What We Are Reading Today: Persuasive Peers; Social Communication and Voting in Latin America

What We Are Reading Today: Persuasive Peers; Social Communication and Voting in Latin America
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Updated 28 October 2020

What We Are Reading Today: Persuasive Peers; Social Communication and Voting in Latin America

What We Are Reading Today: Persuasive Peers; Social Communication and Voting in Latin America

Edited by Andy Baker, Barry Ames, and Lucio Renno

In Latin America’s new democracies, political parties and mass partisanship are not deeply entrenched, leaving many votes up for grabs during election campaigns. In a typical presidential election season, between one-quarter and one-half of all voters—figures unheard of in older democracies—change their voting intentions across party lines in the months before election day. Advancing a new theory of Latin American voting behavior, Persuasive Peers argues that political discussions within informal social networks among family members, friends, neighbors, coworkers, and acquaintances explain this volatility and exert a major influence on final voting choices.

Relying on unique survey and interview data from Latin America, the authors show that weakly committed voters defer to their politically knowledgeable peers, creating vast amounts of preference change as political campaigns unfold. Peer influences also matter for unwavering voters, who tend to have social contacts that reinforce their voting intentions. Social influence increases political conformity among voters within neighborhoods, states, and even entire regions, and the authors illustrate how party machines use the social topography of electorates to buy off well-connected voters who can magnify the impact of the payoff.

Persuasive Peers demonstrates how everyday communication shapes political outcomes in Latin America’s less-institutionalized democracies.


What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Updated 25 January 2021

What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

What We Are Reading Today: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant — in the blink of an eye — that actually aren’t as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple, the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball and the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. 

Blink reveals that great decision-makers aren’t those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of “thin-slicing” — filtering the very
few factors that matter from a number of variables.