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Counterfactuals, the National Economy, and Voting Choice

Abstract

Previous research has shown that counterfactual thinking (“if only…”) is related to event explanation, blame assignment, and future decisions. Using data from a large-scale electoral panel survey (ITANES), we investigated the association between pre-election counterfactual thoughts on the national economy and subsequent voting choice. Results revealed that voters focused counterfactuals on the government and other political or economic actors but also, and more frequently, on unspecified or reified actors. Whereas counterfactuals focused on the government were associated with voting for the challenger, counterfactuals focused on political or economic actors or on reified actors were associated with voting for the incumbent. These associations were even stronger when counterfactuals had a subtractive (“if only X had not…”) rather than an additive (“if only X had…”) structure. The inclusion of the targets of the counterfactuals added significantly to the predictive value of a model of voting choice based on voters’ evaluation of the national economy.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    The survey was carried out as part of the ITANES (ITAlian National Election Studies) programme. ITANES has been systematically analysing voting choice in Italy since the beginning of the 1990s. Readers interested in this research program may visit the website www.itanes.org.

  2. 2.

    Survey data used in our research (and data from other surveys) can be downloaded from the ITANES website www.itanes.org.

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Funding

This work was supported by the Italian Council of University Research [grant number Cofin-PRIN 2005141050]; and the Catholic University of Milan [grant number D1-2832S63].

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Correspondence to Patrizia Catellani.

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Catellani, P., Milesi, P. & Alberici, A.I. Counterfactuals, the National Economy, and Voting Choice. Curr Psychol 33, 47–63 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-013-9196-z

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Keywords

  • Counterfactual thinking
  • Voting choice
  • Economic voting
  • National economy