Fear and Political Participation: Evidence from Africa

Year: 2016 HiCN Working Paper No. 226

Research finds that personal exposure to violence or crime increases political participation. The effects of fear, however, have not been studied. Since the number of victims is much smaller than those who are afraid of becoming a victim, this suggests an important but unexplored channel from crime to political participation. Moreover, if people who experience violence or crime are also afraid of future exposure, existing estimates conflate the effects of past experience with those of fear of future exposure. We find that fear of crime accounts for 10-23 percent of the effect previously attributed to direct exposure. We further find important differences between the effects of fear and victimization on political attitudes. Whereas victims of crimes have more authoritarian political attitudes, people who are fearful of crime are more supportive of democracy and equality, and hold other attitudes that are normally associated with rule of law and democracy.