Vox populi, vox dei?

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The frequent failures in the predictive capacity of the surveys—now with the elections in Argentina and the almost 12-point difference in favor of Javier Milei—remind me of the argument of the social scientists who founded Behavioral Economics, when they challenged the premise of classical economics: that people made rational decisions, since they would not go against their own benefit. On the contrary, historical experience showed that, time and time again, the goose that laid the golden eggs was sacrificed for immediate gain, causing immediate ruin. Time and time again decision makers plunged the global economy into disaster, remember the recent crisis of 2008.

Why did the polls that 24 hours before the election predict a technical tie between Milei and Massa fail again? I return to the interesting hypothesis of Gabriel González Molina in his book Switchers, S2, recently publicized in an interview with Ciro Gómez Leyva. Because pollsters and electoral strategists concentrate on the supply - to speak in terms of electoral marketing - on the profile of the candidates and their proposals and not on the demand side, that is, the needs, desires and emotions of the voters.

An example of this, it seems to me, is that Milei's disastrous performance in the last presidential debate did not have the slightest impact on the electorate. Maybe on the contrary. The Argentine voter did not seem to care about Milei's ridicule or that it was corroborated that he has been accused of plagiarism several times or that Massa had presented more structured ideas. The only thing he cared about was experiencing something different from the options he had voted for. For years and years. With inflation of 148%, decades of instability and recurring crises, the voter voted with their guts. Note that this is the first time that a Peronist or a candidate from the Radical Civic Union has not won in a democratic election. It is not the first example in which, out of desperation or exhaustion, an election results in something worse than what was intended to be remedied. I can't shake the memory of Bolsonarism in Brazil. And Milei's profile is one of frightening libertarian extreme rightism. But we have to wait to know what counterweights he will have and what alliances will be forged.

For the Mexican election, which today, Monday, kicks off the pre-campaigns, González Molina's analysis is extremely pertinent. First he proposes an answer to the question about the President's resilient popularity and its possible impact on the election. The author distinguishes between popularity and voting intention. Although popularity is around 62%, the intention to vote for AMLO (and, therefore, proMorena) is 42 percent. And 38% for the Broad Front for Mexico. To do this, he develops an ingenious tool that allows him to scrutinize both the hard vote and the vote of those who explore the main candidates. Other pollsters who have failed when they take the respondent's opinion at face value develop qualitative questions, for example, his opinion of the government's performance, to weigh the answer to the question "if today were the election who would I vote for?" . González Molina concludes that 21% represents the ultra-hard vote in favor of the President. “This is less than half the proportion of loyalists he had in March 2019, the highest point of his popularity and loyalty.” Another 21% sympathize with the President, but that could change. From there comes the 42% that the author considers Morena's ceiling. “Away from President López Obrador, they currently represent 35% of the total.” And 23% are clearly anti-AMLO voters (include me there).

Thus the “switchers” or people who could change their minds, plus the anti-AMLO would add up to 58%, which would be the ceiling of the opposition, as long as it achieves a campaign that is based, above all, on the demands of the voters and the electoral participation. A low participation benefits Morena; A participation that is around 65% benefits the Frente Amplio. The demands of the voters do not refer to the government program, although this can help, but rather to interpret the deep feelings of the citizens. By the way, a citizenship that is in no way homogeneous.

What other studies tell us about what citizens want is that few agree with the President's anti-aspirationism. Mexicans want to progress and before personal goods for themselves, they aspire to a better life experience for their sons and daughters. Better education, better health, more and better employment opportunities, more possibilities of starting your own business. Recover the social mobility that university education once guaranteed. Being able to stay in Mexico and not have to emigrate to the US. Exactly what the life example of Xóchitl Gálvez represents. I base my optimism on all this.

Cecilia Soto
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