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Pedro Magalhães

Public opinion, politics and the economy

January 29th, 30th, and 31st, 2013; Room 217

10h-12.30h / 14h-16.30h

Instructor: Pedro Magalhães

This module will focus on the relationship between the economy and the political attitudes and behaviors of mass publics. The module should be seen as an itinerary through some of the political science literature on this topic, which understandably is less likely to be familiar to economics students like yourelves (although we’ll make a few forays into other fields too). We’ll be more concerned with range than with depth. In other words, although the themes addressed in each day of sessions could easily justify a full semester, we’ll be covering a lot of ground and many themes, hopefully creating an appetite for deeper inquiry for each one of them.

Each theme will be presented initially by the instructor, and then developed through in-depth discussion of a particularly influential work on the issue. By “influential” I mean one of two things: either a seminal contribution that inaugurated the modern discussion on the issue, or a recent work that expresses the “state of the art” on that discussion.

In day 1, we’ll start with the most basic statement in the literature: good economic performance increases incumbent support, bad decreases it. We’ll look into basic V-P functions (V, vote; P, popularity) that show just that, both in the US and in international comparisons. Then, we will introduce for some complications. Do the same type of economic situations and trends affect all types of incumbents similarly? What aspect of the “economy” matters: the “personal” or the “national” economy? What is consequential: the recent past, or expectations about the future?

In day 2, we will discuss how the impact of the economy on approval and the vote depends on the assignment of responsibility for the economy to governments, and how that assignment varies depending on different circumstances and contexts. We will also address some of the problems involved in using survey data and voters’ perceptions of the economy as explanatory variables, and how those problems has been assessed and addressed.

Day 3 changes gears to more general topics, moving away from the narrower focus on elections and incumbent approval. How do voters’ preferences react to policies, and what dynamic does that reaction engender? And how does the economy affect presumably deeper attitudes and values that can be captured with surveys?

Below, a scheme of the sessions, and a list of the “influential” works I will be assuming all participants will read in preparation for each session:

January 29th : Political support and the economy I

  1. The economy and incumbent support.
    Mueller, J. E. 1970. “Presidential popularity from Truman to Johnson.” The American Political Science Review 64 (1): 18-34.
  2. Partisan theories.
    Wright, John R. 2012. “Unemployment and the Democratic Electoral Advantage.” American Political Science Review 106 (04): 685-702.
  3. Retrospective vs. prospective voters; pocketbook vs. sociotropic voting.
    MacKuen, Michael B., Robert S. Erikson, and James A. Stimson. 1992. “Peasants or Bankers? The American Electorate and the U.S.Economy.” The American Political Science Review 86 (3): 597-611.

January 30th: Political support and the economy II

  1. Clarity of responsibility: institutions.
    Whitten, G. D., and H. D. Palmer. 1999. “Cross-national analyses of economic voting.” Electoral Studies 18 (1): 49-67.
  2. Clarity of responsibility: economic interdependence.
    Hellwig, Timothy T. 2001. “Interdependence, Government Constraints, and Economic Voting.” The Journal of Politics 63 (04): 1141-1162.
  3. The problems with perceptions.
    Evans, G., and M. Pickup. 2010. “Reversing the Causal Arrow: The Political Conditioning of Economic Perceptions in the 2000-2004 US Presidential Election Cycle.” The Journal of Politics 72 (4): 1236-1251.

January 31st : Beyond incumbent approval and voting: preferences and values

  1. Policies and preferences.
    Soroka, Stuart N., and Christopher Wlezien. 2005. “Opinion–Policy Dynamics: Public Preferences and Public Expenditure in the United Kingdom.” British Journal of Political Science 35 (04): 665-689.
  2. Development and democratic values.
    Welzel, Christian, Ronald Inglehart, and Hans-Dieter Kligemann. 2003. “The theory of human development: A cross-cultural analysis.” European Journal of Political Research 42 (3): 341-379.
  3. The consequences of inequality.
    Solt, Frederick. 2012. “The Social Origins of Authoritarianism.” Political Research Quarterly 65 (4): 703-713.

Grading is on a simple pass/fail scale and will be determined on the basis of class participation.

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