The Transformation of the Role of the Economy in U.S. Presidential Elections Over Time
Morris, Irwin L
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Most studies in the presidential elections literature include only a narrow subset of more recent presidential elections. This exclusion is particularly evident in work examining the relationship between economic issues and the vote for president where early presidential elections are routinely excluded. This exclusion is often done without much justification or by leaning on the poorly defined concept of the modern presidency either explicitly or implicitly by the sample used. However, there is evidence to suggest that the influence of the economy on the vote for president occurred much earlier than well into the 20th century. Diverging from most of the existing literature, this study examines the relationship between the economy and presidential elections from 1789 to 2008. The findings of this analysis are two-fold. First, the relationship between the economy and presidential elections is an enduring one. The impact of the economy on the vote for president has been present in varying degrees for almost every presidential election held in the U.S. The role of economic issues in the vote for president is not limited to just more recent presidential elections. The second conclusion is that the relationship between the economy and presidential elections is changing over time. Even though economic issues have influenced presidential elections since the founding, the U.S. today is very different from the U.S.in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The political, economic, and social landscape of the United States has changed substantially over time. This work finds that the relationship between the economy and presidential elections is evolving in that the economic issues that influenced presidential elections in early U.S. history are different from the economic issues that have affected more recent presidential elections.