Peru's presidential election was hotly contested between left-wing Pedro Castillo and right-wing Keiko Fujimori. There was something surprising that I read on twitter:

Castillo vs Fujimori in some major US cities (according to external vote results)

New York (7,930 votes): 73% Keiko, 27% Castillo
Los Angeles (8,010 votes): 83% Keiko, 17% Castillo
Chicago (1,685 votes): 80% Keiko, 20% Castillo
Houston (2,329 votes): 85% Keiko, 15% Castillo

@PopulismUpdates on Twitter

Cities that overwhelmingly vote for Democrats in the US like NYC and LA had residents who voted in roughly equally lopsided numbers for a far right candidate over a far left candidate.

What makes this notable is that in Peru the vote was effectively tied, with Castillo winning narrowly. Why did the right wing candidate win overwhelmingly in generally left wing areas like NYC?

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    Are you sure the vote was a left wing vs right wing choice? From the comments made after the first round I guessed that the choice was restricted over who is considered the lesser evil.
    – FluidCode
    Jun 19, 2021 at 16:42
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    One way of seeing that a comparison with US party affiliations is rather meaningless, is to remind yourself of the fact that for example in most EU nations the US Democrats would be placed on the right wing of the political spectrum. Talking about mainstream Democrats here. Bernie Sanders might be an exception. Jun 20, 2021 at 5:53
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    @JyrkiLahtonen: I've seen it estimated that Bernie Sanders would be a moderately left-leaning centrist by most European standards, and would fit nicely into one of the mainstream Social Democratic parties in various European countries such as the members of the PES europarty. Which, as I understand it, is not entirely a coincidence, as Bernie self-identifies as a "democratic socialist" and has drawn inspiration from the social democratic movement. Jun 20, 2021 at 11:26
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    @IlmariKaronen -In year past only. But nordic countries have moved far beyond demonizing corporations. Finland corporate tax rate is 20% now, a similar rate to most Nordic countries. In the US, 20% is considered right-wing low balling . Nokia and the country of Finland have common interests - corporation ideally work as public commons, up to a point. Part of the difference is in stockholder culture and the US emphasis on higher dividends which strangles R&D and weakens the companies over time. That weakening can be delayed by regulatory capture - but lack of R&D always kills the baby. Jun 21, 2021 at 0:18
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    @JyrkiLahtonen It's rather complicated really, what's "left wing" and "right wing" differs between Europe and the US as well. While I'd agree Europe tends to lean further left on social programs, which is probably what people focus on when making comparisons, on some social and economic issues the US can be more to the left than Europe. If we take a look at state politics, California's environmental laws are more restrictive than any in the EU, and conversely, quite a few EU countries have lower corporate tax rates than the US federal rate (without state taxes added on). Jun 22, 2021 at 16:35

5 Answers 5


This question, and both answers so far, are endearingly naive and US-centered, if you pardon this opinion.

What they reflect is comparing a US system where (Trump's extreme aside), the actual policy differences between Democrats and Republican are fairly small. So, "Democratic in the US => left leaning in Peru and let's talk about stats".

The Peru situation

  • Peru is extremely different in terms of wealth if you are Indigenous * (the people who voted for Castillo) and not Indigenous (the people who voted for Fujimori). You are talking the difference between obsessively swept streets and no-running-water districts, in the capital. Out of the big cities? Worse. Mostly split on ethnicity. To illustrate the degree of separation between the different people: Indigenous people, not infrequently, don't speak Spanish.

  • It has repeat problems of corruption at all levels of government. From politicians skipping the line to "experiment" the covid vaccine to getting involved in the Odebrecht Brazilian corruption from 3-4 years back. The politicians in question? Not-Indigenous, mostly.

  • It was caught up in a big civil war/insurgency problem in the 80s from the Shining Path. 75k dead, a terrorism-based war mostly sustained by Indigenous people seduced by a lunatic European Philosophy prof Marxist. Who didn't really hesitate at massacring them when it suited him.

  • Fujimori's dad presided over death squads during the war. But hers is not the choice of backing someone who has a recognizable Hitler-type ideology, it is backing someone who will oppose wealth transfer to Indigenous people. Possibly violently so, but I am still sure that a number of people were glad her father won the war, it had really not been a pretty one, even if the Indigenous populations suffered most.

  • Likewise, Castillo's party, if not necessarily Castillo (a political newcomer), is definitely not US-Democrats in flavor. Quoting the Economist, June 10 (my emphasis and linking):

Assuming his victory is confirmed, Mr Castillo faces an almost impossible balancing act of trying to govern pragmatically for the majority while keeping his radical base happy. This week he showed his first clear sign of moderation. “We will be a government respectful of democracy, the current constitution…[and of] financial and economic stability,” he told jubilant supporters. If so, that may bring an early clash with his own party, Perú Libre. An avowedly Marxist-Leninist outfit, its founder and leader, Vladimir Cerrón, is a doctor who is an admirer of Cuban communism and Venezuela’s dictatorship.

So, in short you have the choice between a known-bad, continuity party, represented by Fujimori.

And Castillo's possible real "radical left", which is in any case going to pursue more equity for the Indigenous peoples (if he gets that past congress). At the level of existing inequality, that can't help needing to transfer wealth and services from the non-Indigenous population to the Indigenous population. In massive proportions.

(A remark about Castillo - he was a member of the self-defense peasant squads opposing Shining Path)

Now, don't get me wrong. The system as it is is both unjust and likely to cause further troubles down the line if steps are not taken to correct it.

But it is easy to see why Peruvians living abroad, who are likely not Indigenous, aren't going to back someone who, at best, will infringe on the privileges of non-Indigenous people in a big way.

And, at worst, might end up running a new Venezuela.

That is what makes this question about Dem vs Rep US voting patterns so parochial in nature.

The differences in choices are just much wider than what you see in Western elections and projecting US Dem => Castillo is pointless.

I hope Castillo surprises everyone and does a good job. Peru does need to address the gap between Indigenous and not-Indigenous. I fear it may not go well.

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    "both answers so far, are endearingly naive and US-centered". Which answers would that be? (And the question -- while naive, and showing a massive misunderstanding of statistics -- is only US-centered because that's the data he has.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 20, 2021 at 6:13
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    @RonJohn based on the timestamp, looks like the 2 answers are: Ted Wrigley's and Andrew's.
    – Andrew T.
    Jun 20, 2021 at 9:27
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    @PatrickT Not concerned about stats here. This question is a category error of sorts, bit like saying "greyhounds are the fastest running dogs, why aren't they the fastest swimming dogs?". You can't take an election choice Dem vs Rep in the US to voting choices to infer voting intent for the last Peru election, it just doesn't make any sense. You have to look at the circumstances of the Peruvian situation first and foremost. Then you can trot out stats, such as votes per ethnicity in Peru and ethnicity of Peruvian expats. Just like looking at Cuban votes requires understanding Cuba. Jun 20, 2021 at 15:08
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica: Can't speak for Peru, but my family in southern Mexico uses "indígena" (indigenous) to refer to natives of the area (most of which are of various Mayan backgrounds, but the term covers non-Mayan indigenous, since it really just means "people here before the Spaniards). Of course, it gets complicated because the Mayans who adopted Mexican culture and religion are not considered indigenous, depending on who you ask (they're just Mexican like everyone else), which may or may not cover the situation in Peru. Jun 20, 2021 at 17:45
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    I think the term "Indigenous" is no less accurate and much less likely to lead to confusion with actual Indians from India, so that would be a good edit. To my understanding, indígena is used frequently in Peru. I would recommend using that term in your answer to be more precise and avoid confusion. If you really prefer the (less etymologically correct) term "Indian," how about Amerindian (amerindio) to avoid confusion?
    – Obie 2.0
    Jun 20, 2021 at 19:05

You're making a statistical error: extending a statistic about a general population to a non-randomly selected sub-population. For instance, Texas as a whole is roughly evenly split between Democrat leaning and Republican leaning people (40% to 39%, with 21% non-leaning). But white Texans are overwhelmingly Republican (72%). See Pew's Party affiliation among adults in Texas. Population statistics depend on randomness for their predictive power; there is no expectation that non-random sub-groups will conform.

For one reason or another ethnic Peruvians have a different political makeup than the surrounding communities, at least with respect to Peruvian politics. That is interesting enough to look into, but hardly something we should be surprised by.

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    It looks like you are talking about Texas and not Houston a city in Texas Jun 19, 2021 at 15:33
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    @NumberFile: Ah, you're right; I grabbed the link without thinking too hard. I'll fix it (the answer, not the link), because the example still works. Jun 19, 2021 at 15:37
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    You also might find that white Texans in the Austin area vote differently than white Texans in Houston. Similarly, we might find that Peruvian emigrants to the US tend to have different political opinions than Peruvians who stayed home. Indeed, those political differences might be one of the reasons why they emigrated.
    – jamesqf
    Jun 19, 2021 at 16:08
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    This was my first thought, too: why on Earth would OP assume that the Peruvians living in big US cities exactly match the voting habits of everyone else where they live? It's quite possible that Peruvian ex-pats in the US are predominately the demographic which voted for Fujimori.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 20, 2021 at 6:09

Speaking impressionistically as an American who has lived in Peru and has many Peruvian friends, I'd add that Castillo's leftism is nothing like American leftism. He's socially conservative in a way that would get him cancelled in exactly half a second here in the US Democratic Party. All my Peruvian friends who are vicariously excited by AOC and Bernie, for example, hated Castillo. Their leftist candidate was Veronica Mendoza (who lost in the first round of elections).

  • "Castillo's leftism is ... socially conservative". That sounds like the Catholic Church.
    – RonJohn
    Jun 22, 2021 at 19:01

From the linked site:

  • Peruvians overseas split about 66:33 for Fujimori.
  • Peruvians in the US split about 80:20 for Fujimori.

So the numbers in these cities are broadly the same as they are for other Peruvians in the US. You can drill down further and see that eg in Oklahoma it was about 70:30, and in Salt Lake City it was 75:25. So we see the same pattern in areas which are generally seen as right-wing in the US as well. In effect, the expatriates vote in a similar way regardless of where they live.

(As an aside, I suspect these cities are something like "the location where votes were collated" - it names three California cities but also has a generic "Oklahoma" and "New Jersey". So some of them may draw from quite a wide area and it doesn't necessarily mean they live in that city per se.)


If you are Peruvian in Peru, you are exposed to more information about what is Fujimori. People out of the country know of dad Fujimori, then add communism mal-propaganda in USA allies countries and that can give a different mentality about “Democracy vs Communism” that they get exposed more from western foreign media.

That simple.

  • Communism mal-propaganda: USA allies media speak ill of communism
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    Please clarify what objects the terms "alia-countries", and "communism mal-propaganda" are intended to refer to.
    – agc
    Jun 20, 2021 at 4:18
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    So you are saying that Peruvians in the USA are misled about the nature of Fujimori by US anti-communist propaganda, not by Peruvian info, and don't know the real issues? Any actual sources about this? Jun 20, 2021 at 15:32
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    What year do you think it is, general anti communist attitudes haven't been a thing for decades. I guess if they exclusively watch Fox news, sure. But then they'd be voting wing regardless. The real answer is that Hispanics and Latinos are generally anti left wing because they came here to flee left wing governments, most notably Cuba.
    – eps
    Jun 20, 2021 at 15:39
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    In the case of Peru, a major immigration wave happened in the 70s when they fled Alvarado's dictatorship. So it makes sense these immigrants and their descendants tend to be very apprehensive of left wing populism.
    – eps
    Jun 20, 2021 at 15:50
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    @ItalianPhilosophers4Monica not just the USA, but any allied country. Peruvians outside of Peru are all over allied countries. I’m a source as a Peruvian speaking with other Peruvians in USA. They talk about Keiko without knowing much about her political trajectory and against Communism which it is not even what Castillo is proposing. Makes sense about ignorance of what Keiko really is as a lot of Peruvians left Peru around late 90s and early 2000s. 2nd and + generations in allied countries are even more ignorant of Fujimori though they don’t even really vote nor care about politics in Peru. Jun 21, 2021 at 2:38

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