Clientelism and Voter Mobilization: The Impact of Positive and Negative Inducements

Mogens Kamp Justesen, Isabela Mares

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


In elections around the world, candidates seek to mobilize voters using a combination of positive and negative clientelist inducements. The former includes offers of gifts, money, and privileged access to policy benefits; the latter includes threats to cut off access to long-term benefits, social grants, or to worsen ongoing terms of exchange between brokers and voters. In this paper, we examine variation in the ways voters evaluate different types of clientelist strategies. The study of this variation in punishment thresholds is important for understanding the leeway enjoyed by politicians using different forms of clientelism. Our study relies on a vignette experiment embedded in a nation-wide survey (n=1500) conducted in 2017 in South Africa. The results suggest that voters punish candidates using threats more harshly than candidates using positive inducements. Secondly, we document the existence of variation across subgroups of voters in their willingness to sanction different nonprogrammatic strategies and find that lower income voters are more forgiving towards clientelistic exchanges than higher income voters. By contrast, voters’ partisan attachments do not influence voters’ evaluations of clientelistic exchanges.

Original languageEnglish
Publication date2019
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventAmerican Political Science Association, APSA Annual Meeting 2019: Populism and Privilege - Washington, DC, United States
Duration: 29 Aug 20191 Sept 2019
Conference number: 115


ConferenceAmerican Political Science Association, APSA Annual Meeting 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityWashington, DC
Internet address

Cite this