DFG-Project „The Demand Side of Clientelism" - Design and Objectives

Design and Objectives

A large literature in “mainstream” political science has emerged to shed light on how political clientelism operates. This literature

  • is largely motivated by negative impact of political clientelism on democratic accountability, equity, and public goods provision.
  • has focused particularly on one form of clientelism: vote buying.
  • has focused mainly on the supply side of clientelism (i.e. the party or patron strategies), and on the mechanics of the exchange (the role of monitoring vs. reciprocity to sustain the exchange, the role of brokers, etc.), thereby neglecting the client’s point of view.

In contrast, a largely unconnected “ethnographic” literature on political clientelism

  • often emphasizes the client’s agency.
  • highlights that clientelism takes many forms other than vote buying.
  • takes a more positive normative stance towards clientelism, in framing it as one way of coping within the limitations of real existing democracies.


The main aim of this project is to study systematically the demand side of clientelism. This implies shedding light on:

  • Factors that influence the demand for clientelism, including material/ rational, as well as psychological factors.
  • The prevalence of different forms of clientelism, such as vote buying or “traditional” clientelism.
  • The client’s trade-offs involved in engaging in clientelism.
  • The welfare implications of clientelism.


Our project focuses on South Africa and Tunisia and uses different methodological approaches. These include:

  • Conceptualizing formal theoretical models to clarify trade-offs involved in different forms of clientelism and to derive hypotheses for the empirical work.
  • A systematic review of ethnographic literature on the client perspective.
  • Focus groups to understand the experience associated to different forms of clientelism and the factors that appear to matter for the client’s choice.
  • A survey designed to study prevalence of different types of clientelism, including a list experiment to assess the potential social desirability bias of answers to clientelism questions.
  • Survey experiments to examine the causal role of different factors on the demand for different forms of clientelism.


  • The project lasts for 27 months, from June 2017 until September 2019.

Project News & Events

  • 22 December 2018
    PAP on “Citizen Evaluations of Patrons and Clients in Different Forms of Clientelism" registered with EGAP.
  • 21 December 2018 
    PAP on “The price of respect: The role of status and belonging in clients’ evaluations of clientelism" registered with EGAP.
  • 13-14 October 2018
    Eva Wegner and Miquel Pellicer present papers on the citizen perspective on clientelism at the PSAI Annual conference in Limerick.
  • 30 August – 2 September 2018
    Miquel Pellicer chairs our panel on “Citizen Perspectives on Clientelism” and presents paper on “The Clients’ View on Clientelism: Evidence from focus groups in Tunisia and South Africa” at the APSA Annual meeting 2018 in Boston
  • 22-25 August 2018
    Eva Wegner presents paper on “The Clients’ View on Clientelism: Evidence from focus groups in Tunisia and South Africa” at the ECPR Annual Conference 2018 in Hamburg
  • 25-26 June 2018
    International Workshop on the “The Demand Side of Clientelism: Agency, Trade-Offs, and Welfare Implications” at UDE. Here is the program and a report with the findings.
  • 21-23 June 2018
    Miquel Pellicer presents paper on “The Clients’ View on Clientelism: Evidence from focus groups in Tunisia and South Africa at the EPSA Annual Conference 2018 in Vienna.
  • 10-14 of April 2018
    Miquel Pellicer presents paper on “Clientelism from the Client`s Perspective: A Framework Based on a Systematic Review of Ethnographic” Literature in workshop on “Political Clientelism in the 21st Century: Theory and Practice” at the ECPR Joint Sessions 2018 in Nicosia