Protesting via the Null Ballot: An Assessment of the Decision to Cast an Invalid Vote in Latin America
- 485 Downloads
Rates of invalid voting in Latin America are among the highest in the world. Yet, scholars have not reached an agreement about whether these votes are driven by voter protest and, if so, what voters are protesting. Understanding whether these high invalid vote rates signify anti-democratic tendencies is particularly relevant given recent recessions in democratic quality across the region. This paper presents a theoretical framework and empirical tests using individual level data from 14 Latin American countries to show that invalid voting in presidential contests is used by individuals, particularly those high in knowledge, to protest poor government performance. However, invalid voting is not, on balance, an anti-system behavior. While political alienation differentially predicts invalid voting in countries with mandatory vote laws, the link between performance assessments and self-reported invalid voting is consistent across various contextual features that scholars link to invalid voting behavior.
KeywordsInvalid voting Null voting Latin America Political behavior Protest vote
I thank Liz Zechmeister, Zeynep Somer-Topçu, Tim Power, Jon Hiskey, Mitch Seligson, Cindy Kam, the Comparative Politics and LAPOP working groups at Vanderbilt University, and four anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. I thank the Latin American Public Opinion Project and its major supporters (the United States Agency for International Development, the Inter-American Development Bank, and Vanderbilt University) for making the data available.
- Cisneros, G. I. (2013). Movilización, escolaridad y voto nulo: La elección federal de 2009 en México. Política y Gobierno, 20(1), 39–78.Google Scholar
- Dalton, R. J., & van Sickle, A. (2005). The resource, structural, and cultural bases of protest. Center for the study of democracy. Irvine: University of California.Google Scholar
- Gurr, T. R. (1970). Why men rebel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Kam, C. D., & Franzese, R. (2007). Modeling and interpreting interactive hypotheses in regression analysis. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
- King, G., Keohane, R. O., & Verba, S. (1994). Designing social inquiry: Scientific inference in qualitative research. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
- Moseley, M. W. (2015). Contentious engagement: Understanding protest participation in Latin American democracies. Journal of Politics in Latin America, 7(3), 3–48.Google Scholar
- Moseley, M.W., and Moreno, D. (2010). The normalization of protest in Latin America. Americas Baromter Insights No. 42. http://vanderbilt.edu/lapop/insights/I0842en.pdf.
- Murillo, M. V., Oliveros, M., & Vaishnav, M. (2010). Electoral revolution or democratic alternation? Latin American Research Review, 45(3), 87–114.Google Scholar
- Przeworski, A., & Teune, H. (1970). The logic of comparative social inquiry. New York: Wiley-Interscience.Google Scholar
- Puddington, A. (2012) Latin America’s wavering democracies. Freedom house blog. Retrieved January 1, 2017 from https://freedomhouse.org/blog/latin-america%E2%80%99s-wavering-democracies.
- Superti, C. (2015). Popular trust, mistrust, and approval: Measuring and understanding citizens’ attitudes toward democratic institutions. Doctoral Dissertation, Harvard University.Google Scholar
- Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: Civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
- Zulfikarpasic, A. (2001). Le vote blanc: Abstention civique ou expresión politique? Revue Francaise de Science Politique, 51(1–2), 247–268.Google Scholar