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Is Happiness a Predictor of Election Results?

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  • George Ward

Abstract

Is it in politicians' interest to focus policy on subjective well-being (SWB)? Many governments and international organisations have recently begun to measure progress at least partly in terms of the population's SWB or "happiness". This paper investigates the extent to which citizens themselves judge national success in such terms. Using cross-country panel data, the analysis shows that the electoral fate of governing parties is associated not only with the state of the macroeconomy—as a substantial literature on 'economic voting' suggests—but also with the electorate's wider well-being. A country's aggregate level of SWB is able to account for more of the variance in government vote share than standard macroeconomic variables. This is consistent with a simple political agency model, and has implications for the incentives faced by politicians to act in the interests of voters.

Suggested Citation

  • George Ward, 2015. "Is Happiness a Predictor of Election Results?," CEP Discussion Papers dp1343, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:cepdps:dp1343
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:eecrev:v:103:y:2018:i:c:p:83-107 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Kavetsos, Georgios & Kawachi, Ichiro & Kyriopoulos, Ilias & Vandoros, Sotiris, 2018. "The effect of the Brexit referendum result on subjective well-being," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 91709, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    3. Bruno Frey & Alois Stutzer, 2017. "Public Choice and Happiness," CREMA Working Paper Series 2017-03, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    4. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Nick Powdthavee & George Ward, 2017. "The key determinants of happiness and misery," Post-Print halshs-01513376, HAL.
    5. Chadi, Adrian, 2015. "Concerns about the Euro and happiness in Germany during times of crisis," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PA), pages 126-146.
    6. Diane Coyle, 2016. "The Political Economy of National Statistics," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 1603, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    7. Coupe, Tom & Obrizan, Maksym, 2016. "The impact of war on happiness: The case of Ukraine," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 132(PA), pages 228-242.
    8. Nikolova, Milena, 2016. "Minding the happiness gap: Political institutions and perceived quality of life in transition," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 45(S), pages 129-148.
    9. Powdthavee, Nattavudh & Plagnol, Anke C. & Frijters, Paul & Clark, Andrew E., 2017. "Who Got the Brexit Blues? Using a Quasi-Experiment to Show the Effect of Brexit on Subjective Wellbeing in the UK," IZA Discussion Papers 11206, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Subjective well-being; political agency; elections;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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