Although many studies find that voting in Africa approximates an ethnic census in that voting is primarily along ethnic lines, hardly any of the studies have sought to explain ethnic voting following a rational choice framework. Using data of voter opinions from a survey conducted two weeks before the December 2007 Kenyan elections, we find that the expected benefits associated with a win by each of the presidential candidates varied significantly across voters from different ethnic groups. We hypothesize that decision to participate in the elections was influenced by the expected benefits as per the minimax-regret voting model. We test the predictions of this model using data of voter turnout in the December 2007 elections and find that turnout across ethnic groups varied systematically with expected benefits. The results suggest that individuals participated in the elections primarily to avoid the maximum regret should a candidate from another ethnic group win. The results therefore offer credence to the minimax regret model as proposed by Ferejohn and Fiorina (1974) and refute the Downsian expected utility model.
University of Connecticut, Department of Economics Working paper 2008-35, 2008. 12 pp.