Economies and Politics: Egocentric or Sociotropic?


  • Brad Lockerbie



Since at least the late 1970s, we have had to grapple with the question of how economics influences politics. Before scholars made use of extensive survey research, most observers, noting the relationship between the state of the economy and election outcomes, argued that individual voters were driven by their own financial concerns. Using survey data, scholars found that individual economic concerns were not strongly related to vote choice. The work of Kinder and Kiewiet (1979, 1981) further upset this consensus by showing that voters were more concerned with the collective than their own concerns. The research presented here, making use of the rather unique 1992 ANES, argues that voters are concerned with both. The apparent non-existent relationship between egocentric economic evaluations and political evaluations is the result of question wording. When appropriately worded egocentric and sociotropic economic survey items are put in equations predicting political phenomena, both are important.


Abramson, Paul R., John H. Aldrich, and David W. Rohde. 1999. Change and Continuity in the 1996 and 1998 Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Alford, John R., and John R. Hibbing. 1981. Increased Incumbency Advantage in the House. Journal of Politics 43:1042-1061.

Alford, John R., and Jerome S. Legge, Jr. 1984. Economic Conditions and Individual Vote in the Federal Republic of Germany. Journal of Politics 46:1168-1181.

Becker, Gary. 1976. The Economic Approach to Human Behavior. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Bloom, Harold, and H. Douglas Price. 1975. Voter Response to Short-Run Economic Conditions: The Asymmetric Effect of Prosperity and Recession. American Political Science Review 69:1240-1254.

Bullock, Charles S., and Michael J. Scicchitano. 1985. Partisan Defections and Senate Incumbent Elections. In Studies of Congress, ed. Glenn R. Parker. Washington DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.

Collie, Melissa P. 1981. Incumbency, Electoral Safety, and Turnover in the House of Representatives, 1952-1976. American Political Science Review 75:119-131.

Conover, Pamela Johnston, Stanley Feldman, and Kathleen Knight. 1987. The Personal and Political Underpinnings of Economic Forecasts. American Journal of Political Science 31:559-583.

Cover, Albert D. 1977. One Good Term Deserves Another: The Advantage of Incumbency in Congressional Elections. American Journal of Political Science 21:523-541.

Erikson, Robert S. 1972. Malapportionment, Gerrymandering, and Party Fortunes in Congressional Elections. American Political Science Review 66:1234-1245.

Fiorina, Morris P. 1978. Economic Retrospective Voting in American National Elections: A Microanalysis. American Journal of Political Science 22:426-443.

Fiorina, Morris P. 1981. Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Fiorina, Morris P. 1989. Congress: Keystone of the Washington Establishment. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Funk, Carolyn L., and Patricia A. García-Monet. 1997. The Relationship Between Personal and National Concerns in Public Perceptions about the Economy. Political Research Quarterly 50:317-342.

Garand, James C., and James E. Campbell. 2000. Before the Vote. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Press.

Hilbe, John. 1997. Logistic Regression: Standardized coefficients and partial correlations. Stata Technical Bulletin 35:162-163.

Johannes, John R., and John C. McAdams. 1981. The Congressional Incumbency Effect: Is it Casework, Policy Compatibility, or Something Else? An Examination of the 1978 Election. American Journal of Political Science 25:512-542.

Kinder, Donald R., and D. Roderick Kiewiet. 1979. Economic Discontent and Political Behavior: The Role of Personal Grievances and Collective Economic Judgments in Congressional Voting. American Journal of Political Science 79:10-27.

Kinder, Donald R., and D. Roderick Kiewiet. 1981. Sociotropic Politics: The America Case. British Journal of Political Science 11:129-161.

King, Gary, Robert Keohane, and Sidney Verba. 1994. Designing Social Inquiry: Scientific Inference in Qualitative Research. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Knight, Kathleen. 1984. The Dimensionality of Partisan and Ideological Affect: The Influence of Positivity. American Politics Quarterly 12:305-334.

Kramer, Gerald H. 1971. Short-Term Fluctuations in U.S. Voting Behavior in U.S. Voting Behavior, 1896-1964. American Political Science Review 65:131-143.

Kramer, Gerald H. 1983. The Ecological Fallacy Revisited: Aggregate- versus Individual-Level Findings on Economics and Elections and Sociotropic Voting. American Political Science Review 77:92-111

Kuklinski, James H., and Darrell M. West. 1981. Economic Expectations and Voting Behavior in United States Senate and House Elections. American Political Science Review 75:436-447.

Lane, Robert E. 1986. What Are People Trying To Do With Their Schemata? The Question of Purpose. In Political Cognition, eds. Richard R. Lau and David O. Sears. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Lewis-Beck, Michael S. 1985. Pocketbook Voting in U.S. National Election Studies: Fact or Artifact. American Journal of Political Science 29:348-356.

Lewis-Beck, Michael S. 1988a. Economics and the American Voter: Past, Present, Future. Political Behavior 10:5-21.

Lewis-Beck, Michael S. 1988b. Economics and Elections: The Major Western Democracies. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Lockerbie, Brad. 1992. Prospective Voting in Presidential Elections: 1956-1988. American Politics Quarterly 20:308-325.

MacKuen, Michael B. 1983. Political Drama, Economic Conditions, and the Dynamics of Presidential Popularity. American Journal of Political Science 27:165-192.

MacKuen, Michael B., Robert S. Erikson, and James A. Stimson. 1992. Peasants or Bankers? The American Electorate and the U.S. Economy. American Political Science Review 86:597-611.

Mansbridge, Jane J. 1990. The Rise and Fall of Self-Interest in the Explanation of Political Life. In Beyond Self-Interest, ed. Jane J. Mansbridge. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Markus, Gregory B. 1988. The Impact of Personal and National Economic Conditions on the Presidential Vote: A Pooled Cross-Sectional Analysis. American Journal of Political Science 32:137-154.

Mayhew, David R. 1974. Congress: The Electoral Connection. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

McAdams, John C., and John R. Johannes. 1983. The 1980 House Elections: Reexamining Some Theories in a Republican Year. Journal of Politics 45:143-162.

Miller, Arthur H. and Martin P. Wattenberg. 1985. Throwing the Rascals Out: Policy and Performance Evaluations of Presidential Candidates, 1952-1980. American Political Science Review 79:359-372.

Monroe, Kristen Renwick. 1994. A Fat Lady in a Corset: Altruism and Social Theory. American Journal of Political Science 38:861-893.

Nagler, Jonathon, and Suzanna DeBoef. 1999. Economic Voting: Enlightened Self-Interest and Economic Reference Groups. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April, Chicago, IL.

Page, Benjamin I., and Calvin Jones. 1979. Reciprocal Effects of Policy Preferences, Party Loyalties, and the Vote. American Political Science Review 73:1071-1089.

Rohrschneider, Robert. 1990. The Roots of Public Opinion Toward New Social Movements: An Empirical Test of Competing Explanations. American Journal of Political Science 34:1-30.

Sears, David O., and Carolyn L. Funk. 1990. Self-Interest in Americans Political Opinions. In Beyond Self-Interest, ed. Jane J. Mansbridge. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Sears, David O., and Richard R. Lau. 1983. Inducing Apparently Self-Interested Political Preferences. American Political Science Review 74:223-253.

Shah, Dhavan V., Mark D. Watts, David Domke, David P. Fan, and Michael Fibison. 1999. News Coverage, Economic Cues, and the Public's Presidential Preferences, 1984-1996. Journal of Politics 61:914-943.

Sniderman, Paul M., and Richard A. Brody. 1977. Coping: The Ethic of Self-Reliance. American Journal of Political Science 21:501-521.

Tullock, Gordon. 1976. The Vote Motive. London: Institute for Economic Affairs.

Tufte, Edward R. 1975. Determinants of the Outcomes of Midterm Congressional Elections. American Political Science Review 69:812-826.

Tufte, Edward R. 1978. Political Control of the Economy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Welch, Susan, and John Hibbing. 1992. Financial Conditions, Gender, and Voting in American National Elections. Journal of Politics 54:197-121.