An economic interpretation of elections

Donald Luskin on one of my favorite subjects, using economic models to predict who will be elected president. Luskin tells us that the best model out there, operated by Yale professor Ray Fair, has President Bush winning handily, assuming a simple extrapolation of today’s key economic numbers. There are at least two potential problems with using Fair’s model to predict this election, and Luskin addresses both. First, there’s a dicey occupation going on. True, as Luskin notes, there is always something important going on besides the economy, and Fair’s model consistently holds up. But when Americans are dying in combat, all bets may be off. Second, the good economc news that gets fed into Fair’s model isn’t fully being communicated to the American people. Ominously, the only year for which Fair’s model doesn’t pick the winner is 1992, when perceptions about the economy arguably were distorted due to biased reporting. However, people generally know how the economy is doing. The problem in 1992 was that the recovery began too late. This one has been going on for six months, and the word is out.
I wonder, however, whether today economic considerations are as determinative of voting as was the case during the elections on which the model is built. First, the culture war was less pronounced at the time of most of those elections. More importantly, the old elections were dominated by voters who remembered the depression. The generation of today, I assume, is equally ready to turn out an incumbent president who is perceived as not delivering the economic goods. But, because it tends to take prosperity for granted, I doubt that it is as inclined to re-elect a president merely because times are good.


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