n Journal of African Elections - Language policies and voter turnout - evidence from South Africa

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



While many studies have probed the relationship between ethnic diversity and voter turnout, few have examined how voter turnout might be influenced by state policies that afford ethnic groups differing levels of official recognition. This study draws on theories at the intersection of political science and sociolinguistics, to develop and test an argument about the effect that language recognition practices in multilingual democratic societies have on voter turnout. Using data from South Africa, the study finds evidence that inclusive language recognition is linked to higher turnout rates for targeted groups. The study utilises aggregate data collected at ward level, but assesses the results in a preliminary fashion with individual-level data from Afrobarometer.

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