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The Real Reason Behind AMLO’s 63% Approval Rating


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[Leer en español]

The most recent survey on the approval of the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) conducted by Buendía & Márquez and published in the El Universal revealed that 63% of the population approves of his government, although 51% considers that the government is acting poorly in matters of public security.

If you ask me, I believe that the result has to do with two important factors: the first one is that polls are no longer a reliable source to know people’s opinions. We have seen in many recent elections that the ballot boxes do not reflect what is said in the polls or, in the specific case of Mexico, that AMLO is incapable of calling people to his “popular consultations”. The second is that people have no idea what is happening and approve of the AMLO they imagine exists, not the one who actually governs. 

As an example, I leave you with this chronicle of a recent real interaction with a lady who approves of AMLO’s administration:

“I hate Felipe Calderon” – the lady angrily told me.

“Why?” – I asked.

“He is an alcoholic” – she replied.

I explained to her that the rumor had been started by journalist Federico Arreola and that he himself had denied it since 2011; that he has even insisted on several occasions that it was never true.

“Oh, really? Well, I hate him anyway” – she said.

I asked her for a reason and explained that I did not have much sympathy for the former president either, after all, he had invented new taxes such as the Single Rate Business Tax and the el Tax on Cash Deposits under the excuse of fighting organized crime from the Tax Administration System; I could also hate him for the 83,000 executions that occurred during his war against organized crime; or even for the distrust in the security and justice institutions that this war caused among the people.

But she didn’t comment on any of that.

“I hate him! I don’t like him!” – was all I got.

The discussion continued, we talked about Peña Nieto, whom she does not hate, but she believes he became president by fraud, despite the fact that the IFE/INE is a citizens’ institute in which the voters, and not the parties or the government, count the votes, always in the presence of representatives of all the parties. The lady even participated as a poll worker in that election and supervised the vote count. The only argument to point out fraud is faith in the current president. I would think that the lady, who has been devout all her life, would first stop believing in God than stop believing in AMLO.

AMLO, El American

“And what do you think of José López Portillo?” – I asked.

“He has been the worst in history. I hate him too” – was the answer.

I explained to her that López Obrador has behaved very much like López Portillo and that both his messages and his policies are very similar. She could not deny it, but said that with AMLO it was different, although she could not explain why.

The lady was starting to get desperate and angry, and I understand it, that’s what happens to all of us when we are on the ropes with nothing to say. Maybe I should have relaxed and ended the conversation there, but in the end I decided to push harder.

“And don’t you hate Manuel Bartlett?”

“Yes, he is corrupt!”


“That ugly and corrupt old woman.”

“But they are people very close to the president. —But they are people very close to the president. Doesn’t that produce distrust?”

“I don’t know why he has them there.”

I reminded her of some of the corruption scandals of the president’s first circle, such as the irregularities in the 1988 election in which Bartlett himself was a protagonist and which AMLO denounced at the time, even though he is now in charge of the Federal Electricity Commission. Already angry (or sad), she interrupted me:

“What I want to know is: why so much hatred against AMLO? Even those who are supposed to support him speak ill of him.”

Of course, with his constant harassment of journalists, his allies in the non-official leftist press (Carmen Aristegui or Proceso magazine, to mention a few) have stopped applauding him or, at least, stopped ignoring his mistakes.

“Well, how can they not speak ill of him, with all that he has done? Haven’t you seen the airport, his children’s properties, the children with cancer without treatment, the murders of journalists? Come on, there have already been more deaths than with your hated Calderón,” I answered. -Mam, don’t you read my columns?

“No, I haven’t followed the news for a long time, but I don’t understand why so much hatred.” 

Surely you have had a similar interaction. That is why, even though everything is going badly, 63% approve of him; because it is fashionable to hate Calderón and love AMLO.

José Torra is an economist, Research Coordinator at Caminos de la Libertad, co-author of the Fraser Institute's Economic Freedom of North America Index, and co-host of the podcast Libertad Aquí y Ahora // José Torra es economista, Coordinador de investigación en Caminos de la Libertad, coautor del índice Economic Freedom of Northamerica del Fraser Institute, y co-conductor del podcast Libertad Aquí y Ahora

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