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Title: The Electoral Returns of Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Missions in Venezuela
Authors: Rodríguez Gallego, Andrea
Advisors: Yashar, Deborah
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2016
Abstract: On December 6, 1998, Hugo Chávez, a political outsider who had led an unsuccessful coup d’état six years earlier, was elected president of Venezuela with the highest percentage of the popular vote in four decades. He ran under an electoral platform to dismantle the two-party system that had dominated the country since 1958 and to launch a revolution, which became known as the Bolivarian Revolution, on behalf of the sectors of the population that had been excluded and marginalized. During the first years of his presidency, Chávez implemented radical policies, which polarized the Venezuelan society into two camps: Chávez supporters (Chavistas) and opposition members. The opposition organized several efforts to remove Chávez from power, including nationwide general strikes, a failed coup d’état in 2002, and a referendum to recall Chávez from office in 2004. By 2002, Chávez’s approval ratings had plummeted to 30 percent from about 90 percent when he was elected in 1998. In 2003, in the midst of this political context, Chávez launched the Bolivarian Missions—a set of social programs created to improve the living conditions of excluded groups in Venezuela by fighting illiteracy, providing access to education, supplying food at discount prices, and providing medical services to the poor, among other efforts. This study evaluates the degree to which the Bolivarian Missions helped Chávez ramp up support. It measures the electoral returns of three of the Bolivarian Missions— Misión Ribas, Misión Sucre, and Misión Mercal. Misión Ribas and Misión Sucre provide high school and college level education to adults in Venezuela, respectively. Misión Mercal provides subsidized food and basic goods through a nation-wide chain of grocery stores. This study tests if the missions that distribute excludable private goods, Misión Ribas and Misión Sucre, have different electoral returns than the mission that distributes non-excludable local public goods, Misión Mercal, depending on the type of voters targeted. This study finds that the electoral returns of Misión Mercal were highest in opposition municipalities, followed by core municipalities (where the impact is positive but very slight), and the lowest in weakly supporting municipalities. Regarding the private goods programs, Misión Ribas and Misión Sucre, this study finds that they have considerably different electoral returns. Specifically, it finds that the electoral returns of Misión Ribas are highest in opposition and loyal municipalities, and lowest in swing and weakly supporting municipalities, whereas the returns of Misión Sucre are highest in swing and weakly supporting municipalities, and lowest in opposition and loyal municipalities. Moreover, this study finds that Misión Sucre yields considerably negative electoral returns in opposition and loyal municipalities. Thus, this study finds that private goods can also have differential effects depending on the type of voters targeted and, importantly, that the effects might be negative. This challenges existing literature that has tended to presume a common impact for all types of private goods.
Extent: 97 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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