Repudiating or Rewarding Neoliberalism? How Broken Campaign Promises Condition Economic Voting in Latin America

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2010


Why do voters reward or punish the incumbent government? A number of studies show that economic performance often drives support, though the strength of this relationship is often conditional. This article suggests that economic voting may also be conditioned by the breaking and keeping of campaign promises. A number of presidents throughout Latin America have campaigned explicitly against neoliberal economic policies, only to pursue them aggressively once in office. This study argues that presidents who abandon their promises assert the executive's responsibility for the economy and raise the salience of economic issues in the next election. Consequently, voters respond rationally to these policy switches, rewarding them when they succeed and punishing them when they fail. Using data from 78 presidential elections across 18 countries, this study finds substantial evidence that broken promises exacerbate the consequences of poor economic performance and magnify the benefits of good economic performance.