Although political discussion among peers has been largely overlooked in scholarship on Latin American voting behavior, this form of social communication can explain several previously misunderstood phenomena about elections and vote choice in the region. Latin America elections are quite volatile; that is, voters change party preferences relatively frequently between and during campaigns. This book demonstrates that political talk is the main driver of these changes, with voters’ preferences shifting shifting when their initial inclinations are reinforced or weakened in their discussion networks. Moreover, we demonstrate that clientelistic political parties, when deciding which voters to buy off, target citizens who are opinion-leading epicenters in informal conversation networks. This horizontal persuasion-buying strategy carries the highest potential yield for the party, because the effects of clientelistic gifts can be magnified via the conversion of multiple voters within a payoff recipient’s personal networks. We also show that political discussion during election campaigns reinforces the regionalization of voters’ partisan preferences, because such exchanges expose them to the political biases of their immediate social environments.

The evidence on which the book is based comes from original surveys collected during four elections in two countries (The Two-Cities Panel Project (Juiz de Fora and Caxias do Sul) in Brazil 2002, 2006, 2014, and Mexico 2006). These surveys contain, among other innovations, egocentric network data, i.e., information about the people with whom survey respondents discuss politics. We supplement these original surveys with secondary data collected by the Cross-National Elections Project (Argentina 2007; Chile 1993 and 2000; Colombia 2014; Dominican Republic 2010; Mexico 2006 and 2012; Uruguay 1994 and 2004) and the Latin American Public Opinion Project (22 countries in 2010).

Co-authors are Andy Baker (University of Colorado, Boulder, andy.baker@colorado.edu) and Lúcio Rennó (University of Brasília, luciorenno@unb.br).  Andy Baker is first author of this book.

You can download a preliminary, non-quotable version of the manuscript here.