Remittances and Vote Buying

Abstract: How does the presence of a large group of remittance recipients in the electorate affect the way political parties in Latin America plan their vote-buying operations during election campaigns? Existing research claims that remittances bolster the political autonomy of recipients, allowing them to escape clientelistic networks and making them less attractive targets from the point of view of party machines. In this paper we argue that although in the long run remittances may undermine the effectiveness of clientelistic inducements, parties still have strong incentives to distribute gifts and favours among these voters. Cross-national survey evidence as well as an original list experiment fielded in the aftermath of El Salvador’s 2014 presidential race support the view that remittances alter key attitudes and patterns of political behaviour among recipients in ways that are relevant for the electoral strategies of party machines. In particular, remittance recipients are appealing targets for clientelistic exchanges due to the uncertainty of their turnout propensity and their shifting distributive preferences.

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