Mind the Electoral Gap: the Effect of Investment in Public Infrastructure on Authoritarian Support in South Korea

  • Joan E. Cho
  • Jae Seung Lee
  • B. K. SongEmail author


This study examines the effect of investment in transportation infrastructure on regime support in an electoral authoritarian regime. Using a difference-in-difference analysis of neighborhood-level panel data on a subway system from 1971–1985 in urban South Korea, we find that incumbent vote share increased in neighborhoods surrounding the newly constructed subway stations. We show that subway construction was effective at boosting regime support, especially in neighborhoods where people are more likely to read about the government propaganda of subway construction from newspapers. We also provide anecdotal evidence of private economic gains contributing to the increased support for the ruling party. The results suggest that investment in welfare-enhancing goods and services such as public transportation may help autocrats of developing countries to retain political power by increasing electoral support for their ruling parties.


Electoral authoritarian regimes Public infrastructure Subway South Korea 



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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of East Asian StudiesWesleyan UniversityMiddletownUSA
  2. 2.Department of Urban Design and PlanningHongik UniversitySeoulSouth Korea
  3. 3.Department of Policy StudiesHanyang UniversitySeoulSouth Korea

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