by Dante Donati
Does mobile Internet arrival affect individuals’ voting behavior in developing countries? I provide an empirical answer to this question looking at the South African municipal elections results between 2000 and 2016. I exploit the temporal and geographical variation in 3G Internet coverage to estimate its impact on (1) the vote shares of the major parties,(2) voter turnout, (3) electoral competition and (4) protests. Using a high-resolution newly constructed dataset along with a Diff-in-Diff and 2SLS estimation, I show that in 2016 Internet availability caused a reduction in the vote share of the ruling party by almost 7 pp. The main opponents have gained from the Internet arrival. Political competition and number of protests increased. Results are robust to different model specifications, and alternative estimators. Then, I develop an extensive analysis of the potential mechanisms. A triple difference estimator is used to assess the role of the Internet in providing information on corruption and administrative scandals. I find that in localities more exposed to the scandals the impact of 3G arrival is larger. Finally, I conduct a spatial analysis to study how the surrounding environment influences the impact digital information has on opinions towards the incumbent. I show that Internet penetration fosters convergence of preferences over space.