Public attitudes to regional integration in Latin America

Date - 02 / 05 / 2018

Public attitudes to regional integration in Latin America

Public attitudes to regional integration in the Atlantic Latin America
Dr. Mark Aspinwall
División de Estudios Internacionales
Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas (CIDE)
(Paper prepared for the 2018 plenary meeting of the
Jean Monnet Network on Atlantic Studies)


In this chapter I look at the causes of individual attitudes to regional integration in Latin America. Many scholars have considered how individuals perceive European integration, and some others have examined the attitudes of Latin Americans and US citizens to free trade and regionalism. But few have applied the lessons from Europe to Latin American states to identify the structure of attitudes there. A better understanding of how citizens in Latin America perceive regional integration is important, and especially a clearer understanding of what structures their attitudes – whether it is material incentives, ideology and party identification, education levels, or something else.

The results of this study will help us better understand public attitudes in Latin America, and it will help close some of the gaps in understanding across the Atlantic region. While we know a great deal about the structure of public attitudes in Europe toward European integration, the same is not true of Latin America. In Europe, integration is perceived by citizens not simply as a means to create (or destroy) economic opportunities – a material rationale – but is also seen as a means by which the dominant cultural identity may be weakened by outsiders who gain access through free movement rules. It is also seen as a means to control domestic politicians, prevent backsliding on reforms and ideally to control corruption. Whether those same perceptions are present in Latin American attitudes to regional integration is the aim of this study. Do residents of Latin American countries see regional integration in the same way as their counterparts around the Atlantic Basin? Are there patterns in their support for regional agreements?

Attitudes to regional integration


EU studies mainly look at attitudes to European integration and the EU, whereas due to lack of data there is less work on Latin American attitudes to regional integration (but see Seligson 1999; Maldonado and Marin 2018; Davis et al 1998; Merolla et al 2005; Deutschmann and Minkus 2018). These studies often do not seek to explain support for a particular regional agreement, but rather support for the more abstract notion of regional integration.

In Europe, anti-European Union attitudes are not necessarily explained by opposition to free trade, although some findings have highlighted the importance of material considerations (such as occupation). Other studies suggest that ideology or party support (political cues), and education are more important than material considerations.


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