PS: Political Science & Politics

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A Presidential Economic Scorecard: Performance and Perception

Chris J. Dolana1, John Frendreisa2 and Raymond Tatalovicha2

a1 Lebanon Valley College

a2 Loyola University Chicago

Abstract

It is assumed that voters blame incumbents for poor economic performance but give credit when the economy is strong. A huge literature shows the impact of economic indicators and economic perceptions on vote choice and presidential popularity, but there is precious little research on whether public perceptions match economic reality. We propose a novel comparison of perceptions with performance by utilizing the Gallup Poll “most important” problem question. The average percentage that mentions unemployment, inflation, and the general economy over each presidential term from 1949 to 2008 is compared against the Presidential Economic Scorecard. The public correctly perceived unemployment and the general economy as salient national problems, but not inflation, and we speculate on why public perceptions do not correspond to actual inflation rates.

Chris Dolan is assistant professor of political science at Lebanon Valley College. He is the co-author of The Presidency and Economic Policy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008). Dolan can be reached at dolan@lvc.edu.

John Frendreis is professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. He is the co-author of The Presidency and Economic Policy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008). Frendreis can be reached at jfrendr@luc.edu.

Raymond Tatalovich is professor of political science at Loyola University Chicago. He is the co-author of The Presidency and Economic Policy (Rowman and Littlefield, 2008). Tatalovich can be reached at rtatalo@luc.edu.

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