Declared support and clientelism

Nichter, Simeon; Nunnari, Salvatore

Recent studies of clientelism predominantly focus on how elites use rewards to influence vote choices and turnout. This article shifts attention toward citizens and their choices beyond the ballot box. Under what conditions does clientelism influence citizens’ decisions to express political preferences publicly? When voters can obtain post-election benefits by declaring support for victorious candidates, their choices to display political paraphernalia on their homes or bodies may reflect more than just political preferences. We argue that various factors—such as the size of rewards and punishments, the competitiveness of the election, and whether multiple candidates employ clientelism—affect citizens’ propensity to declare support in response to clientelist inducements. Building on insights from fieldwork, formal analyses reveal how and why such factors can distort patterns of political expression observed during electoral campaigns. We conduct an experiment in Brazil, which predominantly corroborates predictions about declared support and clientelism.