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Thermostatic Voting: Presidential Elections in Light of New Policy Data

  • Jørgen Bølstad (a1)

Existing studies imply a model of “thermostatic voting”—a phenomenon characterized by negative feedback from government policy to election outcomes, suggesting that a party's success in setting policy diminishes its electoral prospects. This phenomenon could give politicians an incentive to constrain the fulfillment of public demands, which would conflict with the notion of electoral accountability, which also forms part of the theoretical framework in question. This article addresses this paradox and provides new data that expand an existing time series of American policy liberalism. Employing the new data, the article identifies thermostatic voting in American presidential elections, but in light of the analysis, certain empirical features are also identified that reduce the possible incentive to withhold promised policy changes.

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Samuel J. Best 1999. “The Sampling Problem in Measuring Policy Mood: An Alternative Solution.” Journal of Politics 61 (3): 721–40.

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Mark N. Franklin , and Christopher Wlezien . 1997. “The Responsive Public: Issue Salience, Policy Change, and Preferences for European Integration.” Journal of Theoretical Politics 9 (3): 347–63.

James A. Stimson 1999a. “Party Government and Responsiveness.” In Democracy, Accountability, and Representation, ed. A. Przeworski , S. C. Stokes , and B. Manin . Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Herbert F. Weisberg 2002. “Partisanship and Incumbency in Presidential Elections.” Political Behavior 24 (4): 339–60.

Christopher Wlezien . 1995. “The Public as Thermostat: Dynamics of Preferences for Spending.” American Journal of Political Science 39 (4): 9811000.

Christopher Wlezien . 2004. “Patterns of Representation: Dynamics of Public Preferences and Policy.” Journal of Politics 66 (1): 124.

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PS: Political Science & Politics
  • ISSN: 1049-0965
  • EISSN: 1537-5935
  • URL: /core/journals/ps-political-science-and-politics
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