Political sociologists have spent more time investigating how charismatic leaders gain support than how they lose it. Which factors drive voters to abandon a charismatic leader? Is defection associated with social and political identity, economic circumstances, democratic commitments, interactions between these, or other factors? In this paper, I use the case of Juan “Evo” Morales and Bolivia to explore how support for a charismatic leader erodes. A mixed-methods approach enables a descriptive portrait of loyalists and defectors from nationally representative survey data, along with an analysis of how voters describe their political allegiances from in-depth interviews across two summers of fieldwork in La Paz. The study finds that in the case of Evo and Bolivia, loyalty to and defection from a charismatic leader are affected by education, ethnic identity, and sex. Using these findings, the paper shows how responses to charismatic counter-roles are shaped by voter positionality. Differences in voters’ interpretation of a given situation depend partly on identity. Support for a charismatic leader is not necessarily support for charisma, and voters defect for various reasons, including some cited by other voters as grounds for their persistent loyalty.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| January 06 2023
No MAS: Who Said No to Evo in Bolivia?
Sociology of Development (2023) 9 (1): 56–77.
Jonathon Acosta; No MAS: Who Said No to Evo in Bolivia?. Sociology of Development 1 March 2023; 9 (1): 56–77. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/sod.2022.0019
Download citation file: