Does Saving Lives Win Votes? Evaluating the Electoral Consequences of Providing Clean Water in Mexico
35 Pages Posted: 1 Nov 2017
Date Written: October 31, 2017
Politicians often struggle to claim credit for programmatic policies and therefore use personalized benefits to win elections. Non-programmatic strategies that target individual voters provide a greater electoral return, even if the technocratic provision of public goods would better serve citizens’ needs. Mexico’s PRI historically relied on such targeting to win elections and used social welfare spending to reinvigorate this practice after its poor 1988 electoral results. Thus, claims that Programa Agua Limpia (PAL), a clean water program, was technocratic merit skepticism. This paper assesses such claims and whether the resulting health improvements had electoral consequences. Analysis indicates that electoral considerations did not influence PAL. Furthermore, this program increased support for the PRI. A dollar spent on PAL may have yielded better electoral returns then larger particularistic social welfare programs concurrently implemented by the PRI. Our analysis illuminates the conditions under which politicians can garner electoral returns for providing public goods.
Keywords: Clientelism; Electoral Support; Public Goods; Clean Water; Mexico
JEL Classification: P16; D72; I18
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation