How Community Votes Shape Individual Preferences for Taxation: Experimental Evidence from Benin

Expanding African cities face growing demand for public services, but few succeed in collecting the tax revenue that would fund these services. Aside from evident issues of state capacity and low income, this paper argues that the use of electoral clientelism strategies impedes tax-raising efforts by negatively shaping the expectations of would-be political losers. I show this relationship via a survey experiment across municipalities in Benin, a relatively stable patronage democracy. In the experiment, the respondent is randomly informed whether their district's (roughly equivalent to a municipal ward) vote share for the mayor's political party was above or below the municipal average. I found those who received information of a below-average district vote expected politicians to redistribute resources from tax revenue unfairly, and were also less willing to contribute to their local governments through their tax dollars. My findings point toward long-term, negative effects of patronage practices on substantive policy issues, especially among individuals and communities that expect to lose from favored redistribution.