This article reexamines the argument that targeted programs increase pro-incumbent voting by persuading beneficiaries to cast ballots against their first partisan choice. The evidence comes from the randomized component of Progresa, the pioneering Mexican conditional cash transfer (CCT) program. Experimental data show that early enrollment in the program led to substantive increases in voter turnout and in the incumbent’s vote share in the 2000 presidential election. The experiment also reveals that opposition parties’ vote shares were unaffected by the program. Thus, the electoral bonus generated by CCTs may be best explained by a mobilizing rather than persuasive mechanism. These findings are difficult to reconcile with the notion that the electoral effects of CCTs are a result of prospective concerns triggered by threats of program discontinuation or endogenous program enrollment. Instead, the evidence in this article suggests that CCTs’ mobilizing effects are compatible with programmatic politics.
The full paper by Ana de la O is titled "Do Conditional Cash Transfers Affect Electoral Behavior? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Mexico" (American Journal of Political Science, January 2013). An ungated version of the paper is here.