Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Latin America doesn't care much about the election

I can't tell you how often I've seen mention about how Latin Americans really hope Obama wins the election. Gallup just published a poll showing that such an assertion is simplistic. Although it is true that more Latin Americans prefer Obama over McCain, the vast majority don't care. The "don't know/refused" respondents reached 63% in Central and Mexico, and 58% in South America.

In fact, there appears to be a direct correlation between the number of "don't know/refused" and wealth. Wealthier countries care more, while the poorest believe that it makes no difference at all.

For all the hot air about Colombia, still only 49% of Colombians believe the election will matter to them. This is the highest percentage in the region, but still quite low given the "life or death" portrayal provided by FTA supporters. And even more telling, Colombians who do care prefer Obama over McCain by a 38-16 % margin.


Thomas S. Higinbotham 9:11 AM  

Thank you for directing me to the Gallup poll. Was slightly taken aback that the majority of people in Latin America really aren't too fussed about the Presidency. Here in Europe it seems to be dominating the airwaves with Obamamania in full flow. I guess Latin Americans never see any tangible change in US relations towards Latin America, be it a Democrat or Republican occupying the White House.

The Economist has this World Map, showing how the rest of the world would vote in the election: http://www.economist.com/vote2008/index.cfm. Surprisingly Cuba is shown as the singe Latin American country favouring John McCain, but I think we can safely say this vote is made up of Cuban exiles, not liking the idea that Obama has mentioned sitting down with the Castro Brothers

Thomas S. Higinbotham 9:43 AM  
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Benjamin N. Gedan 11:42 AM  

Those poll results are indeed surprising, and I have to wonder whether they reflect a desire among Latin Americans to appear indifferent to U.S. political developments, rather than actual detachment.

I live (and blog) in Uruguay, and I've seen the U.S. elections played on the front pages of newspapers here for many months. Even before the Wall Street crisis reached its current stage, there appeared to be great interest in the U.S. election among the university students and middle class adults I regularly encounter. I've seen similar interest for U.S. politics during recent trips to Chile and Argentina.

Perhaps, as Gallup suggests in its analysis, Central Americans who are not following the campaign may have little access to information or little time to do anything but work to feed their families.

But in South America, I've seen a different situation. Just look at Brazil, where in recent municipal elections at least eight candidates opted to use the name "Barack Obama" instead of their own on the official ballot.

Greg Weeks 12:03 PM  

Upon reflection, I think my title, which I intended to be provocative, isn't a good one. The idea is more that a majority of Latin Americans don't see the election as affecting them directly, not really that they don't care about it at all.

Anonymous,  10:56 PM  

When I was in Brazil in January, people were raving about Obama. Indeed several candidates in the recent municipal elections actually had Obama's name put on the ballot.

Thomas S. Higinbotham 10:31 AM  

The face of Barack Obama of Colombian lottery tickets. Whatever next?

Greg Weeks 10:37 AM  

Fun examples, though only anecdotal in terms of understanding how much people care who wins.

The more interesting aspect is that Colombians like Obama so much, given what we hear about needing to pass the FTA.

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