Voter Support for Business Tycoons in Politics

New publication by Mogens K. Justesen and Stan Markus in Business and Politics

Mogens Kamp Justesen

Why do voters shun some business tycoons yet elect others into power? As structural conditions facilitate the entry of super-wealthy actors into politics, the differential electoral support across business elites suggests a puzzle. We conceptualize four mechanisms behind the popular support for “tycoon candidates”: competence signaling, framing, fame, and clientelism. To test their relative efficacy, we leverage an experiment embedded in a nationally representative survey in South Africa, an important developing democracy where certain tycoons are successfully running for office. We find that, across distinct electoral appeals by tycoon candidates, clientelism is particularly effective, especially for mobilizing support from the less affluent voters. Racial framing significantly decreases support among white voters. Meanwhile, tycoons’ competence signaling or fame do not help them at the ballot box. By identifying the micro-level underpinnings of voter support across tycoon candidates, our study contributes to the literatures on business and politics, voting behavior, and clientelism.

The article is available in Open Access here.

The page was last edited by: Department of International Economics, Government and Business // 04/03/2024