Electoral Clientelism and Redistribution: How Vote Buying Undermines Citizen Demand for Public Services

Monika Bauhr, Mogens K. Justesen

Research output: Working paperResearch


Does electoral clientelism limit public demand for programmatic redistribution? While recent studies suggest that distribution of pre-electoral clientelist transfers can divert resources from post-electoral programmatic redistribution, fewer studies have investigated how citizens’ experiences of clientelism shape demand for programmatic redistribution. We suggest that electoral clientelism undermines citizens demand for programmatic redistribution, since it establishes norms of reciprocity, signals commitment to particularistic payoffs, and may alienate people who would otherwise be supportive of redistribution. Using a nationwide survey fielded in South Africa following the 2016 municipal elections, we show that citizens’ who experience electoral clientelism express lower demand for government redistribution related to health, education, unemployment, pensions, and social grants. We also find that support for redistribution decreases most among citizens with high levels of political trust and who believe the political system is relatively uncorrupt. This suggests that electoral clientelism reinforces demand for particularistic as opposed to programmatic redistribution.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGothenburg
PublisherQOG, University of Gothenburg
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2023
SeriesQ O G Working Paper Series


  • Clientelism
  • Vote buying
  • Redistribution
  • Demand for public goods
  • South Africa
  • Taxation

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