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Fiscal Policy Outcomes and Electoral Accountability in American States

  • Robert C. Lowry (a1), James E. Alt (a2) and Karen E. Ferree (a2)

Clear fiscal policy effects appear in American state gubernatorial and legislative elections between 1968 and 1992, independent of the effects of incumbency, coattails, term limits, and macroeconomic conditions. The results show that accountability is generally stronger following a period of unified party control than under divided government. Voter reactions to taxes and spending relative to the state economy are conditional on expectations, which differ for each party. Net of these expectations, Republican gubernatorial candidates lose votes if their party is responsible for unanticipated increases in the size of the state budget; Democrats do not and, indeed, may be rewarded for small increases. Independent of this, the incumbent governor's party is punished in legislative elections for failing to maintain fiscal balance. Taken together, these results show how electoral accountability for fiscal policy outcomes is strong but highly contingent on a complex configuration of party labels, partisan control, expectations, and institutions.

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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
  • EISSN: 1537-5943
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