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Blattman on Violence and Voting in Uganda

Abstract: How do war and violence impact long-run political development? The bulk of existing theory and evidence concerns macro-level actors and processes. This paper presents evidence for a micro-level link between war and individual political engagement. I demonstrate that conscription by a Ugandan rebel group generates quasi-experimental variation in who became a combatant, and use original survey data to show that conscription leads to significantly greater political participation later in life, and that the principal channel appears to be war violence received (rather than perpetrated). Conscription and violence do not appear to affect nonpolitical forms of community participation, however. I show that these patterns are not easily explained by models of participation based on simple rational preferences, social preferences, mobilization by elites, or information availability. Only expressive theories of participation appear consistent with the patterns observed, whereby exposure to violence augments the value a person places on the act of political expression itself.

Christopher Blattman (2007), “From violence to voting: War and political participation in Uganda,” unpublished paper. Available here.

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