PS: Political Science & Politics

Symposium: Forecasting the 2012 American National Elections

The Objective and Subjective Economy and the Presidential Vote

Robert S. Eriksona1 and Christopher Wleziena2

a1 Columbia University

a2 Temple University

The importance of the economy in US presidential elections is well established. Voters reward or punish incumbent party candidates based on the state of the economy. The electorate focuses particularly on economic change, not the level of the economy per se, and pays more attention to late-arriving change than earlier change. On these points there is a good amount of scholarly agreement (see e.g., Erikson and Wlezien 1996; Hibbs 1987). There is less agreement, however, on what specific indicators matter to voters. Some scholars rely on income growth, others on GDP growth, and yet others on subjective perceptions (see Abramowitz 2008; Campbell 2008; Holbrook 1996b; also see Campbell and Garand 2000). In our work, we have used the index of leading economic indicators, a composite of ten variables, including the University of Michigan's index of consumer expectations, stock prices, and eight other objective indicators.