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Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism

A talk by Susan Stokes, Department of Political Science, Yale University

Sue Stokes is John S. Saden Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at Yale, where she also directs the Yale Program on Democracy. Her research focuses on democratization and on how democracy works in developing countries. She is the author of three books: Democracy and the Culture of Skepticism (with Matt Cleary, Russell Sage Foundation, 2006), Mandates and Democracy: Neoliberalism by Surprise in Latin America (Cambridge 2001), and Cultures in Conflict: Social Movements and the State in Peru (California, 1995), as well as of a co-authored book-length manuscript on vote buying. Her articles have appeared in journals such as the American Political Science Review, World Politics, and the Latin American Research Review. She has served as president of the Comparative Politics section of the American Political Science Association and as a vice-president of APSA.


In many contemporary new democracies, politicians mobilize electoral support by distributing cash or minor material benefits to voters: they buy people’s votes. What is the difference between clientelism or vote buying and other material strategies that parties employ, such as pork-barrel politics or patronage? What kinds of voters are targeted? How can markets for votes survive when balloting is secret? What caused vote buying to fall into disuse in countries like the U.S. and Britain, where it once thrived? I offer a distinctive theory of the dynamics and demise of markets for votes.