Parties on the Ballot: Visual Cues and Voting Behavior in Uganda


Wednesday, November 2, 2011, 4:10pm to 5:30pm


124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 200-North, Cambridge, MA

Devra MoehlerDevra Moehler, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania

About the Seminar
Many developing countries include candidate pictures and party symbols on electoral ballots in order to allow autonomous voting by citizens with little education and voting experience. Advocates of visual cues argue that they reduce error and they allow illiterate voters to identify candidates and parties and mark their ballots in private, rather than having to rely on assistance from others who may try to alter their votes. However, these symbols might themselves shape voter preferences – and, hence, election outcomes – in unintended ways.

In this seminar, Devra Moehler describes how she conducted a survey experiment just days prior to the February 2011 elections in Uganda to test the effects of party identifiers and other features on ballot papers. The ballots included or excluded different visual and verbal cues about the real candidates running in four electoral contests. Preliminary findings suggest that respondents who received ballots with party identifiers were more likely to vote for major parties and less likely to vote for independents. They were also more likely to vote straight-party tickets. Party cues were consequential in the less salient, low-information races, but had no effect on the presidential race where conditions favor systematic processing. The evidence indicates that party cues on ballots are consequential for vote choice, even in a new and unstable party system.

About the Speaker
Devra Moehler is an assistant professor of communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania. From June 2008-2009, she served as a democracy fellow at the USAID Office of Democracy and Governance. She also has past experience as an assistant professor with Cornell University’s Department of Government (July 2003-2009), and as a scholar with the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, Harvard University (July 2005-2007).

Dr. Moehler holds a Ph.D. in political science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan. She received her B.A. in development studies from the University of California at Berkeley.

Her teaching interests include political communication, communication and development, comparative politics; African politics; political behavior; democratization; political economy of development; comparative research design; field research methodology; and statistical analysis.

moehler.pdf1.68 MB