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Polarization and the Decline of Economic Voting in American National Elections

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journal contribution
submitted on 2023-03-15, 08:05 and posted on 2023-03-15, 09:02 authored by Christopher R. Ellis, Joseph Daniel Ura

Objective

There is substantial evidence that American voters blame or credit the president for the state of the economy when making electoral decisions. However, a variety of findings on economic voting, cognitive biases in information processing, and party polarization indicate that both objective and subjective economic information should become less important to voters as partisan polarization increases. We evaluate whether partisan polarization attenuates the link between economic performance and citizens’ votes.

Methods

We estimate statistical models of the incumbent party vote shares in U.S. presidential elections from 1952 to 2016 including as predictive terms national partisan polarization (DW-NOMINATE) and the interaction between polarization and economic growth (annualized second quarter GDP change in election years).

Results

We find support for our expectation that greater partisan polarization mitigates the association between economic performance and American election returns.

Conclusion

Economic performance exerts less influence on vote choices when parties are highly polarized than when they are not. Also, currently high levels of partisan polarization in the United States indicate elections will remain competitive, even if economic conditions otherwise favor or undermine an incumbent candidate's chances of winning.

Other Information

Published in: Social Science Quarterly
License: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
See article on publisher's website: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ssqu.12881

History

Language

  • English

Publisher

Wiley

Publication Year

  • 2020

Institution affiliated with

  • Texas A&M University at Qatar

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