Partisan Cycles in Congressional Elections and the Macroeconomy

49 Pages Posted: 26 May 2011

See all articles by Alberto F. Alesina

Alberto F. Alesina

Harvard University - Department of Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Howard Rosenthal

New York University

Date Written: September 1988

Abstract

The post-war United States exhibits two rather strong politico-economic regularities. The political regularity is that the party of the President has always lost votes in aid-term Congressional elections, relative to its Congressional vote in the previous elections; the economic regularity is that Republican administrations exhibit below average economic growth in the first half of each term and Democratic administrations are associated with above average growth in their first half. In the second halves economic growth is similar under the two administrations. We provide a rational expectations model which can explain these two regularities. In Presidential elections voters have to choose between two polarized candidates; mid-term elections are used to counterbalance the President's policies by strengthening the opposition in Congress. Since presidents of different parties are associated with different economic policies, our model predicts a (spurious) correlation between the state of the economy and elections. The predictions of our model are in sharp contrast with those of traditional retrospective voting models in which voters simply reward the incumbent if the economy is doing well immediately before the election. Our empirical results suggest that our model performs at least as well and often better than alternative models. In addition, we question previous claias that voters are short sighted and naively backward looking.

Suggested Citation

Alesina, Alberto F. and Rosenthal, Howard, Partisan Cycles in Congressional Elections and the Macroeconomy (September 1988). NBER Working Paper No. w2706. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1853146

Alberto F. Alesina (Contact Author)

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-495-8388 (Phone)
617-495-7730 (Fax)

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

London
United Kingdom

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Howard Rosenthal

New York University ( email )

19 W 4th St
New York, NY New York 10012
United States
4155199591 (Phone)
4155199591 (Fax)

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
15
Abstract Views
241
PlumX Metrics