Do Voters Benchmark Economic Performance?


The conventional theory of economic voting is that voters reward or punish the incumbent government based on how the domestic economy is doing. Recently, scholars have challenged that view, arguing that voters use relative assessments to gauge government performance. From this perspective, what matters is not how well the national economy is doing per se, but ratherhow it performs relative to an international or historical reference point. This article revisits prominent published works in that emerging tradition, and finds that theavailable evidence does not support the benchmarking hypothesis. We come to this conclusion
after taking a close look at the regression models that are typically used to test benchmarking. We show algebraically that the way in which those models are specified invites a fundamental misreading of the evidence. Finally, we propose an alternative regression equation which can beused to test benchmarking, avoids common misinterpretations, and allows us to assess complex, conditional theories of relative evaluation.

This content has been updated on 16 April 2018 at 9 h 20 min.