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Mughan and Lacy: Economic performance, job insecurity, and electoral choice

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Mughan and Lacy. 2002. Economic performance, job insecurity, and electoral choice. British Journal of Political Science 32:513-33.

Main Point

The literature on economic voting has debated the relative importance of sociotropic vs egocentric evaluations of the economy. But both approaches focus on short-term economic evaluations. We must look at other evaluations. The authors point out the importance of job insecurity, which had strong effects on the Perot voters in 1996.

Theoretical Argument

Job insecurity matters for two reasons. First, it taps into something broader than recent performance; it reflects popular hopes and optimism for the next generation. Second, it represents a different set of stimuli than recent performance, and these stimuli may have different political effects.

Hypothesis

In 1996, both major candidates supported free trade. Dole was supportive of Clinton's passage of NAFTA. However, job insecurity was high in 1996, and there were many reports of jobs going overseas. Perot tapped into this sentiment and ran a campaign of job security and protectionism. Thus, both egocentric and sociotropic perceptions of job insecurity should affect (1) support for Perot and (2) abstention from voting.

Data

From NYTimes survey. For measures and operationalization, see 519-520.

Findings

  1. Sociotropic insecurity was the only factor that significantly drove voters away from 'both' Dole and Clinton (Table 2) and toward Perot.
  2. Personal insecurity makes voters more likely to turn out, as does sociotropic insecurity (but less so).