Courting non-coethnics: Pivotal Minorities, Party Strategies, and Campaign Appeals in Africa's Highly Diverse States
Which political issues dominate election campaigns in Africa? What ethnic cleavages emerge as salient as elections become more competitive? How can we anticipate and bridge potential ethnic fault lines?
This book challenges the prevailing wisdom on election campaigns in Africa as overwhelmingly focused on rallying coethnics by showing that politicians increasingly appeal to non-coethnic voters, that they aim to persuade by formulating campaign messages likely to resonate, and that these messages can succeed in winning over supporters.
As elections become more competitive in Africa’s highly diverse states, parties need to reach out widely and focus on non-aligned, and thus potentially persuadable, voters. In result, a number of swing minorities become electorally-pivotal and command the lion’s share of the campaigns’ attention and resources. Identifying these groups’ salient issues and concerns and framing them in ways that favor candidates is in turn critical to the success of campaign appeals and ultimately the outcome of elections.
These dynamics are central to understanding how electoral majorities are assembled in Africa’s new democracies, what political cleavages emerge and sediment over time, and which ethnic divisions are bridged and which ones inflamed around elections.
The manuscript makes extensive use of primary material including (a) an original dataset of campaign appeals made by presidential contenders in a number of countries in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade; (b) over 100 interviews and focus group discussions with party strategists, campaign operatives, and voters carried out during fieldwork in Ghana and Kenya between 2014 and 2017, and (c) two survey experiments fielded in the run-up to the 2016 and 2017 presidential elections in Ghana and Kenya respectively.