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Close links between Social Assistance and presidential vote in Latin America

Monday, October 17th 2011 - 19:08 UTC
Full article 3 comments
Guess I’m quite sure who you are going to vote for next time Guess I’m quite sure who you are going to vote for next time

A paper from the University of Vanderbilt Latin America Public Opinion Project confirms that conditional cash transfers (CCT) by governments from the region condition to a great extent the vote in favour of the incumbent candidate.

There are clear indications that the greater the benefit, it’s most probable that the vote will go to the government candidates points out “Social Assistance Policies and the Presidential Vote in Latin America”

The paper by Matthew L. Layton and Amy Erica Smith was elaborated on polling recipients and non recipients of cash transfers in nine countries and determined a direct relation with a favourable vote for government candidates.

“We find that in almost every country examined, social assistance recipients are more likely to vote for the incumbent than non-recipients, even after accounting for social class, economic perceptions, and national context. These results highlight that social programs have political effects in addition to their social and economic effects”.

With the transformation in social assistance programs in Latin America in recent years, questions have surfaced regarding such programs’ political effects. The first and most basic question relates to their effect on vote choice. A substantial new literature has developed on CCT and other social assistance programs, on the one hand, and the vote, on the other hand, in a few countries in Latin America.

However, there has to date been no evidence regarding whether these findings hold when considering the region as a whole.

Even after taking into account many confounding factors, social assistance participants are more likely than non-participants to express a hypothetical vote for the incumbent candidate or party, underscores the paper.

The results presented indicate that in almost every country examined, social assistance recipients are more likely to vote for the incumbent. In multivariate analysis the association is attenuated once variables related to social status and evaluations of the incumbents’ performance are taken into account.

“Nonetheless, even accounting for these confounding and mediating factors, we still find that social assistance receipt has a significant independent association with the vote”, says the report.

An important puzzle remaining for future research is to understand the variation in the effect of social assistance across countries.

However the opinion polls also show great heterogeneity in the relationship between assistance and voting for the incumbent.

“We suspect that this heterogeneity is related to the extent to which the incumbent president plausibly claims credit for social assistance programs; and we further suspect that plausible credit-claiming is associated with the president’s ideological orientation. That is, leftist presidents may be able to reap a bigger electoral windfall from the social programs they oversee than rightist presidents”.

Finally the report underscores the point that the region’s new social assistance programs have become not only important tools of social programming, but also potentially important electoral tools. Moreover, such programs may have other effects on citizenship and political mobilization more broadly.

The following programs were listed in each country:

Mexico: Oportunidades; PROCAMPO
Colombia: Familias en Acción
Ecuador: Bono de Desarrollo Humano
Bolivia: Bono Juancito Pinto; Renta Dignidad; Bono Juana Azurduy
Chile: Chile Solidario; PASIS; Chile Crece Contigo
Uruguay: Food baskets; Family benefits; Plan de Emergencia
Brazil: Bolsa Família
Venezuela: Misión Ribas; Misión Sucre; Misión Madres del Barrio
Argentina: Asignación Universal por Hijo: Plan Jefes y Jefas de Hogar; Plan Familias

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

Top Comments

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  • GeoffWard2

    The Brasilian Bolsa Familia is a perfect case in point.

    The more people that can be put on state assistance, the more they will (and do) vote for its maintenance in perpetuity, *for themselves*, whether or not they continue to fulfill the criteria.

    This results in a dependency society of the type now very obvious across the length and breadth of Brasil, as well as elsewhere, like in the UK.

    The sad paradox in Brasil is that the social support system was created and put in place - not by the ruling parties - but by the Opposition.

    The power of propaganda - which understands that if you repeat a lie often enough and with enough forcefulness - is that people will believe it, rather than the truth.

    Such that today, most people in the street believe that the Workers Party were responsible for their Bolsa, rather than Serra, of the Opposition.

    Oct 18th, 2011 - 11:36 am 0
  • Suguler

    What is wrong with people voting for their own interests? Corporate lobbyists buy politicians for their own self-serving interests, why shouldn't the working class and poor do the same? The rich aggressively use their power to feather their own nests, likewise the poor should aggressively do the same.

    If you're poor and have to worry about surviving, of course you will vote for the candidate who makes you feel most secure. There's nothing sinister about it. If the right want the poor and working class to vote for them I suggest they come up with something that will actually help the poor and the working class.
    It especially makes me laugh when US politicians attack welfare while claiming farm subsidies, and conveninetly ignore the fact that America's biggest welfare recipients are corporations. Lockheed has been lazily sponging off the US taxpayer for decades, why is there no campaign to get these lazy corporations to pay their own way?

    Seems a bit odd to me to attack welfare claimants while you're giving out hundreds of billions to the likes of Lockheed and Halliburton.

    Oct 19th, 2011 - 06:59 am 0
  • GeoffWard2

    the mass-buying-of-votes is much easier to do if you are the incumbent party in government. This fixes the status quo - which may be good for the people or bad for the people c.f. what the opposition might be able to do for the people.
    It is, however, the absolute antithesis of democracy, which id predicated by the equality of opportunity.
    So you can destroy the opposition by simply killing them all, or you can make the voters in thrall to you, which equally kills off opposition.
    This is why some twenty parties in Brasil have bought themselves into the governing coalition, leaving just one fractured urban party to hold the government coalition to account. The imbalance is anti-democratic and serves nobody well.

    Oct 19th, 2011 - 10:59 am 0
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