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Who wins elections and why? This question seems straightforward, and political scientists should certainly know enough to provide plausible answers. In scholarship on the United States, there is a cottage industry in explaining and forecasting aggregate election outcomes, and plausible answers abound (Campbell 2012). Most such models and theories have settled on one overriding cause: the health of the macroeconomy (Lewis-Beck and Rice 1992). The incumbent party does well on Election Day when the economy is booming, while the opposition party is likely to perform well when the economy is sluggish . This standard retrospective economic voting model has taken firm root in scholarly understandings of Latin American election outcomes as well. There is now an impressive body of evidence demonstrating the importance of valence issues and reward-and-punishment orientations in Latin American voting behavior (Remmer 1991; Singer and Carlin 2013). It seems that Latin American voters vote out incumbent parties that oversee poor economies, and they reelect ones that govern during times of economic growth. This chapter does not take issue with the core of the retrospective voting claim—it is simple yet explanatorily powerful. Instead, I argue that it is incomplete for the Latin American, and especially Mexican, case. Quite simply, it is quiet on the question of where anti-incumbent voters go in a multiparty system. The theory is whole in the two-player world of the US party system, because voters in an anti-incumbent mood during tough times have but one option. But Latin America’s proportional representation systems feature at least threeparty competition in the vast majority of presidential elections. To fill this gap in scholars’ understanding of the causes of aggregated electoral returns in Latin America, I introduce a new dimension alongside the 5 Public Mood and Presidential Election Outcomes in Mexico ANDY BAKER 108 Mexico’s Evolving Democracy standard valence or performance evaluations: positional issue voting. In particular , I argue that there is positional issue content to not just the opposition vote but all voting in Mexican elections. Voters’ “mood” or aggregate central tendency toward important policy and positional issue debates of the day can help to explain which parties perform well in Mexico’s presidential elections. Mexican voters, I find, were in a liberal, market-friendly mood in 1994 and 2000 when the National Action Party (PAN) was the leading opposition party (1994) or outright winner (2000) and the left-leaning Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) was marginalized to also-ran status in third place. In contrast , voters were in a more statist mood in 2006 and 2012 when the left nearly won and the centrist Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI (2006), or rightist PAN (2012) were more marginalized. All told, I conclude that public mood is a fruitful line of research in thinking about Mexican and Latin American elections. The Importance of Policy Mood Retrospective voting theory has been applied with some success to Mexican elections, giving scholars a solid understanding of trends in aggregate returns and party success. The PRI’s steady decline through the 1980s and 90s was almost certainly due to economic turmoil. The debt crisis of 1982, the subsequent lost decade, and the peso crisis of 1995 all played a role in chipping away at the PRI’s credibility as an able economic manager, leading to a gradually decreasing vote share for the PRI and eventually its first presidential loss in 2000 (Magaloni 2006, chap. 2). The drying-up of patronage resources for the PRI to divvy out also contributed to its graduate demise (Greene 2007). The 2012 outcome likewise has a nice retrospective-voting ring to it: rising cartel violence soured voters on the twelve-year incumbent PAN, so voters abandoned it in droves, consigning it to third place. But these narratives leave crucial questions unanswered. Why was it the PAN’s Vicente Fox, and not the PRD’s Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, who most profited from the anti-incumbency mood in 2000? Arguments that Cárdenas was an unattractive candidate or was not seen as viable are post hoc or even tautological, especially considering his surprising second-place performance in 1988. Similarly, why was it the PRD’s Andrés Manuel Lopéz Obrador (AMLO), and not the PRI’s Roberto Madrazo, who received the bulk of the anti-incumbent vote in 2006? Arguments that voters were tired of the PRI or that it had lost its credibility because of poor economic performance in the Public Mood and Presidential Election Outcomes 109...


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