American Political Science Review

The Effect of Aggregate Economic Variables on Congressional Elections  *

Francisco Arcelusa1 and Allan H. Meltzera2

a1 Simon Fraser University

a2 Carnegie-Mellon University


This paper uses rational voting behavior as an organizing device to develop a framework within which to consider the effect of economic aggregates on voters. Unlike most previous studies, ours permits the voter to vote for candidates of either party or to abstain. A principal finding is that the effect of the main economic aggregates on the participation rate is much clearer than the effects on either party. Our results deny that an incumbent administration can affect the control of Congress by stimulating the economy. Voters appear to make judgments about inflation, unemployment and economic growth. We investigated on the basis of long-term, not short-term performance.

Francisco Arcelus, Assistant Professor of Economics and Commerce, Simon Fraser University.

Allan H. Meltzer, Maurice Falk Professor of Economics and Social Science, Carnegie-Mellon University.


*  We are indebted to Jay Kadane and Timothy McGuire for helpful comments, to Gerald Kramer for finding errors in our data, and to the National Science Foundation for financial support. An earlier version was presented at the 1973 meeting of the American Political Science Association.