Apr 1, 2024 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Security is on an upswing: should mayors get the credit? Insights from Mexico City

Latin American cities like São Paulo and Mexico City have seen tremendous improvements in public safety in the last decade. But, as crime rates have gone down, clashes over who is responsible for these rare accomplishments have emerged. The reason is that states provide security in these cities. Yet mayors have used their minimal or imaginary responsibilities in public safety to claim credit for improving public safety. What do citizens know about security provision in cities such as these? And how do citizens respond to credit claims by political actors with little to no public safety responsibilities? Based on a 1,600 survey of Mexico City residents, Zarkin finds widespread misunderstanding regarding functional responsibility and attribution. Most Mexico City residents identify public safety as the responsibility of the Mexico City government, yet they credit boroughs for improvements in this area. Using a mock news report survey experiment that randomizes credit-claiming by mayors, Zarkin also finds that credit-claiming does not improve mayors’ favorability among their constituents. However, it subtracts favorability points from Mexico City’s head of government—particularly in opposition boroughs. These findings suggest that when attributional dynamics are murky, political actors can reap the benefits of engaging in performative security governance.