Evidence in support of highly myopic retrospective voting

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The Politicus
Dec 25, 2018 02:22 PM 0 Answers
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I am reading Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. In Chapter 6 and 7, evidence is shown that "voters' retrospective assessments of the economy are quite myopic." For example, Chapter 7 looks at the landslide victory of Roosevelt in 1936 as a sort of case study, and shows (p191, emphasis mine):

Even in the remarkable circumstances prevailing in 1936, voters were
focused on concrete economic conditions that they could see and feel
when they went to the polls. Specifically, they were focused on income
gains or losses over the course of the election year. Income growth
earlier in Roosevelt's term, which contributed as much or more to
their economic well-being, had no apparent electoral effect.
That was
water under the bridge. Roosevelt's reelection in 1936—and the New
Deal realignment—depended crucially on a positive balance of answers to the question, "What have you done for us lately?"

They present a statistical analysis in support of this view, but I do not fully understand the presented data (likely due to my lack of knowledge about statistics).

Table 7.1 (p187), or similar results which are presented in Table 1 of Achen & Bartels (2004), uses "ordinary least squares regression parameter estimates" to indicate that "[in] every case, whereas election-year [1936] income growth has a strong positive effect on Roosevelt’s vote, previous income growth [1933-1935] has little or no effect."

It is my understanding (possibly wrong and the root of my confusion), that for them to be able to perform these statistics they would need to poll for the popular vote in the intermediate years between elections. If this were true, and with the explanation of myopic voting in mind, would you then not expect the popular vote to be higher due to recent income growth (at the time of the poll), similar to as is shown for 1936? Or, does 'myopic voting' for some reason only apply to election years?


Achen, C. H., & Bartels, L. M. (2004). Musical Chairs: Pocketbook Voting and the Limits of Democratic Accountability. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association.

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  • December 25, 2018