Economic Voting and Presidential Elections: An Assessment of Validity and Endogeneity





Published date: 

November, 2012


Chin-en Wu
Yi-tze Lin


We assess the retrospective and prospective economic survey questions by empirically examining the 1996 to 2008 TEDS presidential election surveys. We discuss which question is more appropriate in determining economic voting. Because the social economic assessment questions specify a time frame, they generate the validity problem when asked after the elected president has taken office. This problem is particularly severe for retrospective economic assessment. It induces respondents to compare the economic conditions of two consecutive presidential terms rather than the economic conditions one year before the election. In addition, because respondents already know those who have been elected, their answers are more likely to be influenced by partisan or candidate preferences, resulting in the problem of endogeneity. By contrast, the questions regarding the predecessor’s and the candidates’ handling of the economy do not specify a time frame. The validity problems are less severe. In actual fact, we demonstrate that the endogeneity problem goes with each set of economic assessment questions. To better examine the effect of economic assessment on vote choice, it is necessary to address the endogeneity problem. Without further information, researchers should at least control party identification and candidate image.