The Ties that Unbind? Ethnic Identity and Voter Behaviour in Solomon Islands

Event details

SSGM Seminar Series

Date & time

Tuesday 11 February 2014


Lecture Theatre 2, Hedley Bull Centre (130), corner of Garran Road and Liversidge Street, ANU
ANU Canberra


Terence Wood


Louana Gaffey
+61 2 6125 8244

While there is considerable evidence that voters in Solomon Islands have a propensity to vote for co-ethnics (for example people from their clans or church groups) at least in some instances, the major theories of ethnic voting from political science do not seem to fit with patterns of election results in the country. In particular, key electoral statistics change too much over too short a period of time to fit with models where voters hold fixed irrational attachments to ethnic identities. At the same time, competing theories, which have voters choosing more or less rationally from amongst multiple ethnic identities on the basis of group size also struggle in the Solomon context as the electoral salience of ethnic groups is not associated with group size in any obvious way. In this talk Terence Wood, a PhD student in SSGM, will discuss his PhD research and provide both quantitative and qualitative evidence in favour of an alternate explanation under which ethnic identities are electorally important when the groups they contain within them are bound by social rules which make for more effective electoral collective action. This talk will focus primarily on methodology, theories of ethnic politics, and evidence from the Solomon Islands case. In a subsequent talk later in the year Terence will discuss the practical ramifications of the nature of Solomon Islands electoral politics.


Terence commenced PhD study in SSGM in March 2010. Terence obtained his Master's Degree in Development Studies in 2004 from Victoria University, Wellington. At Victoria University he was involved in undertaking and co-authoring a major study on the Millennium Development Goals in the Pacific. In 2006 he worked with colleagues and New Zealand MPs to successfully lobby the New Zealand government to increase the aid budget. Working for the Development Resource Centre he edited and wrote chapters for a publication on civil society and development. Working for NZAID he drafted a research strategy for the aid programme. In 2012 he produced a research report on Solomon Islands electoral politics for RAMSI. As of July 2013 he has just completed (as co-author) a research paper analysing New Zealand aid flows which can be downloaded at:

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