When do Economic Perceptions Matter for Party Approval?
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Do economic perceptions influence partisan preferences or vice versa? We argue that the direction of influence between government approval and economic perceptions is conditional on the state of the economy. Under conditions of economic crisis, when economic signals are relatively unambiguous, perceptions of the economy can be expected to exogenously influence government approval but this is not found when the economy is experiencing a more typical pattern of moderate growth and economic signals are more mixed. We test these arguments using British election panel surveys covering electoral cycles of moderate economic growth (1997–2001) and dramatic and negative disruption (2005–2010). We examine the most commonly employed measures of retrospective economic perceptions and estimate a range of models using structural equations modelling. We demonstrate that when the economy is performing extremely badly economic perceptions have an exogenous effect on government approval and provide a means of electoral accountability, but this is not the case in under more normal circumstances.
KeywordsEconomic perceptions Government approval Endogeneity of survey responses Impact of economic crises
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