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Niemi, Stanley, and Vogel: State economies and state taxes

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Understanding
State Politics

Niemi, Stanley, and Vogel. 1995. State economies and state taxes: Do voters hold governors accountable? American Journal of Political Science.

In Brief

Previous studies of gubernatorial elections have suggested that national, not state, economics drive the results. Niemi et al challenge these findings by showing that governors are held responsible for increased taxes. Governors who preside over tax increases or poor (state) economic performance are likely to either not seek reelection or be hurt at the polls. The authors do find that national factors have a strong influence, but they wish to emphasize that state-level factors do matter.

They examine survey data, in which respondents report who they voted for, their evaluations of the state and national economies, pocketbook variables, and so on. They combine these survey results with objective data on tax changes, taken from 'The Book of the States'.

Place in the Literature

For other accounts of gubernatorial elections, see also Carsey and Wright (1998), Chubb (1988), and Peltzman (1987).

Comments and Criticism

Does it matter whether the governor is a Republican or a Democrat? It seems that a Democrat who raises taxes will be accused by her Republican challenger of being a "big government liberal," while a Republican who raises taxes might feel less threatened--after all, a Democratic challenger can't credibly promise austerity (though the Republican might be hurt in the primaries).