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When growth is not enough: inequality, economic gains, and executive approval

Ryan E. Carlin, Timothy Hellwig, Gregory J. Love, Cecilia Martínez-Gallardo and Matthew M. Singer

Political Science Research and Methods, 2022, vol. 10, issue 2, 298-316

Abstract: A robust economy is assumed to bolster leaders' standing. This ignores how benefits of growth are distributed. Extending the partisan models of economic voting, we theorize executives are more likely rewarded when gains from growth go to their constituents. Analyses of presidential approval in 18 Latin American countries support our pro-constituency model of accountability. When economic inequality is high, growth concentrates among the rich, and approval of right-of-center presidents is higher. Leftist presidents benefit from growth when gains are more equally distributed. Further analyses show growth and inequality inform perceptions of personal finances differently based on wealth, providing a micro-mechanism behind the aggregate findings. Study results imply that the economy is not purely a valence issue, but also a position issue.

Date: 2022
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