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The Implications of Social Context Partisan Homogeneity for Voting Behavior: Survey Evidence from South Africa

Authors: C. Schulz-Herzenberg

Abstract:

Due to the legacy of apartheid segregation South Africa remains a divided society where most voters live in politically homogenous social environments. This paper argues that political discussion within one’s social context plays a primary role in shaping political attitudes and vote choice. Using data from the Comparative National Elections Project 2004 and 2009 South African post-election surveys, the paper explores the extent of social context partisan homogeneity in South Africa and finds that voters are not overly embedded in homogenous social contexts. It then demonstrates the consequences of partisan homogeneity on voting behavior. Homogenous social contexts tend to encourage stronger partisan loyalties and fewer defections in vote choice while voters in more heterogeneous contexts show less consistency in their attitudes and behaviour. Finally, the analysis shows how momentous sociopolitical events at the time of a particular election can change the social context, with important consequences for electoral outcomes.

Keywords: Political Communication, Social Context, Voting Behaviour, South Africa

Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.1335538

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