Citizens’ Responsiveness to Electoral Mobilization in China: Evidence from China’s Grassroots Election | Duke Kunshan University

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Citizens’ Responsiveness to Electoral Mobilization in China: Evidence from China’s Grassroots Election

Monday, October 29, 2018 - 17:00
Jean (Ji Yeon) Hong

ABSTRACT: Why do citizens participate in authoritarian elections in which the winner is predetermined? How do authoritarian leaders ensure that enough citizens will turn out in such an election? In this paper, we examine what determines citizens' responsiveness to electoral mobilization under an authoritarian regime by studying the voting behavior of migrants in China's grassroots elections. We focus on migrants to understand the logic of authoritarian mobilization and responsiveness, given that migrants have fewer incentives to voluntarily participate in the grassroots elections. Our results show that migrants who share local cultural traits, such as dialect, are more likely to be mobilized to boost voter turnout. Employing data from the China Labor Dynamics Survey (CLDS) conducted in 2012, we show that pro ciency in local dialect signi cantly increases migrant's participation probability in a grassroots election. We confirm this finding through an instrumental variable approach using the linguistic distance between migrant respondents' native dialects and the local dialect of the migrant-receiving area. Regarding the mechanism, our analyses suggest that local dialect pro ciency increases migrants' turnout by enhancing their responsiveness to local cadres' mobilization tactics and by creating a perception of social connectedness; conversely, we do not find support for an explanation rooted in channels of communication. Our findings imply that street-level mobilization for authoritarian elections takes advantage of various individual and social contexts, and is not necessarily implemented through coercion or material clientelism.

BIO: Jean (Ji Yeon) Hong is an Assistant Professor at the Division of Social Science, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST). She graduated from the Department of Politics at New York University in 2014. Before that, Jean studied political science, economics (BA) and international relations (MSc) at Seoul National University, South Korea. Her research interest centers on the political economy of authoritarian regimes, with particular attention to East Asian countries including China, Korea, and Taiwan. She has various ongoing research projects related to authoritarian elites' behavior, legacies of authoritarianism and political violence, and modern state building in East Asia. Her research has been published in Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, and Economic History Review among others.