Publisher: University of Calabar

A Cross-National Comparison of Voter Turnout In 15 Sub-Saharan African States

Scot Schraufnagel, Peter Gowen
KEYWORDS: Voter Turnout; Africa; Democratization; Colonial Legacy; Ethnic Fractionalization; Religious Pluralism


   The political fortunes of Sub-Saharan Africa changed dramatically in the past twenty-five years. Since the late 1980s, many countries have held regular multi-party elections. A cross-national examination of voter participation rates, a common starting point for work on democratization, is now possible. This paper represents a first look at the determinants of voter turnout in 15 African states that have witnessed some stability in national elections since 1988. Controlling for several standard explanations of voter turnout, a model is developed to test a colonial legacy thesis, which seeks to understand the influence the former colonizing power has had on contemporary political outcomes. In addition, the research examines the role played by ethic fractionalization and religious diversity on electoral participation rates. The former is found to associate with less participation and the latter higher voter turnout. Moreover, the research uncovers, on average, voter turnout is higher in former French colonies.

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