Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Professor Michael Franz


Democratic theory suggests that voters reward or punish incumbent political parties in elections by evaluating parties’ ability to provide services. But do voters reward incumbent parties for service provision in practice? This project explores the relationship between municipal-level service provision and voting in the South African context. I test whether the local provision of services, such as electricity, piped water, internet, trash collection, and flush toilets, impact the performance of South Africa’s two major political parties, the African National Congress (ANC) and the Democratic Alliance (DA) in municipal and national elections between 2009 and 2021. I observe this relationship in ANC- and DA-controlled municipalities using municipal-level data on public service provision, election results, and nighttime brightness levels. The municipal-level results show that DA-controlled municipalities with higher levels of service provision in 2016 offered more support for the DA in the 2021 and 2019 elections. However, ANC-controlled municipalities with higher levels of 2016 service provision did not support the ANC at higher rates. Additionally, ANC-controlled municipalities that improved service provision between 2011 and 2016 supported the ANC at higher rates in the 2021 and 2019 elections than they did in previous elections. DA vote share did not increase in DA-controlled municipalities where services improved over time.