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Economic Perceptions and Electoral Choices: A Design-Based Approach*

  • Giancarlo Visconti

Do economic perceptions affect voters’ electoral choices? There is ample evidence showing a correlation between how people perceive the current state of the economy and electoral decisions. However, there are reasons to believe that political preferences can also determine how voters evaluate economic conditions, which will reverse the causality arrow. The strategies previously implemented to address this problem have been based on the use of structural equations and instrumental variables, but they require very strong parametric or identification assumptions. In this paper, I follow a design-based approach by emphasizing the study design rather than statistical modeling. In contrast to previous studies that used the same panel data in Brazil, I find evidence that supports egotropic, rather than sociotropic, voting. This finding shows that traditional research designs may be overstating the magnitude of sociotropic economic voting.

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Giancarlo Visconti is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Political Science, Columbia University, 420 West 118th Street, International Affairs Building, 7th Floor, New York, NY 10027 ( The author thanks José Miguel Cabezas, Sarah Goldberg, Timothy Hellwig, Shigeo Hirano, Martha Kropf, M. Victoria Murillo, Mark Pickup, José Zubizarreta, and participants at the Southern Political Science Association conference for their valuable comments and suggestions. The author is grateful to the authors of the Two Cities Panel Study, Mexico Panel Study, and Brazilian Electoral Panel Study for making their data available. All errors are the author’s own. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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Political Science Research and Methods
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