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European voters no longer care much about growth

Summary:
PUNDITS and political scientists don’t always agree. When it comes to predicting electoral outcomes, though, both tribes assume that the economy is the most reliable oracle. Numerous studies have found a strong correlation between GDP growth and voting behaviour. Whether or not those in power are responsible for the economy, it has been responsible for whether or not they get re-elected.A study by Ruth Dassonneville, now at the University of Montreal, and Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa makes the relationship clear. They examined economic performance and elections in 31 European countries from 1952 to 2013. After controlling for other factors, such as the number of parties in an election, a 1% increase in GDP was associated with an increase of nearly three-quarters of a percentage point in support for the incumbent government.But things are changing. Fewer voters now identify with particular parties, making elections more volatile. Since 2008, incumbent governments have lost on average seven percentage points of support between elections, up from three points in the 1980s.You might think that more voters shopping around between parties would increase the importance of objective measures such as economic performance. Instead, the opposite has occurred.

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European voters no longer care much about growth

PUNDITS and political scientists don’t always agree. When it comes to predicting electoral outcomes, though, both tribes assume that the economy is the most reliable oracle. Numerous studies have found a strong correlation between GDP growth and voting behaviour. Whether or not those in power are responsible for the economy, it has been responsible for whether or not they get re-elected.

A study by Ruth Dassonneville, now at the University of Montreal, and Michael Lewis-Beck of the University of Iowa makes the relationship clear. They examined economic performance and elections in 31 European countries from 1952 to 2013. After controlling for other factors, such as the number of parties in an election, a 1% increase in GDP was associated with an increase of nearly three-quarters of a percentage point in support for the incumbent government.

But things are changing. Fewer voters now identify with particular parties, making elections more volatile. Since 2008, incumbent governments have lost on average seven percentage points of support between elections, up from three points in the 1980s.

You might think that more voters shopping around between parties would increase the importance of objective measures such as economic performance. Instead, the opposite has occurred. Updating data provided by Ms Dassonneville and Mr Lewis-Beck, The Economist has carried out a cross-country analysis of post-war elections in Western Europe. Although there was a correlation between GDP growth and voter behaviour before the financial crisis, we could find none since then (see chart).

Voters have become deeply hostile towards governing parties, who now lose support regardless of how well the economy is faring. Incumbent governments have lost votes between elections in 29 out of 35 elections since 2008. Seven years after the start of the euro crisis, European economies are at last recovering. But if governments think more money in voters’ pockets will keep them in power, they are in for a nasty surprise.

The Economist: Europe

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