Measuring Variance in Subnational Regimes: Results from an Expert-Based Operationalization of Democracy in the Argentine Provinces

Carlos Gervasoni


This paper presents an expert-based operationalization strategy to measure the degree of democracy in the Argentine provinces. Starting with a mainstream and “thick” definition of regime type, I assess each of its aspects using a subjective or perception-based approach that taps the knowledge of experts on the politics of each province. I present and justify the methodological design of the resulting Survey of Experts on Provincial Politics (SEPP) and conduct a preliminary analysis of its results. Some aspects of the provincial regimes appear to be clearly democratic, while others are mixed or even leaning towards authoritarianism. Moreover, some show little interprovincial variance, while others vary considerably from province to province. An analysis of the central tendency and dispersion of the survey items allows for a general description of the Argentine provincial regimes. Inclusion is the most democratic dimension, while the effectiveness of institutional constraints on the power of the Executive is the most deficient. Electoral contestation is generally free of traditional forms of fraud, but incumbents often command far more campaign resources and media attention than do their challengers. Physical repression is rare, but opponents in some provinces face subtler forms of punishment. While the survey does not uncover any clear cases of subnational authoritarianism, stricto sensu, provincial regimes do vary significantly from basically democratic to clearly hybrid.

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