"Do Voters Respond to Cross-Ethnic Campaigning in Divided Societies?"
In order to comply with electoral rules incentivizing cross-ethnic mobilization, candidates in divided societies often campaign among non-coethnics. In this paper, we show that such cross-ethnic appeals through in-person campaigns may actually depress outgroup candidates’ support among non-coethnics. We argue that candidates who hold campaign rallies in non-coethnic constituencies can inadvertently trigger perceptions of intergroup competition, increasing the likelihood that voters identify in ethnic terms and reject the non-coethnic candidate. We corroborate these expectations by leveraging a natural experiment that exploits the timing of an unscheduleds campaign rally held by a presidential candidate in a non-coethnic county during Kenya’s 2017 election. In comparing survey respondents before and after the rally, we find that the candidate’s post-rally favorability significantly decreased among non-coethnic voters, while the proportion of voters identifying in ethnic terms simultaneously increased. These findings have important implications for electoral rules designed to promote cross-ethnic political mobilization in polarized societies.