Students of Latin American political parties have long assumed a strong correlation between social class and party identification, yet this assumption has never been tested empirically in any of the Latin American nations. This is probably due in large part to the lack of reliable survey data; however, even the mass of aggregate voting data has seldom been analyzed systematically. As a result, most of what we know—or think we know—about voting behavior in Latin America is based upon the intuitive assumptions of North American scholars. “If I were a member of the Chilean middle class, I would probably vote for the Radicals or Christian Democrats, but on the other hand if I were quite wealthy I would probably vote for the Conservatives.”
Students of Argentine politics assume that the Conservative parties, always representing the interests of the nation's aristocracy, have received the bulk of their votes from the large landowners; that the interests of this group consistently have been opposed by the Radical parties who receive their electoral support from the urban middle classes; and that the more recently formed Peronist parties have championed the cause of, and been supported at the polls by, the industrial workers. It is the purpose of this article to test these assumptions, primarily through analysis of aggregate voting data, but also by examining the social backgrounds of party leaders and their actions while in power.