Do Conditional Cash Transfers Affect Electoral Behavior? Evidence from a Randomized Experiment in Mexico


  • I am grateful to Jim Snyder, Chappell Lawson, Abhijit Banerjee, Jonathan Rodden, Michael Piore, Oliver Azuara, Michiko Ueda, Alejandro Poiré, Susan Stokes, Don Green, Thad Dunning, Greg Huber, Beatriz Magaloni, the editor Rick K. Wilson, and two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. I would also like to thank participants of the work in progress colloquium at MIT, the comparative politics workshop and the Institution for Social Policy Studies seminar at Yale, the colloquium on comparative research at Brown University, the development seminar at Georgetown University, the Experiments in Governance and Politics conference, the applied statistics seminar at Columbia, APSA 2008 and 2009, and MWPSA 2007. All errors remain my own responsibility. Supplementary information and replication data for this article are available at

Ana L. De La O is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Yale University, 77 Prospect Street, New Haven, CT 06511 (


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.