The Journal of Politics


Are Governors Responsible for the State Economy? Partisanship, Blame, and Divided Federalism

Adam R. Browna1

a1 Brigham Young University


In the United States, voters directly elect dozens of politicians: presidents, governors, legislators, mayors, and so on. How do voters decide which politician to blame for which policy outcomes? Previous research on gubernatorial approval has suggested that voters divide policy blame between governors and the president based on each office’s “functional responsibilities”—requiring that responsibilities are clear cut, which is seldom true. Using data from four surveys, I show that voters actually divide responsibility for economic conditions in a partisan manner, preferring to blame officials from the opposing party when problems arise.

(Received January 02 2009)

(Accepted November 11 2009)


Adam R. Brown is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 84602-5545.