Local Unemployment and Voting for President: Uncovering Causal Mechanisms

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Authors Taeyong Park, Andrew Reeves
Journal/Conference Name POLITICAL BEHAVIOR
Paper Category
Paper Abstract How does local unemployment influence presidential elections? Some argue that, for voters, the state of the local economy is an afterthought to that of the national economy. On the other hand, those who argue that local unemployment matters fall into two camps. Recent research finds that local unemployment is a reputation issue that benefits Democratic candidates because voters believe they are the party best equipped to deal with the issue. Alternatively, others have posited that the local economy provides voters with information for evaluating the governing party’s job performance. This view holds that the incumbent party, Democrat or Republican, will be punished when local unemployment is high. In this article, we investigate these distinct mechanisms jointly. In an individual-level mediation analysis of the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential elections, we present evidence that both mechanisms are at work. Rising local unemployment bolsters support for Democratic presidential candidates, but, through its influence on views of the national economy, drives down support for the incumbent, Democrat or Republican.
Date of publication 2018
Code Programming Language R
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