Weapons of Clients: Why do Voters Support Bad patrons? Ethnographic Evidence from Rural Brazil

Latin American Politics and Society, Forthcoming

42 Pages Posted: 8 Nov 2021 Last revised: 19 Apr 2022

Date Written: April 7, 2022

Abstract

Current approaches to voting behavior in clientelist contexts either predict that clients will leave their preferences aside because of fear of having their benefits cut off or that they will voluntarily support politicians that they perceive to be reliable patrons. These two approaches cannot account for clients' vote choices in the Sertão of Bahia, Brazil, in which voters were free to choose among competing candidates but supported patrons they knew were unreliable. This paper argues that clients voluntarily voted for bad patrons as a strategy to gain symbolic power in their negotiations with politicians. By explaining clients' paradoxical choice in Sertão of Bahia, this paper reveals how clientelism can persist without monitoring mechanisms or positive attitudes towards patrons. Besides, this study shows the importance of incorporating voters' perspectives and their everyday survival strategies to better account for clients' political behavior.

Keywords: Clientelism, Vote Buying, Elections, Brazil, Ethnography

Suggested Citation

Borges Martins da Silva, Mariana, Weapons of Clients: Why do Voters Support Bad patrons? Ethnographic Evidence from Rural Brazil (April 7, 2022). Latin American Politics and Society, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3956810 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3956810

Mariana Borges Martins da Silva (Contact Author)

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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