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Article

Matthew M. Singer and Gabriela Ramalho Tafoya

Voter choices in Latin America have structural roots that are similar to what is observed in other regions, but these structures are weaker and more fluid than in more established democracies. In particular, while cleavages emerge in the average Latin American country and voters’ choices vary across demographic traits, issues, ideologies, and partisanship, these cleavages are weaker than in Western Europe and the United States. These cleavages are particularly weak in countries where parties do not take ideologically distinct positions from each other and instead emphasize clientelism, which suggests that the overall weakness of these cleavages in the hemisphere reflects the weak commitment of political parties to programmatic competition. Elections in Latin America are strongly shaped by government performance, especially economic trends, but these forms of accountability are weakened in countries where the party system makes it hard to identify the degree to which any specific party is able to dominate the policy process or where identifying a credible alternative to the incumbent is difficult. Thus, while voters are trying to use elections to hold politicians accountable and to ensure that their policy preferences are represented, the weaknesses of Latin America’s party systems often make this difficult.

Article

Mary Stegmaier, Michael S. Lewis-Beck, and Lincoln Brown

In democracies, we elect our political leaders by choosing among a rival set of candidates or parties. What makes us pick one over all the others? Do we carefully weigh the platforms of all the candidates and then select the one closest to our personal desires? Or, do we select the candidate our friends and neighbors recommend? Perhaps, even, to save time, do we just vote for the same party we did last time? All of these are choice strategies, and there are many more. Here we focus on a well-known explanation of how voters decide, commonly called the Michigan Model, so named for the university where it was developed, in a path-breaking scholarly volume—The American Voter. The authors systematically gathered data, via scientific survey research, on individual voters in American presidential elections, measuring different traits, perceptions, and attitudes that they hypothesized might influence vote choice. They arranged these different factors, or variables, into long-term forces and short-term forces that acted on the voter, and could be arrayed as if they were spread along a funnel of causality: from more remote, fixed variables, such as social class or party identification, to more proximate, fluid variables, such as issue preferences and candidate attributes. All these variables generally mattered, but those that concern us here deal with issues, in particular economic issues. How do voter evaluations of the economy help the voter decide what party to favor? Is it the national economy or the pocketbook that counts? How important are economic issues compared to other issues? What conditions make economic considerations more (or less) impactful? Does economic voting operate differently in different countries? These and other questions are addressed herein, with special attention to three leading democracies where economic voting has been heavily studied—the United States, Britain, and Germany. As demonstrated, economic considerations are pervasive and powerful elements in the democratic voter’s calculus.

Article

Timothy Hellwig and Dani M. Marinova

Connections between the economy and vote are commonly invoked to evaluate political accountability in representative democracies. A principal motivation for studying economic voting lies in its value as a gauge of whether democracy works or not. In recent years, however, researchers have cast doubt on the assertion that economic conditions influence voters’ evaluations of political incumbents. Criticisms hail from several directions. Some, adopting a cross-national perspective, cite the instability problem as evidence against economic voting’s existence. That is, variance in the economy-vote relationship across different national contexts is sufficiently large so as to undermine claims that the economy registers a systematic effect. Other critics charge that the electorate lacks sufficient knowledge to incorporate economic conditions in their decisions at the polls. Still others remind us not to mistake correlation for causation. They charge that the voters’ perceptions of how well the economy is performing are viewed through a pre-existing partisan lens. All told, these and other reservations cast doubt on the use of economic voting as a means to evaluate accountability and, in turn, democratic performance. These charges against the fidelity of economic voting require further examination. Rather than join a growing chorus of observers concluding that the economic vote is a chimera, this piece posits that recent critiques should push us to reconceive rather than discredit economic voting. Recent work in psychology and behavioral economics provides a basis for constructive and meaningful reinterpretations of the economy’s influence on voter decisions. These new directions include an emphasis on framing effects—be it on the part of strategic elites or from the media, an emphasis on what voters know about the economy, and a wider consideration of just which “economy” matters to which set of voters. While many in number, each of these new directions advance understanding by embodying deeper conceptions of voters and elected officials.

Article

The implications of economic globalization for economic policy, social policy, and party government have been well researched. But until recently one important topic has been relatively neglected: the effects of the process on mass political behavior, political parties, and electoral competition. As in the broader literature, two opposed theoretical approaches stand out: one inferring that globalization imposes “constraint” on actors, and the other that it generates incentives for efforts to “compensate” those disadvantaged by the process. Work on economic voting has established that economic globalization reduces the apparent effect of economic performance on vote for or against incumbents, although the explanations and implications remain a matter of debate. Testing expectations that economic globalization produces neoliberal party policy convergence within countries produces mixed results, some confirming and others refuting the claims of constraint theory. While there is an association between high levels of economic globalization and lower electoral turnout, an expected microlevel linkage by way of external efficacy has not been established. While economic globalization produces winners and losers, its effects on social and political cleavages vary between countries, although there is some evidence that economic globalization helps to promote the salience of a universalist/particularist or open/closed cultural cleavage. The ability to generalize from the research so far is somewhat limited by much of the literature’s European focus. Theoretically, there is a need to move beyond the constraint/compensation debate, particularly in the wake of the global financial crisis (GFC), as a result of which globalization stalled and in some respects, began to retreat. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown even more doubt on the future: the ‘high years’ of globalization may now be behind us, but the research questions thrown up by the process should remain alive and well.

Article

Zoe Ang, Benjamin S. Noble, and Andrew Reeves

In times of crisis, citizens look to their leaders for aid and assistance. In the democratic context, the focal figure is likely the chief executive accountable to the whole of the nation. With a specific focus on the American president and the incidences of natural hazards, public opinion and governmental response to these crises are analyzed. While one may expect such a universal actor to aid each according to their need, new scholarship finds that voter behavior and electoral institutions incentivize the president to support only a small slice of the electorate. Empowered by federal disaster relief legislation in the 1950s, the president targets electorally valuable voters when disbursing aid or allocating resources in response to disaster damage. Voters in those areas respond myopically and tend to vote for the incumbent for reasons ranging from economic to emotional. Thus, elites anticipate voter reactions and strategically respond to disasters to mitigate blame or punishment for the event and capitalize on an opportunity for electoral gains.

Article

Finn Laursen and Sophie Vanhoonacker

The Maastricht Treaty, which created the European Union (EU), was signed in Maastricht on February 7, 1992, and it entered into force on November 1, 1993, after being ratified by the then 12 member states of the European Communities. The Intergovernmental Conferences (IGCs) on Political Union (PU) and Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) where the member states negotiated the amendments to the founding treaties took place against the turbulent geopolitical background of the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989), German unification, and the end of the Cold War. The new treaty amended the Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) and established the European Community (EC) as the first pillar of the Union. It also amended the Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) and the Treaty Establishing the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC). It further added two pillars of intergovernmental cooperation, namely Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) in a second pillar and Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) cooperation in a third pillar. Overall, the Maastricht Treaty constituted one of the most important treaty changes in the history of European integration. It included provisions on the creation of an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), including a single European currency. It tried to increase the democratic legitimacy and efficiency of the decision-making process through empowerment of the European Parliament (EP) and the extension of Qualified Majority Voting (QMV). Next to introducing the principle of subsidiarity and the concept of European citizenship, it further developed existing policies such as social policy and added new ones including education, culture, public health, consumer protection, trans-European networks, industrial policy, and development cooperation.