Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. James Butterfield

Second Advisor

Dr. Sybil D. Rhodes

Third Advisor

Dr. John A. Clark

Fourth Advisor

Dr. Earl Conteh- Morgan


This dissertation examines political behavior in Sierra Leone and Liberia following the end of their civil wars. Dominant theories on politics in African societies suggest that ethnic interests underpin political behavior and elections are mere censuses of ethnic support for co-ethnic party elites. Yet, while using a proportional representation electoral system that is expected to result in splintered vote shares for multiple political parties, Sierra Leone's elections in 2002 concentrated votes around one presidential candidate and political party. Conversely Liberia's elections in 2005, held using a first-past-the-post electoral system that expectedly discourages multiple vote shares, diffused votes among several political parties and candidates. Given this variation the study examines the general question of what role ethnicity plays in the two elections by investigating why and how voters in Sierra Leone concentrate their votes around one political party whereas voters in Liberia diffuse their votes around several. The research has two focal points: 1) understanding the ways political elites recruit party membership in the post-conflict environment and 2) understanding how electorates respond to parties' and candidates' messages in addition to other cues and ultimately decide which to support. Data for the study was collected and analyzed using a triangulated range of qualitative and quantitative methods including survey research, elite interviews, content analysis, logistic regressions with logged odds and King et al.'s CLARIFY. The study finds that there is an important distinction between ethnic identity and ethnic interests; the latter reveals motivation but it is not a deterministic explanatory variable of vote choice. There is consistent evidence that ethnic identity shows how Sierra Leoneans and Liberians voted given geographic settlements but not why they voted. The study contributes to the scholarship on post-conflict political behavior and elections; ethnicity and politics; and democratization.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access