Public Choice

, Volume 162, Issue 1–2, pp 119–133 | Cite as

Voting and the economic cycle

  • John Maloney
  • Andrew PickeringEmail author


Sophisticated voters assess incumbent competence by filtering out economic cycles (which they do not like) from trend growth (which they do). Naive voters on the other hand respond only to raw economic growth. This implies that voting in the aggregate should respond asymmetrically to the economic cycle. Upswings are rewarded by the naive, but punished by the sophisticated. Downswings are punished by all voters. Using an established dataset of over 400 general elections we find that the incumbent vote share (a) responds differently to trend growth than to the cycle, (b) does not respond significantly to positive variation in the economic cycle, and (c) responds significantly and negatively to negative realizations in the economic cycle. In contrast to standard formulations of the ‘grievance asymmetry’ this asymmetric vote response is found to be independent of trend growth.


Economic voting Competence Political knowledge  Asymmetric voting 

JEL Classification




We thank Timothy Hellwig for providing data used in the empirical analysis, and also seminar participants at the University of Bristol, George Mason University, SOAS London University, the University of Leicester, the University of Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), the University of York, and the Royal Economic Society Conference, Manchester 2014. We are also grateful to three anonymous referees and Georg Vanberg for constructive remarks. Remaining errors are our own. We are grateful to Timothy Hellwig for providing data used in the empirical analysis, and three anonymous referees and Georg Vanberg for constructive comments on an earlier version. We also thank seminar participants at the University of Bristol, George Mason University, SOAS London University, the University of Leicester, the University of Paris 1 (Panthéon-Sorbonne), the University of York, and the Royal Economic Society conference, Manchester, 2014.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of Exeter Exeter UK
  2. 2.Department of Economics and Related StudiesUniversity of YorkYorkUK

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