Voters’ four primary evaluations of the economy—retrospective national, retrospective pocketbook, prospective national, and prospective pocketbook—vary in the cognitive steps necessary to link economic outcomes to candidates in elections. We hypothesize that the effects of the different economic evaluations on vote choice vary with a voter’s ability to acquire information and anticipate the election outcome. Using data from the 1980 through 2004 US presidential elections, we estimate a model of vote choice that includes all four economic evaluations as well as information and uncertainty moderators. The effects of retrospective evaluations on vote choice do not vary by voter information. Prospective economic evaluations weigh in the decisions of the most informed voters, who rely on prospective national evaluations when they believe the incumbent party will win and on prospective pocketbook evaluations when they are uncertain about the election outcome or believe that the challenger will win. Voters who have accurate expectations about who will win the election show the strongest relationship between their vote choice and sociotropic evaluations of the economy, both retrospective and prospective. Voters whose economic evaluations are most likely to be endogenous to vote choice show a weaker relationship between economic evaluations and their votes than the voters who appear to be more objective in their assessments of the election. Economic voting is broader and more prospective than previously accepted, and concerns about endogeneity in economic evaluations are overstated.
Political Behavior – Springer Journals
Published: Aug 9, 2016
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