Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Fiorina, Abrams, and Pope. 2003. The 2000 US Presidential election: Can retrospective voting be saved?. British Journal of Political Science 48:723-41.
All the retrospective voting models predicted that Gore would win in 2000 by a comfortable margin; after all, the economy was strong and things were going well. But he lost. Apparently, Gore's efforts to distance himself from Clinton worked--and as a result, retrospective facts (i.e. Clinton's policy successes) had less influence on voters in 2000 than in other years. Using some sophisticated time-series statistical analysis of ANES data, the authors estimate how many percentage points Gore lost as a result of several factors. (Note that the effects are not additive.) The only hypothesis not confirmed by the data involves Gore's personality; despite his personality flaws, his personality does not seem to have influenced the vote. However, certain campaign variables did appear to influence the vote, as did retrospective variables.
The (ANES) data support this hypothesis. If retrospective variables had the same influence in 2000 as in 1988 (a similar election, in which a vice president ran for president largely on the success of the preceding president), then Gore would have had 8 percentage points more. But why did retrospective variables matter more? Four possible explanations heard from observers:
Although people talk about Gore's bland personality a lot, perceptions of Gore's personality (relative to Bush's) don't seem to significantly predict vote choice when other things are controlled.
Al Gore chose to run to the left of Clinton's more moderate position. This may have cost him; 43% of voters thought Gore was too liberal (in an exit poll), but only 34% thought Bush was too conservative. Using ANES data, the authors estimate that Gore would have had 4 percentage points more if he had run as a centrist like Clinton instead of as a liberal.
People were tired of Clinton. And although he had high job approval ratings, he had dismally low personal approval ratings--a factor that led Gore to distance himself from Clinton during the campaign. Perhaps retrospective voting models simply need to control for personal approval ratings to be corrected. Clinton fatigue probably cost Gore 3 to 4 percentage points.
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