Ethnic political socialization and university elections

Christiana Parreira, Daniel L. Tavana, Charles Harb

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1 Scopus citations


Foundational studies of political behavior find that university education facilitates the development of political attitudes and shapes socialization outcomes. But in unconsolidated democracies where identity is politically salient and ethnic political parties dominate, education may play a different role in shaping mass politics. In this paper, we develop a framework for understanding the consequences of political party intervention in annual university elections, a common feature of university life in the Middle East and the Global South. We draw on pre- and post-election surveys at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon to argue that ethnic political parties rely on partisan students to act as “party agents” who mobilize unaffiliated students through intensive peer-to-peer contact. Using a conjoint experiment embedded in both survey waves, we show that the university elections increase support in hypothetical national elections for in-group political elites and, to a lesser extent, ethnic political parties. By locating the university as an understudied site of competitive and contentious politics, our findings contribute new insights regarding the role of education in shaping political attitudes. We show that the persistence of ethnic political power can be attributed in part to party activity in less obviously political arenas that have not been systematically studied.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-569
Number of pages20
JournalParty Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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