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Ferree: Explaining South Africa's racial census

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Ferree. 2005. Explaining South Africa's racial census. Unpublished.


Why do elections in Africa look like a racial census, in which everybody votes for their group's party?

The Literature's Answers


One answer might be that they are expressing their identity as Africans/Whites/Coloureds/Indians. But in surveys, few Africans seem to see themselves in these terms. If there isn't an identity, then this isn't the answer.


Whites and Africans have different policy preferences (true), thus vote for different parties.

Ferree's Answer

Race is a cue. Though Whites/Africans/etc don't see themselves in racial terms, they see the parties that way. They see their own group's party as inclusive (generally), but see the other group's party as racially exclusive. Thus, race serves as a useful cue of how to vote.

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Ferree, Karen (author)Comparative PoliticsRacismVotingEthnic ConflictEthnicity

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