Voter Demand for Legislator Attention in Kenya

Rhee, Inbok

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What do African voters want from their legislators? Do they want legislators who focus mainly on national level policy-making? Or do they favor locally oriented legislators who prioritize the needs of their local constituency? Existing studies describe voters in sub-Saharan Africa as holding an overwhelmingly strong and uniform preference for legislators to spend more time and attention in their local constituencies rather than in national assembly. Yet this research is based on a relatively limited body of work with findings that may reflect artifacts of survey design more than the reality on the ground. This chapter proposes a new theory of voter preference for legislator attention as an allocation problem, informed by qualitative evidence gathered from an in-depth focus group discussion. Using a survey experimental evidence from Kenya, I find that voters do not uniformly favor local service to the exclusion of work in the parliament. Rather voters prefer a balance between national and local attention. I show that such a preference for a balance is similar to that exhibited by voters in advanced democracies.

Issue Date
KDI School of Public Policy and Management
Series Title
KDI School Working Paper 19-17
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