Race and Responsiveness: An Experiment with South African Politicians


McClendon, Gwyneth H. 2016. “Race and Responsiveness: An Experiment with South African Politicians.” Journal of Experimental Political Science. Copy at http://www.tinyurl.com/mx45t6d


Do politicians engage in ethnic and racial favoritism when conducting constituency service? This article presents results from a replication field experiment with local South African politicians that tested for racial bias in responsiveness to requests about public goods provision. The experiment represents an adaptation of similar experiments conducted in the United States, extending the design to a different institutional environment, albeit one with a similar racially-charged history. Although one might suppose that politicians in South Africa would seek to avoid racial bias given the recent transition to full democracy, I find that South African politicians—both black and white—are more responsive to same-race constituents than to other-race constituents. Same-race bias is evident in both the dominant and the main opposition political parties. Moreover, politicians are not particularly responsive to anyone. Implications for the further study of democratic responsiveness are discussed.

Last updated on 12/06/2016