Retrospective voting is often considered representative democracy’s saving grace. But just how long is the retrospective voter’s time horizon? Do voters make decisions by taking into account evidence accruing over the policy maker’s full term in office? Or do they rely on information from the recent past alone? We address these questions through a unique survey design which leverages real-world heterogeneity in economic outcomes prior to the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Contrary to conventional wisdom, our findings do not support claims that voters are myopic. Although they are able to distinguish between short- and long-term benchmarks, voters are no more accurate in assessing the former than they are the latter. The choice of time horizon also has no consistent effect on the decision to hold the incumbent to account. Our results question assumptions of voter myopia, revealing voters to be more misinformed than short-sighted.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Dec 13, 2014
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