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Family as a Conductor of Dominant Partyism in South Africa during the 2009 and 2014 National Elections Open Access

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This paper explores the argument that family can inhibit party turnover amongst middle class voters in dominant party systems. While scholars have previously explored the impact of unions (Giliomee and Simkins 1999, 29), political entrepreneurs (Ferree 2011, 83-84), public sector employment (Greene 2007, 40-41 and 45), and rhetorical framing in the perpetuating dominant partyism (Ferree 2011, 18), only tangential attention has been paid to the importance of family in voter behavior (Lentz 2016, 45; Neubert 2016, 116). A statistical analysis of voters in South Africa’s 2009 and 2014 national elections using data from the Comparative National Elections project finds that the perception that one’s family voted for the same party as the voter is associated with voting ANC amongst the Black/African population at large in both the 2009 and 2014 national elections. The temporally durable practice of remittance labor (Landau and Freemantle 2016, 933-934; Hall et al. 2015, 75), and ongoing de-facto racism at the national level (Southall 2016, 188), arguably help to reinforce family ties as mechanisms that can potentially influence voter support in South Africa. In addition, these findings reconfirm the importance of Karen Ferree’s “Racial Framing” argument, as well as the occasional importance of variables associated with material dominant partyism and modernization theory as explanations for voter behavior in South Africa. In spite of this finding that family ties are electorally important amongst the Black/African community at large, this relationship is inconsistent for Black/African middle class voters. This raises questions about how different family structures impact voters in dominant party systems.

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