AMLO’s Victory Over Election Agency Has Cost Him Considerable Support

The perpetually popular Mexican president has been bruised by going up against the country’s well-liked electoral institute
March 16, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador achieved his controversial goal of overhauling Mexico’s venerated electoral system, but it cost him in the court of public opinion, with Mexicans from across the social spectrum souring on his job performance.

AMLO Lost Support During Push to Overhaul Electoral System

Share of Mexican adults who approve or disapprove of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s job performance
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Each data point reflects a seven-day moving average of surveys conducted among representative samples of at least 2,402 adults in Mexico, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points.

AMLO bled support during fight over election agency

  • A record-high 73% of Mexican adults approved of López Obrador’s job performance in surveys conducted Nov. 30 through Dec. 6, the same day that Mexico’s lower house of Congress rejected his first attempt to overhaul the National Electoral Institute, or INE, via constitutional changes. López Obrador’s approval rating declined over the following months as he continued to push a legislative overhaul of the INE, to a record-low 59% in surveys conducted Feb. 18-24 — just before before Feb. 26 mass protests against electoral reform erupted across the country. 
  • The INE’s director, Lorenzo Córdova Vianello, on Jan. 29 called for citizens to resist López Obrador’s push, triggering a second slide in the president’s support that continued past the passage of the electoral overhaul on Feb. 22. The changes are now law, but may yet be overturned by Mexico’s Supreme Court before elections are held in 2024.

Dip in AMLO’s Popularity Crosses Social and Political Spectrums

Net approval* rating of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador among Mexican adults
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*Net approval is the share of respondents who approve minus the share who disapprove.
Surveys conducted among representative samples of at least 2,405 adults in Mexico, with unweighted margins of error of +/-2 percentage points.

AMLO’s support falls among young people and Mexico’s poorest

  • While support within López Obrador’s’s Morena party mostly held steady, the move was relatively costly among supporters of the once-dominant PRI, which has cooperated with Morena on certain issues but refused to support his desired constitutional changes regarding the INE. His net approval rating among PRI supporters — the share who approve of his job performance minus the share who disapprove — declined 36 percentage points. 
  • Some of the steepest declines came among young people, a worrying trend for López Obrador in a country with a median age of 29 in 2020. The president’s net approval rating among Mexicans between ages 18-34 and 35-44 declined 11 points and 17 points, respectively. 
  • Aside from Morena supporters, López Obrador still boasts strong support from low-income Mexicans he claims to champion, but even there he has lost some shine: His net approval rating among Mexicans who earn less than 7,499 pesos ($395) per month declined 13 points. 

Why Mexicans have rallied around the INE

López Obrador has held a grudge against the INE since his close loss in the 2006 presidential election to Felipe Calderón, which he has claimed was fraudulently decided. Nevertheless, it is one of the few institutions that can rival the president’s popularity, as many Mexicans remember the days of single-party rule. For decades, the PRI-dominated Interior Ministry manipulated election results to ensure control, epitomized by the alleged computer crash that stopped vote-counting in the 1988 elections. 

The INE’s independence has been lauded by the international community for consistently delivering free and fair elections since 2000 despite mounting challenges. López Obrador’s overhaul will cut the institution’s budget and centralize control over appointments to key positions, which critics say will give the powers that be in Mexico City effective control.

A headshot photograph of Matthew Kendrick
Matthew Kendrick
Data Reporter

Matthew Kendrick previously worked at Morning Consult as a data reporter covering geopolitics and foreign affairs.

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