Social identity and coethnic voting in the Middle East: Experimental evidence from Qatar
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What explains widespread coethnic voting in the Middle East? The prevailing understanding revolves around clientelism: the view that MENA citizens support coethnic parties and candidates in order to most easily or effectively extract resources from the patrimonial state. Previous research has thus neglected non-economic explanations of ethnic-based preferences and outcomes in MENA elections, including social biases long identified in other settings. This study presents findings from a conjoint survey experiment in Qatar, where symbolic elections lack distributional implications. Consistent with expectations derived from social identity theory, results reveal strong favoritism of cosectarian candidates, whereas objective candidate qualifications do not affect voter preferences. Bias is especially strong in a policy domain – promoting religious values – that prompts respondents to consider the candidate's ethnic identity. Findings offer clear evidence that ethnic-based voting in Qatar and likely elsewhere is not merely epiphenomenal but can reflect actual preferences for members of social in-groups.
- Social & Economic Survey Research Institute Research [194 items ]