Monday, December 16, 2013

Discontent and Support for the Left

Nina Wiesehomeier and David Doyle, "Discontent and the Left Turn in Latin America." Political Science Research and Methods 1, 2 (December 2013): 201-221. Link here (ungated).


The electoral success of the left across Latin America has largely been interpreted as a backlash against globalization and a manifestation of anti-market voting of citizens increasingly frustrated with their experience of representative democracy. However, studies trying to test these propositions show rather inconclusive results and face the problem of translating objective economic conditions into observable individual perceptions. This article contends that theories of subjective well-being in psychology and economics can shed light on this left turn. In particular, life satisfaction, as a manifestation of experienced utility, can help explain the electoral outcomes observed throughout the region. The findings show that support for the left is higher the more unsatisfied voters are under a right incumbent.

I am mulling this one over. It employs sophisticated methods to argue that when people are dissatisfied while an incumbent from the right is in the presidency, support for the left will be higher.


If current left incumbents are unable to deliver policies that improve the electorate’s well-being, they run the very real risk of losing office at the next election, as the results from our individual-level models suggest. Future research should concentrate on the dynamics behind life satisfaction and policy delivery to fully untangle the implications for the survival of the incumbent president.

I feel like there must be something I am missing. It seems a truism to say that as people feel unsatisfied under an incumbent, they will think of voting for someone else. The net gain here, I think, is measurement of dissatisfaction. But would we expect any other result? Am I being uncharitable?


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