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Political Research Exchange - PRX

Blood Is Thicker Than Water: The Role of Ethnicity in the Perception of Pork-Barrel Politics

Europe (Central and Eastern)
Survey Experiments
Miroslav Nemčok
University of Helsinki
Miroslav Nemčok
University of Helsinki
Olivera Komar
University of Montenegro
Michal Toth
Masaryk University
Peter Spáč
Masaryk University
Nemanja Batricevic
Central European University

Compelling evidence confirms pork-barrel patterns in the distribution of public resources across all kinds of democratic regimes. However, in divided societies and new democracies, clientelism and ethno-politics appears to go hand in hand. Apparently, politicians are incentivized to compete for support within their own ethnic groups, but how is this inherently unfair practice perceived and evaluated by voters across other ethnic groups present in a country?

To answer this question, we conducted a survey-embedded experiment (n=1,248) in ethnically heterogeneous Slovakia with a roughly 8.5% Hungarian minority. The aim was to discover whether the pork-barrel politics exercised by Slovak and Hungarian politicians is evaluated differently among the Slovaks and Hungarians (all of them holding Slovak citizenship).

The results revealed that both Slovaks and Hungarians are comparably willing to trust and vote for a Slovak decision maker, regardless of pork-barrel practices, when benefits are directed to Slovakia. However, when benefits are directed to Hungary, Slovaks do not trust and support the decision-maker, while this change has no effect on Hungarians whatsoever. This conclusion constitutes a relevant contribution to the studies of pork-barrel politics, because it emphasizes that ethnicity is an important factor determining how critical the citizens are towards unfair distribution of public resources.
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