Too Close to Call: Growth and the Cost of Ruling in US Presidential Elections, with an Application to the 2012 Election
10 Pages Posted: 6 Nov 2012 Last revised: 4 Jan 2013
Date Written: November 1, 2012
The note briefly outlines a new model for the explanation of US presidential elections, founded on (a) recent economic growth and (b) a measure of what may be called “’the cost of ruling.” The former is based in changes in real disposable income for the period following a mid-term election, while the latter combines factors of incumbency and terms-in-office. The model is applied to data from the US presidential elections 1932-2008 and has considerable explanatory power for the variation in the incumbent party’s candidate’s share of the two-party vote (R2=0.74). The model is controlled against a number of other frequent explanations and is found to be quite robust. When augmented with approval ratings for incumbent presidents, the explanatory power increases to 83 pct. and only incorrectly calls one of the last 15 US presidential elections. Applied to the 2012 election as a forecasting model the prediction is that President Obama will win 49,6 pct. of the two-party vote.
Keywords: Economic voting, US presidential elections
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation