One central finding from this section of the survey is that vote-selling behaviour need not depend on the actions or judgments of others in the community. Across all states, respondents who were given Scenario 1 – in which very few people sell their vote, and very few people approve of selling votes – thought that the chances of vote-selling behaviour were over 50 per cent (i.e. probability was greater than 0.5); in Enugu, Lagos, Rivers, Sokoto and FCT-Abuja the perceived chances rose to 65–70 per cent. This suggests that vote-selling is often motivated by individual circumstances, such as economic hardship, poverty or fear of intimidation or violence, and not by the wider social context and community expectations; in theoretical terms, it tends towards being an independent behaviour, rather than an interdependent one. This means that the biggest costs of a refusal to sell one’s vote involve economic or security-related sanctions rather than social ones such as a loss of community status or a sense of belonging, public ridicule or becoming the subject of negative talk.
Nonetheless, we found that social expectations do play some general role in influencing vote-selling behaviour, though there was some variation in the degree of influence observed. In both Adamawa and Benue, for example, the likelihood of vote-selling increased by 22 percentage points when moving from Scenario 1, the least permissive of vote-selling, to Scenario 4, where it was most accepted. The likelihood of vote-selling increased in Lagos, Sokoto and the FCT by a relatively more modest 15–16 percentage points when moving from Scenario 1 to Scenario 4.
Importantly, respondents predicted the highest chances for vote-selling behaviour under the two scenarios (3 and 4) where vote-selling was commonplace. The implication here is that the behaviour of others in the community is more influential than a respondent’s and their community’s judgment in shaping vote-selling behaviour.
Normative beliefs and expectations surrounding vote-selling behaviour
This relative disconnect between individual vote-selling and respondents’ views of/judgment of the community’s beliefs was further evidenced by questions designed to measure people’s expectations of the behaviour of others (normative expectations). Respondents were asked: ‘Think about the people in your community, such as your family, friends, neighbours, and colleagues. Out of 10 in your community, how many of them do you think said people should collect money or a gift for their vote?’
On average, respondents in Lagos expected six out of 10 people in their community to approve of vote-selling, while respondents in Adamawa, Enugu, Rivers and Sokoto felt that closer to half of people in their community would do so. Respondents in Benue state held the lowest normative expectations, believing that an average of just three out of 10 people in their community approved of vote-selling.