In United States presidential elections, the incumbent party’s fortunes depend significantly on recent economic conditions, as numerous studies have shown. Many details of how economic voting takes place, however, are still not well understood. Here we present evidence on four issues. 1) Which is more important for determining people’s votes, national or local economic conditions? 2) What time frame do people consider in economic voting? 3) Which demographic groups are most sensitive to the economy in their voting behavior? 4) How does economic voting depend on the political context–in particular, whether a candidate is running for re-election, and whether the incumbent party also controls Congress? Our study includes the first county-level analysis of economic voting in presidential elections. We find the answers to our four questions are: 1) national conditions, by far; 2) the most recent year; 3) blacks, females, and the non-elderly; and 4) no.
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