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Many elements of Mexico’s political system would make it seem like a paragon of stability, especially among new democracies. It features three main political parties that have endured over time with histories that predate the transition to fully open partisan competition; the major issues in electoral contests have remained fairly stable since the mid-1980s; and the country has avoided the rise of maverick and antisystem candidates who have emerged in other countries in Latin America. Yet despite this stability at the elite level, voting behavior is rife with preelectoral volatility, and voters are surprisingly susceptible to persuasive campaign messages. Two of Mexico’s three fully democratic presidential elections since 2000 featured come-from-behind victories by candidates who would have lost without the effects of the campaigns. In 2000, Vicente Fox, candidate of the Partido Acción Nacional (PAN), polled as much as seven percentage points behind Francisco Labastida, candidate of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI), but bested the dominant party’s standard-bearer by more than six points on Election Day. In 2006, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, candidate of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD), seemed certain to win after leading by as many as fifteen percentage points, but he eventually lost the razor-close election to the PAN’s Felipe Calderón. Although Enrique Peña Nieto led throughout the brief three-month campaigns in 2012, he would not have won had another candidate claimed the votes that were swayed by the campaigns.1 Such large and persistent campaign effects are surprising for two reasons. First, most research in comparative politics focuses on incentives for voters to align themselves with partisan options over time on the basis of class identity, employment profile, ethnicity, or association with other social cleavages such 6 Campaign Effects in Mexico since Democratization KENNETH F. GREENE Campaign Effects since Democratization 129 as religion or localism (Bartolini 2000; Chandra 2004; Evans 2000; Horowitz 1987; Kitschelt 1994; Lipset and Rokkan 1967). If these identities drive voting, then the campaigns should just help voters learn how to line up their preexisting and unchanging preferences with the most suitable partisan option (Gelman and King 1993). We might see some volatility in vote intentions during campaigns, but in a stable party system, voters’ preferences should settle over time as citizens learn about the platforms and governing styles of the continuing parties. Second, stable party systems should also promote partisan identification that scholars of American politics have treated as an “unmoved mover” of vote choices (Johnston 2006). Although we would not necessarily expect a new democracy to rapidly instill partisan identification in its voters (McCann and Lawson 2003), Converse (1969) argued that electorates in such countries experience “a kind of ‘settling down’ or habituation to a competitive party system , which occurs at a mass level as a secular trend over time” (141). He argued that this should yield a “‘binding in’ of popular loyalties to one or another of the traditionally competing political parties” (141). Thus the major statements about voting behavior applicable to new democracies strike an optimistic note when it comes to preelectoral instability: whether due to the projection of social identities onto vote choices or the creation of partisan sympathies, volatility should be low and should diminish as new democracies age. This should especially occur in new democracies with stable party systems like Mexico, where elites offer voters nearly the same set of partisan options over time. As I show below, not only are campaign effects large in Mexico, but they also have increased in magnitude since democratization. In prior work, I show why many more voters are vulnerable to the persuasive power of campaigns in Mexico than in the United States or other long-established democracies (Greene 2011). Here I describe and explain the surprising trend of increasing campaign effects over time. Unlike in transitions to democracy from fully closed authoritarian regimes that experience stark discontinuities between the authoritarian and democratic eras, I argue that Mexico’s protracted transition from authoritarian single-party dominance was marked by progressive partisan dealignment that has endured well into the democratic period. Weak and weakening partisan identities among many voters leave increasing portions of the electorate vulnerable to the persuasive effects of political campaigns. Mexico actually presents a hard test of this “authoritarian legacies” argument because its highly stable elite politics should provide fertile ground for growing stability in mass voting behavior, and because the radical limitations on campaigns 130 Mexico’s Evolving...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781421415550
Related ISBN
9781421415543
MARC Record
OCLC
899212335
Pages
304
Launched on MUSE
2015-02-03
Language
English
Open Access
No
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