By Alejandro Poiré
by Luis Rubio
by Verónica Ortiz O
by Miguel Toro
Last Friday, March 16th, the National Electoral Institute (INE) informed that only Margarita Zavala had surpassed the 866,000 signature threshold needed to compete in the presidential election as an independent candidate. Although Jaime Rodríguez “El Bronco” and Armando Ríos Piter had originally documented a greater number of required signatures, the INE found that a large number were fake or non-valid (59% and 86% respectively) leaving them below the threshold. In fact, Margarita Zavala also had many non-valid signatures, as 45% of those submitted did not comply with the authenticity requisites required by law.
This sparked a wave of ardent Twitter users claiming that not only should none of the three compete, but that they would have to be prosecuted because, surely, the photocopies and simulated signatures represent the pattern of corruption within social programs (among other crimes). When reading many of those tweets, the question remains as to whether the outrage was genuine. Would those same Twitter users feel that way when the official party candidates commit typical electoral crimes (i.e. exceeding the campaign spending cap, introducing private money to them, buying votes, etc.) and after July 1st the election is not restored (especially if your preferred candidate won)? How much do the complaints of those who seem like champions of justice disappear when it comes to the acts of corruption of the parties/candidates with whom they identify?
Table 1. Validity of Political Party Registries
Source: National Electoral Institute (INE)
All kinds of biases – conscious and unconscious – affect people’s decision-making. The environment in which you were raised (the values and customs of your family, the place and people of your work or religion) or what is observed in the media are a few, among others. The phenomenon of the human biases has been widely studied by psychologists, but a very telling example is the Implicit Association Test (IAT) developed by academics Anthony Greenwald and Mahzarin Banaji.
This test, which consists of relating ideas – such as good and evil, or success or failure – with people, reveals the deep biases associated with ethnicity, gender, or even ideologies that influence many decisions. For example, do you only hire those from your school or assign responsibilities based on gender roles? Are you more afraid of being assaulted by a person with darker complexion than that of someone white? Do you think that those of a specific political party are more corrupt?
In 2006, academics Drew Westen, Stephan Hamman, and Clint Kilts conducted an experiment with Americans who clearly identified as Republicans or Democrats to see how political brains think (Westen, 2008). They showed them videos of politicians from those parties (i.e. George W. Bush or John Kerry) and other neutral celebrities (i.e. Tom Hanks) where they contradicted one video to another. All of the participants were able to identify these contradictions in the politicians of the rival party to theirs and among the neutral figures, but they wavered and justified these inconsistencies in members of their own party (Westen, 2008). This ‘rationalization’ of the inconsistencies is just one of many expressions of the biases that all people who identify with something have, whether it is a religion, a football team, or a political party.
Confirmation bias is one of the ways in which people distort the information they receive to confirm their pre-established beliefs (Kahneman, 2011). This situation makes it more likely that they arrive untimely to positive or negative conclusions from specific frames (framing effects). In this way, the sympathizers of the party believe that their candidate is honest while the others do not and vice versa for those who reject the candidate, when in reality 77.2 percent of Mexicans believe that more than half of Mexican politicians are corrupt (AmericasBarometer, 2017). That high percentage is no coincidence, since the phenomenon of corruption is bidirectional: a corrupt political class is the product of a corrupt (or at least complacent) society.
According to the Latinobarómetro 2017 survey, only 13 percent of the population believes corruption is the most important problem in Mexico (it ranks third behind insecurity and the economy). Meanwhile, 33 percent say they would be likely or highly likely to bribe a judge, 47 percent to bribe a police officer and 51 percent to bribe a public ministry official. Additionally, 22 percent of Mexicans believe that it is valid to pay a bribe to solve a problem (AmericasBarometer, 2017).
Indignation in social networks by various issues is common, but there is rarely a conscientious analysis of what causes or allows such situations. The electoral fraud of the rival candidates may seem scandalous, but not their own. It is easy to point out politicians without recognizing the bribes to pass the verification, construction without permits, or tax evasion and avoidance. During the next corruption scandal, it would be worth wondering how much of that happens because of the complicity of the uninformed citizenry about the issues or of the corrupt people for whom they voted, or even whom their current representatives are so that they can complain about the issue (deputies, mayors, senators, etc.). It would be worth reflecting, with sincerity, on the question, how corrupt are you?
The views expressed here are solely those of the author.
by Luis Rubio
by Luis Rubio