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Article

Vote Brokers, Clientelist Appeals, and Voter Turnout: Evidence from Russia and Venezuela

Modern clientelist exchange is typically carried out by intermediaries—party activists, employers, local strongmen, traditional leaders, and the like. Politicians use such brokers to mobilize voters, yet we know little about their relative effectiveness. We argue that broker effectiveness depends on their (1) leverage over clients and (2) ability to monitor voters. We apply our theoretical framework to compare two of the most common brokers worldwide, party activists and employers, arguing the latter enjoy numerous advantages along both dimensions. Using survey-based framing experiments in Venezuela and Russia, we find voters respond more strongly to turnout appeals from employers than from party activists. To demonstrate mechanisms, we show that vulnerability to job loss and embeddedness in workplace social networks make voters more responsive to clientelist mobilization by their bosses. Our results shed light on the conditions most conducive to effective clientelism and highlight broker type as important for understanding why clientelism is prevalent in some countries, but not others.