- Argentina’s economic outlook most pessimistic in South America
- Majorities satisfied with quality of healthcare and education
- Most Argentines feel very threatened by climate change
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Millions of Argentines head to the polls on Oct. 22 to elect a new president. Gallup surveys conducted ahead of the election shed light on three key issues that will likely play a decisive role in the outcome of the vote, which could see the country make a sharp turn to the right.
The election comes amid years of disillusionment with the country’s leadership and national government. Just over a quarter of adults (28%) expressed confidence in their national government in 2022, which is on par with the low levels ahead of the last election in 2019.
Quick Summary: The presidential election will be a three-horse race among radically different candidates. The incumbent -- Alberto Fernandez -- will not stand for reelection. In 2022, his job approval rating was at 26%, the third lowest in South America. His center-left Peronist Party has been in power for 16 of the past 20 years, over which former President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has exerted considerable influence.
With neither Fernandez nor Kirchner standing, the government alliance -- Union por la Patria (Union for the Homeland) -- is represented by Economy Minister Sergio Massa. He is seen as a pragmatic centrist and has been at the helm while the Argentine economy navigates one of its trickiest periods for generations.
Patricia Bullrich is the candidate for the center-right coalition Juntos por el Cambio (Together for Change). Bullrich is a more conservative figure who takes a hard stance on security and has pledged to cut taxes and use the military to tackle the country’s drug trade.
Javier Milei, a former TV pundit and tantric sex coach, is the arch-libertarian populist candidate. Milei made a shocking win in the open primaries and leads polls in the run-up to the election. Riding a wave of general dissatisfaction with the ruling classes, Milei’s policy platform involves dollarizing the economy and slashing the state by cutting free access to healthcare and education. He has also floated controversial ideas such as legalizing the sale of human organs. Former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has endorsed Milei.
1. Argentines’ Outlook for Their Economy Is Worst in South America
The Argentinian economy remains in the grips of one of its worst crises for generations. Inflation is running at over 100%, the peso's value has plummeted, and poverty rates have shot up. As foreign currency reserves run dry, the government has been forced to impose strict currency controls and raise import taxes. Such economic malaise is reflected in the views of the Argentine public.
In 2022, the local economic outlook in Argentina was the most pessimistic in South America. A quarter of Argentines (27%) said their local economy was getting better, while 62% felt it was getting worse.
In the decade between 2006 and 2015, the proportion of Argentines who struggled to afford food at times was between 23% and 27%. Since then, it has shot up, peaking at 48% in 2019 and remaining persistently high at 39% in 2022.
Inability to afford shelter tells a similar story, tying its previous high of 29%. Rampant inflation and its associated squeeze on incomes are affecting everyone: While 43% of those in the poorest 20% income group struggled to afford shelter at times in the past year, so did a record-high 22% of the richest 20% in Argentina.
Massa recently announced a new tax exemption, meaning that millions of Argentines will be exempt from paying income tax, in a move to boost his support just weeks before election day.
2. Satisfaction With Public Services Remains Solid
Milei has put public services at the heart of the election, promising to abolish tuition-free public education and disband free access to healthcare. Massa has unsurprisingly questioned this approach, while Bullrich has promised to bring order to health and education, as well as public life more broadly.
Since Gallup first surveyed Argentina in 2006, satisfaction with the healthcare system has never dropped below a majority, standing at 55% last year.
In South America, only Argentina and Uruguay have consistently seen majorities satisfied with the availability of quality healthcare. Aside from Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, majorities in all other countries on the continent were dissatisfied in 2022.
Satisfaction with Argentina’s education system is also high at 60%, rising to 70% among Argentines with the lowest level of education (completed elementary school, at most).
3. Most Perceive Climate Change as a Serious Threat
Argentina faces several threats from a changing climate, including extreme precipitation, flooding and heat waves. In recent months, farming regions have suffered from a crippling drought. As such, the government has pledged to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The main candidates offer profoundly different approaches to the climate. While Massa has focused on tackling climate change and expanding renewable energy, Milei has previously called climate change a “socialist lie.”
In 2021, the vast majority of adults in Argentina (83%) felt that climate change is a serious threat to the country in the next 20 years (with 61% saying it is a “very serious” threat), according to the Lloyd’s Register Foundation World Risk Poll. Only 10% felt that climate change is not a threat to Argentina.
Climate change concerns are equal across urban and rural areas (61% and 62% “very serious” threat, respectively) but vary significantly by education. Half of Argentines with an elementary school education or less (50%) see climate change as a very serious threat to Argentina, compared with 81% of those who have completed a tertiary education.
The outcome of the coming presidential election -- or potential November second-round runoff -- will define how Argentina responds to the myriad challenges it faces in the years ahead. The three main candidates offer radically different visions of the future and solutions to how Argentina will tackle rampant inflation, fund public services and adapt to a changing climate. Whoever wins will face huge challenges in stabilizing Argentina’s ailing economy and restoring people’s faith in the government.
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