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Who will voters hold accountable in November for the economic demise?


President Donald Trump arrives at the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington before meeting with Republican Senators at their weekly luncheon, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. Following Trump are White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, top left, and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows. | Patrick Semansky, Associated Press

New research says voters reward and punish incumbent president’s party at every level of government

SALT LAKE CITY — President Donald Trump shouldn’t be the only Republican desperate to spark an economic recovery before November’s election.

New research examining wages and election returns over a 50-year period found voters held the incumbent president’s political party accountable “across nearly all levels of government” for local economic performance during an election year.

The study was done before the coronavirus pandemic devastated the U.S. economy two months ago, driving unemployment to Great Depression-era levels. But the findings are a stark reminder of what’s at stake politically if the economy doesn’t start to rebound before election day, from city hall to the White House.

“We think of county and mayoral elections as not really partisan affairs, something that’s not really tied to who the president is,” said study co-author Justin de Benedictis-Kessner, an assistant professor of political science at Boston University. “So, we were surprised to find that these relationships hold based on which party is holding the office of presidency.”

The link surfaced while de Benedictis-Kessner and Chris Warshaw, an assistant professor at George Washington University, were exploring how the economy affected voting compared to other factors. For example, what contributed more to Republicans’ poor performance at the ballot box in 2008: An unpopular war in Iraq or the onset of a recession?

To answer that question, they compared county-level economic conditions with the corresponding election results for local, state and federal offices from 1969 to 2018.They found voters punished and rewarded local and federal office holders belonging to the incumbent president’s party for the economy.

They contend their findings override today’s hyperpartisan climate. “We’d think that the effect of the economy would disappear in more recent years given that polarization is higher, but we don’t really see that,” de Benedictis-Kessner said.

He noted, however, that the impact on vote shares is incremental — a 1% change in wages is associated with a 0.15% change in votes for the incumbent president’s party. So, the findings wouldn’t signal a sea change in a predominantly red state like Utah.

Overcoming the disadvantage

But even slight changes can change election outcomes in a place like Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley, where races are always close. And that two-county region is a proven bellwether for a key swing state in this year’s presidential election.

Maybe that’s why Trump visited the area earlier this year. After narrowly favoring Democrat Barack Obama in consecutive presidential elections, the valley’s Northampton County was one of three in the state that flipped in 2016, helping Trump to take Pennsylvania by less than a percentage point. Hillary Clinton won Lehigh County by just 7,634 votes.

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Source:: Deseret News – Top stories

      

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