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Erikson, MacKuen, and Stimson: What moves macropartisanship

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Erikson, MacKuen, and Stimson. 1998. What moves macropartisanship? A response to Green, Palmquist, and Schickler. APSR 92: 901-912.

The Debate

See the original article, MacKuen et al (1989), and Green et al's (1998) response. This is a reply by the original authors.

The Central Methodological Issue: Presidential Dummies

They begin their response with a discussion of presidential dummies. The original study (MacKuen et al 1989) included dummy variables for each presidential administration. Dismissing these (proper noun) dummies as atheoretical, Green et al remove them and find a far weaker effect for the main Xs. Thus, Green et al conclude that MacKuen et al inflated their results by including dummies.

The present study makes a strong rebuttal. First, the presidential dummies were collectively very significant (p=0.00006). Moreover, this statistical finding has theoretical relevance: by including presidential dummies, MacKuen et al showed that X (consumer sentiment and presidential approval) affect Y (macropartisanship) within each administration. By removing the dummies, Green et al showed that X has less strength across administrations. This is hardly surprising: Carter's term followed Nixon's debacle, so Democratic partisanship was high despite Carter's low popularity and economic stagnation. Clinton's term followed Reagan/Bush successes, however, so Democratic partisanship was lower despite Clinton's high popularity and economic growth. Including presidential dummies helps to account for these historical backgrounds.

Nonetheless, to prove that there is theoretical heft to this argument (i.e. that the presidential dummies represent historical experience), the authors reformulate their model. They show that macropartisanship is affected not only by today's consumer sentiment and presidential approval, but also by the history of consumer sentiment and presidential approval.

Main Point

Thus, "macropartisanship incorporates not only the political and economic news of the present [X from the original study] but also the cumulation of news from the past [the presidential dummies, in a sense]" (910). Macropartisanship does not perfectly mirror 'current' levels of consumer sentiment and presidential approval. "Rather, macropartisanship reflects the cumulation of political and economic news that shapes approval and consumer sentiment" (901).