The rise of the left across Latin America is one of the most striking electoral events to occur in new democracies during the last decade. Current work argues either that the left's electoral success stems from a thoroughgoing rejection of free-market policies by voters or that electorates have sought to punish poorly performing right-wing incumbents. Whether the new left has a policy or performance mandate has implications for the type of policies it may pursue in power and the voting behavior of Latin American electorates. Using a new measure of voter ideology called vote-revealed leftism (vrl ) and a time-series cross-sectional analysis of aggregate public opinion indicators generated from mass surveys of eighteen countries over thirteen years, the authors show that the left has a clear economic policy mandate but that this mandate is much more moderate than many observers might expect. In contrast to the generalized view that new democracies are of low quality, the authors reach the more optimistic conclusion that wellreasoned voting on economic policy issues and electoral mandates are now relevant features of politics in Latin America.


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pp. 43-77
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