Studies suggest that the procedural act of participating in an election in homogenous communities enhances social cooperation and compliance with policies proposed by the elected leader by making the leader more legitimate. In this study, we implement a lab-in-the-field experiment among Shia and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon to test whether participating in the procedural act of electing a leader increases cross-group cooperation also in ethnically heterogeneous communities. We find that participation in leader election fails to increase inter-group cooperation in a heterogeneous setting. In contrast, an appeal to a common ingroup identity successfully increases cooperation. When appeal to a supraordinate identity is combined with leader elections, cooperation increases only when out-group leaders are elected and among voters who value democratic procedure. Our findings suggest that in ethnically divided societies elections can lead to cooperation only if the dominant social norms are consistent with democracy and supraordinate group identity is salient.
- Common ingroup identity
- Lab in the field experiment
- Post-conflict reconciliation
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Political Science and International Relations