Retrospective Economic Judgments Predict Individual-Level Changes in Vote Preference in the US


  • Hui Bai
  • Christopher M. Federico


While many studies have investigated what predicts citizens’ vote preferences, less is known about what predicts change in citizens’ vote preferences over time. This paper focuses on the role of judgments about national economy in the recent past (i.e., “sociotropic economic retrospections”). Two longitudinal studies show that sociotropic economic retrospections (along with partisanship, ideology, and whether incumbent is running for re-election) at a given time point predict within-person changes in vote choice over time. Furthermore, cross-lagged panel analyses found that sociotropic economic retrospections and political preferences may have reciprocal effects on each other. Together, these results illustrate the temporal dimension of economic voting by suggesting that sociotropic economic retrospections not only predict votes at single points in time, but also individual-level shifts in vote preference over time. As such, the association between sociotropic economic retrospections and vote preference is more dynamic than past literature suggests.