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Is happiness a predictor of election results?

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  • Ward, George

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.

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  • Ward, George, 2015. "Is happiness a predictor of election results?," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 61698, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  • Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:61698
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    2. Avdeenko, Alexandra, 2018. "Long-term evidence of retrospective voting: A natural experiment from the German Democratic Republic," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 103(C), pages 83-107.
    3. Artjoms Ivlevs & Michail Veliziotis, 2018. "Local-level immigration and life satisfaction: The EU enlargement experience in England and Wales," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 50(1), pages 175-193, February.
    4. Ken Ka-wo Fung & Chao-Lung Liu & Ming-Lun Chung, 2022. "Bowling Alone in Taiwan? Political Trust and Civic Participation of Taiwanese and Their Appraisal of Liberal Democracy and Personal Wellbeing," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 1085-1102, February.
    5. Andrew E. Clark & Sarah Flèche & Nick Powdthavee & George Ward, 2017. "The key determinants of happiness and misery," Post-Print halshs-01513376, HAL.
    6. Georgios Kavetsos & Ichiro Kawachi & Ilias Kyriopoulos & Sotiris Vandoros, 2021. "The effect of the Brexit referendum result on subjective well‐being," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 184(2), pages 707-731, April.
    7. Luise Koeppen & Dimitris Ballas & Arjen Edzes & Sierdjan Koster, 2021. "Places that don't matter or people that don't matter? A multilevel modelling approach to the analysis of the geographies of discontent," Regional Science Policy & Practice, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 13(2), pages 221-245, April.
    8. 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).
    9. Frijters, Paul & Clark, Andrew E. & Krekel, Christian & Layard, Richard, 2020. "A happy choice: wellbeing as the goal of government," Behavioural Public Policy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(2), pages 126-165, July.
    10. Zsoka Koczan, 2022. "Perceptions of economic well‐being in the Western Balkans," Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 30(4), pages 845-867, October.
    11. 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.
    12. Diane Coyle, 2016. "The Political Economy of National Statistics," Economics Discussion Paper Series 1603, Economics, The University of Manchester.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
    15. Bellani, Luna & Ceolotto, Stefano & Elsner, Benjamin & Pestel, Nico, 2021. "Air Pollution Affects Decision-Making: Evidence from the Ballot Box," IZA Discussion Papers 14718, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    16. Hadsell, Lester & Jones, Adam T, 2020. "The company you keep: Satisfaction with life, economic freedom, and preference-policy mismatch," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(3), pages 642-657.
    17. Robert MacCulloch, 2017. "How political systems and social welfare policies affect well-being: A literature review," Working Papers 17_14, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.
    18. Nowakowski, Adam, 2021. "Do unhappy citizens vote for populism?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 68(C).
    19. Lepinteur, Anthony, 2019. "The shorter workweek and worker wellbeing: Evidence from Portugal and France," Labour Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 204-220.
    20. Loreto Cox & Sylvia Eyzaguirre & Francisco Gallego & Maximiliano García, 2020. "Punishing Mayors Who Fail the Test: How do Voters Respond to Information on Educational Outcomes?," Documentos de Trabajo 555, Instituto de Economia. Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile..
    21. Sergio Pinto & Panka Bencsik & Tuugi Chuluun & Carol Graham, 2021. "Presidential Elections, Divided Politics, and Happiness in the USA," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 88(349), pages 189-207, January.
    22. 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).
    23. Daniel Gray & Harry Pickard & Luke Munford, 2021. "Election Outcomes and Individual Subjective Wellbeing in Great Britain," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 88(351), pages 809-837, July.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Subjective well-being; political agency; elections;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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