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Published August 14, 2017 | Published
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Economics, Entitlements and Social Issues: Voter Choice in the 1996 Presidential Election


Theory: Contemporary theories of presidential election outcomes, especially the economic voting and spatial issue voting models, are used to examine voter choice in the 1996 presidential election. Hypotheses: First, we look at the effects of voter perceptions of the national economy on voter support for Clinton. Second we look at the effects of candidate and voter positions on ideology and on a number of issues. Last, we examine whether respondents' views on other issues—social issues such as abortion as well as issues revolving around entitlements and taxation that were emphasized by the campaigns—played significant roles in this election. Methods: Multinomial probit analysis of the 1996 National Election Studies data; simulations based on counterfactual scenarios based on different macroeconomic conditions and different issue platforms of candidates. Results: The effects of economic perceptions are much greater than the effects of voter issue positions on the election outcome. Some social issues, namely abortion, did play a role in determining the election outcome. The presence of a third centrist candidate limited the ability of other candidates to improve their vote shares by moving in the issue space.

Additional Information

This is one of many joint papers by the authors on multiparty elections, the ordering of their names reflects alphabetic convention. We thank Alan Abramowitz, Tara Butterfield, and Garrett Glasgow for their comments. A previous version of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Washington, DC, August, 1997. This work was supported by National Science Foundation grants SBR-9709327 to Alvarez, and SBR-9413939 and SBR-9709214 to Nagler. Published as Alvarez, R.M., & Nagler, J. (1998). Economics, entitlements, and social issues: Voter choice in the 1996 presidential election. American Journal of Political Science, 1349-1363.

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