Holding Brazilian mayors accountable : evidence for retrospective voting in Brazilian social policy




Van Horn, Ross Delbert

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Notwithstanding convincing evidence of electoral returns associated with Brazil’s non-contributory cash transfer program (Bolsa Família) captured at the national level in presidential elections, little empirical work has reviewed if program expansion translated into electoral returns for mayors, the key administrators of the flagship program that benefits 1 in 4 Brazilians. The results from the statistical analysis presented here reveal that, on average, adding eligible beneficiary families (what the study calls program performance) positively impacted reelection probabilities at the municipal level for incumbents in 2008. The political effect was mediated by the size of the program. That is, voters rewarded enrollment changes when a larger share of the total family population in a municipality participated in the program. Borrowing on theories of retrospective voting models developed in the United States, the paper explores conditions under which the scope of social programs engender retrospective electoral effects.


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