What is Liberalism? A Mixed-Method Study of Ideology and Representation in Latin American Party Systems

Document Type


Publication Date



What is the concept of liberalism? Despite being a conceptually contested term, political parties still label themselves liberal and seek legitimacy by joining Liberal International (LI). In this paper, I adopt a mixed-methods strategy to assess what this ideology means in Latin America. First, I rely on economic and political theory to propose four potential components of liberalism: private property, liberal democracy, non-conformism, and social justice. Then, I search for these components in the declaration of principles of all the region’s LI members. Next, I assess liberals’ relative support for these components by comparing the attitudes of their elites and voters to those of conservatives and socialists in Paraguay, Honduras, and Nicaragua. This paper finds that liberal democracy is the only core component of liberalism in Latin America. Even though non-conformism and social justice are widely mentioned in political documents, their support among elites and voters is context-dependent. These results emphasize the contestability of liberalism while shedding light on what unites liberals in Latin America.

Publication Title




This document is currently not available here.