Clientelism and Voting Behavior: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Benin

The author conducted a field experiment in Benin to investigate the impact of clientelism on voting behavior. In collaboration with four political parties involved in the 2001 presidential elections, clientelist and broad public policy platforms were designed and run in twenty randomly selected villages of an average of 756 registered voters. Using the survey data collected after the elections, the author estimated the effect of each type of message by comparing voting behavior in the villages exposed to clientelism or public policy messages (treatment groups) with voting behavior in the other villages (control groups). The author found that clientelist messages have positive and significant effect in all regions and for all types of candidates. The author also found that public policy messages have a positive and significant effect in the South but a negative and significant effect in the North. In addition, public policy messages seem to hurt incumbents as well as regional candidates. Finally, the evidence indicates that female voters tend to have stronger preference for public policy platforms than male voters.