Vote choice in the presence of targeted benefit transfers : unpacking the voter’s decision-making process

Amick, Joseph Donald
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In many developing democracies, political campaigns distribute cash and other goods to voters prior to elections in order to mobilize support. This study examines how receiving targeted benefits from political campaigns impacts three steps in the decision-making process. Each empirical chapter in this dissertation focuses on a different step in the process and tests hypotheses with original data from the Indonesian context. The first step is acceptance: voters must overcome obstacles just to receive campaign transfers. Accordingly, Chapter Two examines the economic hurdles to obtaining targeted benefits and how these hurdles affect patterns of distribution among the voting population. It outlines a micro-economic theory that explains who accepts transfers by leveraging differences in the costs of accepting cash versus accepting in-kind transfers. Next, Chapter Three examines how targeted transfers affect voter participation in the form of turning out to vote, by those voters who do accept targeted transfers. It finds that while there is heterogeneity in how political parties mobilize voters to the polls, each strategy does increase turnout as there is no evidence of encouraging abstention among those who receive transfers. Finally, Chapter Four examines vote choice among those individuals who accepted transfers from campaigns. To test the propositions outlined in the dissertation, micro-level survey data from two typical Regency-Level elections in Indonesia are used.