnic group: the Ovambo in Namibia represent nearly half the population. Scholars and policymakers consider Namibia to be on its way to stable democracy. However, a single party (SWAPO) has dominated politics since independence. To what extent is this dominance based on ethnic claims, and to what extent of performance or issue evaluations? Understanding the motivations of its voters opens the way to a deeper understanding of African politics, and help to inform scholarly opinion and the challenges (or not) that remain with respect to democracy promotion. This project will have broader impacts by placing four graduate students and one undergraduate student in the field. The knowledge they will receive through helping to construct, manage, and analyze this exit poll is required to advance training beyond the classroom. For two of the students, it will be their first experience in Africa. For all, it will be the first time they are involved in generating quantitative scientifically produced primary data. This nation-wide exercise will also help in the participation and training of hundreds of enumerators in Namibia. Finally, the poll can also provide another check on the official electoral results which may prove unreliable given the challenges faced by the Namibian electoral commission to conduct a free and fair election.

Project Description: The primary objective of this project is, thus, to identify the micro-foundations of vote choice in sub-Saharan Africa through extensive analysis of individual-level exit poll data. Our project requires gathering sociodemographic, census, and political data to help us to design our poll well, writing and testing our exit poll in the field, training and supervising staff in the field, collecting and entering exit poll data into databases, analyzing and testing those data, and publishing the results of our analyses. We will disseminate our research results widely to academic and policy audiences as well as develop a comprehensive dataset that will be accessible to the public. These efforts will result in a robust understanding of how Africans vote, which will in turn allow for a better targeting our external aid funds aimed at promoting democracy on the continent.

Jobs Summary: Nothing to report, however future 7.98 FTE will include .17 FTE for both Principal Investigator's effort over the course of the project, .19 FTE for Graduate Student Researchers at UCSD, .44 FTE for Graduate Student Researchers at Georgetown, and 7.29 FTE for polling workers at Steadman (subaward) in Africa. (Total jobs reported: 0)

Project Status: Less Than 50% Completed

This award's data was last updated on Jul. 19, 2009. Help expand these official descriptions using the wiki below.


Funds Recipient

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO
LA JOLLA, CA 92093
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Place of Performance

9500 GILMAN DR, DEPT 0934
La Jolla, CA 92093
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