Public Opinion in Mexico City about the Electoral System

Public Opinion in Mexico City about the Electoral System

Public Opinion in Mexico City about the Electoral System

Public Opinion in Mexico City about the Electoral System

Excerpt

What people think about elections in a polity where one party typically receives 87-90% of the vote in national elections, is difficult to study because of the possibility of confusing the descriptive-analytical mode of discourse with the normative-evaluational mode. When one suspects that the two modes of discourse interact in the thinking characteristic of one's sample, the problem becomes especially severe. Some Mexicans may well evaluate the electoral system favorably or unfavorably because of how they perceive others to evaluate it, and those perceptions may be accurate or inaccurate. Moreover, people sometimes make incorrect inferences even from correct perceptions, and base their own evaluations upon those inferences. Some Mexicans might infer that the nearunanimity of the electoral results serves as an index of support for the way in which elections are carried out, and hence, let this inference influence their own evaluations of the electoral system. Alternatively, others might infer that the existence of discontent about the electoral system disproves the veracity of the officially reported vote totals. Neither inference is necessarily correct, nor would evaluations based upon such inferences be predictable from knowledge about the perceptions of individuals making such inferences.

Aside from the fact that respondents may or may not allow the two modes of thought to interact, there is always the danger that the analyst will misread the level at which any individual is speaking. Frequent assertions to the effect that "elections are meaningless in Mexico" are not surprising, given the election results mentioned above. To assume, however, that individuals making these statements are engaging in normative censure of the electoral system would be misleading. Many Mexicans are fully content with the electoral system precisely because it yields victory for the PRI, of which they are adherents. Moreover, it is fully possible that some of these individuals will assert (descriptively) that elections are unimportant in Mexico. The mere perception of the unimportance of elections is not necessarily indicative of disapproval.

Of course not all people who make such assertions are speaking at the merely descriptive level. One also encounters Mexicans who agree that elections are unimportant but think that situation is disturbing or even disgraceful. Hence, if this example is generalizeable, it would seem wise to use research instruments in which the normative component is explicit in order to avoid making assumptions not made by the respondent.

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