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Durham University

Research & business

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Publication details for Dr Patrick M Kuhn

Inken von Borzyskowski & Patrick M Kuhn (2020). Dangerously Informed: Voter Information and Pre-Electoral Violence in Africa. Journal of Peace Research 57(1): 15-29.

Author(s) from Durham


A considerable literature examines the effect of voter information on candidate strategies and voter-politician interactions in the developing world. The
voter information literature argues that information can improve accountability
because more informed voters are harder to woo with traditional campaign tools,
such as ethnic appeals and vote-buying. However, this literature has largely ignored the reaction of political candidates and thus may reach conclusions that are
overly optimistic regarding the impact of information on electoral accountability.
We argue that voter information can increase electoral violence in developing
countries where politicians face fewer institutional constraints on their campaign
tactics. When violence is used as a campaign strategy, more informed electorates
are more at risk because they are harder to sway through alternative campaign
techniques. Using data from 35 African countries, we show that respondents receiving their news predominantly from newspapers are a good proxy for informed
voters because they differ in terms of their political attitudes from respondents
consuming no news or receiving it via other channels. Combining the geocoded
survey data with pre-electoral violence event data, we find a robust positive association between newspaper readership and fear of and exposure to campaign
violence. This finding contributes to the micro-foundations of election violence
and adds a cautionary note for voter information programs.