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In the New CSES Country Spotlight series, collaborators from an election study including CSES for the first time discuss its electoral context and the significance of running CSES in the country.

New CSES Country Spotlight: Argentina
Noam Lupu, Virginia Oliveros and Luis Schiumerini

Most of what we know about voting behavior is informed by the experience of advanced democracies. The electoral context in developing democracies, however, is significantly different. Civil society is often weak, poverty and inequality high, political parties ephemeral and attachments to them weak, corruption rampant, and clientelism widespread. We cannot hope to understand how politics in these consolidating democracies unfolds without understanding how voters determine who governs. And we cannot assume that what we know about voters in advanced democracies applies universally to developing ones. Rather, we should take our assumptions and expectations to data.

In order to do just that, we fielded the 2015 Argentine Panel Election Study (APES) that includes The Comparative Study of Electoral Studies (CSES) Module 4. Our study incorporates Argentina into the CSES for the first time, becoming the sixth Latin American democracy in the sample. APES is both the first academic panel survey and the first academic election study ever conducted in Argentina. And it joins Brazil and Mexico as the only countries in Latin America where academic panel surveys have been fielded.

The APES consists of two face-to-face waves of interviews, the first between June 24, 2015 and August 7, 2015, and the second between November 21, 2015 and December 30, 2015. The first wave was based on a nationally representative sample of Argentine voters living in cities of 10,000 inhabitants and more, while the second wave consisted of a panel sample of those wave 1 respondents that agreed to participate again, plus a refresh sample. The first wave of the APES relied on a national household sample of 1,149 Argentine citizens aged 18 years and over. The general design was a stratified multistage cluster sample. The panel design implied that we attempted to re-contact all respondents from wave 1. Our success rate was 68% (780 out of 1,149 original respondents). To compensate for sample attrition, we drew a refresh sample of 626 respondents, selected according to the same procedures described above for wave 1. The wave 2 sample therefore has a sample size of 1,406.

APES data reveal that at their most basic level, voting decisions in Argentina follow logics that are similar to those in advanced democracies. We are editing a volume entitled, Campaigns and Voters in Developing Democracies: Argentina in Comparative Perspective, that uses APES data, among other sources, to study vote choice in Argentina and similar developing democracies. As in more advanced democracies, voters in developing democracies base their choices on some combination of group affiliation, issue positions, valence consideration, and campaign persuasion. Citizens who identify strongly with social groups that ally clearly with one side of the political spectrum are likely to vote for its slate of candidates. Those who have strongly-held positions on the issues of the day will choose representatives who share their views. Voters fed up with the state of the economy will opt for political change. And some might be swayed by campaigns that spotlight the desirable personal qualities of their candidates.

Where developing democracies differ from advanced ones is not in the behavioral logic underlying these considerations. Rather, the difference we see across contexts is in the relative weight that citizens assign to different considerations within this logic. Where few social identity groups are politically salient and partisan attachments are sparse, voters may place more weight on issue voting. Where issues are largely absent from political discourse, valence considerations and campaign effects may play a larger role in determining outcomes. Our general theoretical framework specifies why voter behavior differs across contexts. Argentine voters are similar to voters in advanced democracies in terms of how they decide to cast their ballots. The difference between them is that Argentines – and the citizens of many other developing democracies – vote in a very different political context.


Noam Lupu is Associate Professor of Political Science and Associate Director of the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University. He is the author of Party Brands in Crisis: Partisanship, Brand Dilution, and the Breakdown of Political Parties in Latin America (Cambridge University Press, 2016).

Virginia Oliveros is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Associate Research Fellow at the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University. She is currently working on a book project entitled, A Working Machine: Patronage Jobs and Political Services in Argentina.

Luis Schiumerini (Ph.D., Yale, 2015) is Postdoctoral Prize Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College, University of Oxford, and Research Associate at the Center for the Politics of Development at the University of California, Berkeley. He is currently completing a book manuscript entitled, Democratic Accountability and Incumbency Effects in Latin America.