Voting for Change: Civic Engagement and Elections in Uganda

What do Ugandans most care about when selecting candidates for local office? How do citizen judge and act upon the legitimacy of elections and the quality of public goods provision?

(Photo from Greater Gulu in Northern Uganda by Blair Read)

Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni has been president for thirty years. In dominant party democracies, like Uganda, the outcome of presidential elections is more or less predictable and citizens have little influence over the selection of national leaders. At the local level, however, public officials and members of parliament typically serve shorter terms. Local elections are more competitive, providing citizen with opportunities to vote officials in (or out) of power.

To better understand voting behavior at the local level, we ask how do citizens form perceptions about candidates for local office? How do they judge and act upon the legitimacy of elections and the quality of public goods provision? How do those perceptions influence local voting and civic engagement? And, how do youth populations engage (or not engage) in politics?

In Uganda, MIT GOV/LAB partnered with Twaweza East Africa, a civil society organization that promotes citizen engagement and political participation, to extend our research from Tanzania on electoral accountability. Using innovative survey design and experiments, this project seeks to understand how and why citizens participate in elections and select politicians to represent them in Parliament. We also seek to better understand how individuals form perceptions of election fraud, and attribute responsibility for good and poor performance to governmental and non-state actors, both of which hold implications for how citizens participate in politics and engage with the government.

Collaborators