The Journal of Politics


Elite Economic Forecasts, Economic News, Mass Economic Judgments, and Presidential Approval

Richard Nadeaua1, Richard G. Niemia2, David P. Fana3 and Timothy Amatoa4

a1 Université de Montréal

a2 University of Rochester

a3 University of Minnesota

a4 University of Iowa


MacKuen, Erikson, and Stimson (1996) argue for a “banker” model of the electorate in which the expectations of economic experts flow through the news media to the mass public, then influencing presidential approval. Using business elites’ expectations and retrospections, a content analysis of print media, and the electorate's presidential approval ratings, we evaluate the parts of this process. We find that news is not transmitted unchanged between elites and the public. Rather, there is partial news autonomy, by which the media assist in interpreting economic conditions. Also, political events and objective indicators of the economy have considerable impact on both news reports and mass expectations. Finally, it is elite retrospections that influence the electorate's economic expectations. While the mass public holds less sophisticated views than those of elites, we argue that this does not mean the electorate is naive or that its own prospective views of the economy are politically inconsequential.

(Accepted November 13 1997)

(Received May 28 1998)

Richard Nadeau is associate professor of political science, Université de Montréal, Montréal, Quebec, Canada H3C 3J7.

Richard G. Niemi is professor of political science, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627.

David P. Fan is professor of genetics and cell biology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN 55108.

Timothy Amato is assistant professor of political science, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242.