Welcome to the new version of CaltechAUTHORS. Login is currently restricted to library staff. If you notice any issues, please email coda@library.caltech.edu
Published October 9, 2017 | Submitted
Report Open

The Effects of Personal Economic Problems upon Voting in American National Elections


Several previous studies have concluded that individuals' personal economic conditions exert only weak, intermittent effects upon their voting decisions. These studies, however, have all used the same measure to test the same basic hypothesis—that economic adversity of any kind leads to voting against the incumbent President and candidates of his party. This study uses answers to a battery of open-ended questions included in the 1972-1976 CPS National Election Studies to develop new and more detailed indicators of personally experienced economic problems. These data are then used to test an alternative, policy-oriented hypothesis that personal difficulties resulting from inflation lead voters to give greater support to the Republicans, while voters personally injured by unemployment give greater support to the Democrats. In analyzing these new measures this study repeatedly found important differences between inflation and unemployment. First, unemployment inflicts substantial objective economic costs while the major costs of inflation, at least in the short run, are the more intangible psychological costs of coping with more uncertainty. Secondly, the costs of unemployment are heavily concentrated among certain sectors of the labor force, while the costs of inflation are borne roughly equally by all major groups in society. Thirdly, inflation and unemployment differ markedly in their political ramifications. Only a small percentage of individuals cited unemployment, but they tended to perceive the Democrats to be better at dealing with unemployment, and gave relatively greater support to Democratic candidates. In contrast, during the period studied a large percentage of the citizenry cited inflation as their most serious economic problem. But these voters did not give a significant edge to either party as better able to handle inflation, nor did their concern over inflation systematically affect their choices in presidential and congressional elections.

Additional Information

An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Conference Group on the Political Economy of Advanced Industrial Societies, August 28-30, 1980, Washington, D.C.

Attached Files

Submitted - sswp348.pdf


Files (555.6 kB)
Name Size Download all
555.6 kB Preview Download

Additional details

August 19, 2023
January 14, 2024