The theoretical premise of this study is that individual retrospective evaluations of the national economy, which have a clear impact on voting behavior in national elections, are influenced not only by the national economy but also by the state and local economic context. This hypothesis is tested by analyzing the effect that the unemployment rate in the individual's state and community has on the individual's retrospective evaluation of the national unemployment situation in 1992, using data from the 1992 American National Election Study survey, supplemented with data on the unemployment rate during the third quarter of 1992 for the respondent's community and state. The findings show that the state unemployment rate has a clear effect on retrospective evaluations of national economic conditions. This effect occurs apart from any effect on fear of unemployment, which is unaffected by the state unemployment rate. The community unemployment rate has little or no effect on retrospective economic evaluations, except for a small impact on personal unemployment experience. The contextual effect that we observe therefore is primarily sociotropic, not personal pocketbook, in nature. We suggest that the contextual patterning of information, perhaps especially through media reporting of economic conditions, is responsible for producing this effect.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Oct 16, 2004
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