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The Compleat Economic Voter: New Theory and British Evidence

  • Michael S. Lewis-Beck, Richard Nadeau and Martial Foucault
Abstract

Almost all the prolific work done on economic voting has been based on the classic reward–punishment model, which treats the economy as a valence issue. The economy is a valence issue, but it is much more than that. This article explores two other dimensions of economic voting – position and patrimony. Investigating a 2010 British survey containing relevant measures on these three dimensions, the authors estimate their impact on vote intention, using a carefully specified system of equations. According to the evidence reported, each dimension of economic voting has its own independent effect. Moreover, together, they reveal a ‘compleat’ economic voter, who wields considerable power over electoral choice in Britain. This new result confirms and extends recent work on American and French elections.

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Lewis-Beck – Department of Political Science, University of Iowa (email: michael-lewis-beck@uiowa.edu; Nadeau and Foucault – Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal. This article was first presented at the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association, Seattle, 2011. An appendix can be found on the Journal's website at http://www.journals.cambridge.org/jps.

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2 Anderson, Christopher, ‘The End of Economic Voting? Contingency Dilemmas and the Limits of Democratic Accountability’, Annual Review of Political Scienc, 10 (2007), 271–96

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3 Kiewiet, D. Roderick, Macroeconomics and Micropolitics: The Electoral Effects of Economic Issues (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983)

Lewis-Beck, Michael S. and Nadeau, Richard, ‘Obama and the Economy in 2008’, Political Science & Politics, 42 (2009), 479–83

4 Nadeau, RichardFoucault, Martial and Lewis-Beck, Michael S., ‘Patrimonial Economic Voting: Legislative Elections in France’, West European Politics, 33 (2010), 1261–77

5 Lewis-Beck, Michael S. and Nadeau, Richard, ‘Economic Voting Theory: Neglected Dimensions’, Electoral Studies, 30 (2011), 288–94

6 Lewis-Beck and Nadeau, ‘Obama and the Economy in 2008’; and Lewis-Beck and Nadeau, ‘Economic Voting Theory’, on the 2008 US presidential election; Richard Nadeau, Martial Foucault and Michael S. Lewis-Beck, ‘Assets and Risk: A Neglected Dimension of Economic Voting’, French Politics, 9 (2011), 97–119

Foucault, MartialNadeau, Richard and Lewis-Beck, Michael S., ‘La persistance de l'effet patrimoine lors des élections présidentielles françaises’, Revue française de science politique, 61 (2011), 659–80

7 Lewis-Beck, Michael S. and Paldam, Martin, ‘Economic Voting: An Introduction’, Electoral Studies, 19 (2000), 113–21

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19 Butler and Stokes, Political Change in Britain, pp. 188–9.

20 Butler and Stokes, Political Change in Britain, p. 177.

21 Downs, Economic Theory of Democracy.

22 Kiewiet, D. Roderick, Macroeconomics and Micropolitics: The Electoral Effects of Economic Issues (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1983)

23 Abramson, Paul A.Aldrich, John H. and Rohde, David W., Change and Continuity in the 2000 Elections (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Press, 2003)

William H. Flanagan and Nancy Zingale, Political Behavior of the American Electorate, 11th edn (Washington, D.C.: Congressional Press Quarterly, 2006), pp. 115–18

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27 Lewis-Beck, Jacoby, Norpoth and Weisberg, The American Voter Revisited.

28 Lewis-Beck and Nadeau, ‘Obama and the Economy in 2008’, pp. 479–83.

29 Jed Donoghue, Bruce Tranter and Robert White, ‘Homeownership, Shareownership and Coalition Policy’, Journal of Australian Political Economy, 52 (2003), 58–82, p. 71.

30 Troy, Patrick, ‘Suburbs of Acquiescence, Suburbs of Protest’, Housing Studies, 15 (2000), 717–38

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31 Dunleavy, Patrick, ‘The Urban Basis of Political Alignment: Social Class, Domestic Property Ownership, and State Intervention in Consumption Processes’, British Journal of Political Science, 9 (1979), 409–43

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32 Donoghue, JedTranter, Bruce and White, Robert, ‘Homeownership, Shareownership and Coalition Policy’, Journal of Australian Political Economy, 52 (2003), 58–82

33 Saunders, Peter R., ‘Citizenship in a Liberal Society’, in B. Turner, ed., Citizenship and Social Theory (London: Sage, 1993)

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37 Lewis-Beck and Nadeau, ‘Obama and the Economy in 2008’, pp. 479–83

38 Interestingly, they differ greatly from US preferences, where the majority of that electorate does not favour a progressive tax structure, in contrast to British electorate here; Lewis-Beck and Nadeau, ‘Obama and the Economy in 2008’.

39 Atkinson, Anthony B. and Saez, Emmanuel, ‘Top Incomes in the Long Run of History’, in Anthony B. Atkinson and Thomas Piketty, eds, Top Incomes: A Global Perspective (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

40 Atkinson, Anthony B., ‘Top Incomes in the UK over the Twentieth Century’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 168 (2005), 325–43

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41 Jones, FrancisAnnan, Daniel and Shah, Saef, ‘The Distribution of Household Income, 1977 to 2006/07’, Economic and Labour Market Review, 2:12 (2008), 18–31

42 Banks, JamesBlundell, Richard and Smith, James P., ‘Wealth Portfolios in the UK and the US’, NBER Working Paper 9128 (2002)

43 Data from the French Election Studies and the CCAP project for the 2008 US presidential election confirm that the proportion of stock owners is quite similar in France and Britain and clearly higher in the United States; this reassuring finding suggests that the survey items used in the study at hand aptly capture the structure of wealth ownership in different countries; for the French case, see Nadeau, Foucault and Lewis-Beck, ‘Assets and Risk’; Nadeau, Foucault and Lewis-Beck, ‘Patrimonial Economic Voting’; and Foucault, Nadeau and Lewis-Beck, ‘La persistance de l'effet patrimoine lors des élections présidentielles françaises’; for the US case, see Lewis-Beck and Nadeau ‘Economic Voting Theory’.

44 Dunleavy, Patrick, The Politics of Mass Housing in Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981)

45 Saunders, A Nation of Home Owners.

46 Berman, Margo, ‘Examining Risk Attitudes’, Complexity, 9:5 (2004), 25–30

47 A good portion of these properties are mortgaged. However, as shall be see below in fn. 59, there are no significant differences in the vote choices of these respondents, compared to those who own their homes outright.

48 Benartzi, Shlomo and Thaler, Richard H., ‘Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzle’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 110 (1995), 73–92

Dahlback, Olof, ‘Saving and Risk Taking’, Journal of Economic Psychology, 12 (1991), 479–500

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49 These variables were rescaled between 0 and 1. See the appendix available online.

50 Knight, Frank, Risk, Uncertainty, and Profit (Boston, Mass.: Hart, Schaffner and Marx, 1921)

51 Bergman, Margo, ‘Examining Risk Attitudes’, Complexity, 9:5 (2004), 25–30

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52 Arrondel, Luc, ‘Risk Management and Wealth Accumulation Behavior in France’, Economics Letters, 74 (2002), 187–94

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53 Benartzi and Thaler, ‘Myopic Loss Aversion and the Equity Premium Puzzl’; Dahlback, ‘Saving and Risk Taking’; Huang and Litzenberger, Foundations for Financial Economics.

54 Alberto Alesina and Howard Rosenthal, Partisan Politics, Divided Government, and the Economy, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995)

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55 McClosky, Herbert and Zaller, John, The American Ethos: Public Attitudes towards Capitalism and Democracy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984)

56 As discussed, earlier work has shown that home ownership was linked to Conservative support (this finding does not extend to the democracies of the United States, Australia and France, see fnn. 30–33). This may have changed as the memories of the 1980s sale of social housing by the Thatcher Government faded. Furthermore, besides being a low-risk investment, home ownership is also increasingly perceived as a social right associated with modern citizenship. See Saunders, A Nation of Home Owners; Saunders, ‘Citizenship in a Liberal Society’. Overall, the motivations and dispositions associated with home ownership suggest that its impact on vote choice will be less pronounced than that for high-risk assets.

57 Campbell, Angus, Converse, Philp E.Miller, Warren E. and Stokes, Donald E., The American Voter (New York: Wiley and Sons, 1960)

58 On the funnel of causality, see Campbell, Converse, Miller and Stokes, The American Voter, chap. 2; for a graphical update of the funnel, see Lewis-Beck, Jacoby, Norpoth and Weisberg, The American Voter Revisited, chap. 2.

59 Furthermore, it makes no difference whether the homes are mortgaged or not. First, bivariate analyses show virtually no differences between respondents owning their home outright and those owning it with a mortgage: support for the Conservative parties in both groups is the same at 45 per cent (the comparable figures for Labour are 19 and 17 per cent respectively). Secondly, this variable (mortgage = 1, 0 otherwise) is never significant when included in our models.

60 On this point, see Lewis-Beck, Jacoby, Norpoth and Weisberg, The American Voter Revisited, pp. 223–9.

61 Clarke, Sanders, Stewart and Whiteley, Political Choice in Britain, chap. 4.

62 Since the two variables are scaled to the same, 0–1 metric, the magnitude of their coefficients can be compared: 1.30/ 0.90 = 1.44.

63 Kaplan, David, Structural Equation Modeling: Foundations and Extensions (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2000)

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64 Lewis-Beck and Nadeau, ‘Obama and the Economy in 2008’.

65 Michael Lewis-Beck, Richard Nadeau and Éric Bélanger. French Presidential Elections (Basingtoke, Hants.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011, forthcoming)

66 Donoghue, Tranter and White, ‘Homeownership, Shareownership and Coalition Policy’; Troy, ‘Suburbs of Acquiescence, Suburbs of Protest’.

67 Menard, Scott, Applied Logistic Regression Analysis, Second Edition, No.106 (Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage, 2002)

68 Clarke, Sanders, Stewart and Whiteley, ‘Valence Politics and Electoral Choice in Britain’, Table 2.

69 Moreover, it does it parsimoniously, with only 12 independent variables, instead of 38 independent variables as required in the model by Clarke, Sanders, Stewart and Whiteley, ‘Valence Politics and Electoral Choice in Britain’, Table 2.

70 Kiewiet, Macroeconomics and Micropolitics.

71 Kiewiet, Macroeconomics and Micropolitics.

72 Using the equations of Table 4, column 1 and the Table 6, columns 1 and 2, compare the HRA coefficient without and with the egocentric variables included , respectively: Tory vote = 1.00; Labour vote = −1.60; Libdem vote = −1.02 (all significant); Tory vote = 1.00; Labour vote = −1.70; Libdem Vote = −1.06 (all significant).

73 Other possible priorities to select were inflation, trade or growth; a reverse coding is used to get a positive sign for the Tory model.

74 Lewis-Beck and Nadeau. ‘Obama and the Economy in 2008’.

* Lewis-Beck – Department of Political Science, University of Iowa (email: ; Nadeau and Foucault – Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal. This article was first presented at the Annual Conference of the American Political Science Association, Seattle, 2011. An appendix can be found on the Journal's website at http://www.journals.cambridge.org/jps.

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