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Economic Voting in Britain, 1857-1914

  • Robert Hodgson

    (Department of Economics, University of Exeter)

  • John Maloney

    (Department of Economics, University of Exeter)

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    Despite limited government control over the pre-1914 economy, opposition politicians were enthusiastic in blaming bad economic news on the incumbent. In a study of 458 by-elections between 1857 and 1914, we find that voters typically gave new governments a 'honeymoon' but thereafter held them responsible for high unemployment and high prices. Each 1% rise in the price level, on average, brought about a 0.21% swing against the government of the day, while each one-point rise in the percentage unemployed had double this effect. Attributing shorter- or longer-term memories to voters, as they used the past to determine what constituted unacceptable price and unemployment levels, makes little difference to this result. We also look at grievance asymmetry - the idea that voters give governments more blame for bad outcomes than they give credit for good ones - and find some evidence in its favour.

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    File URL: http://people.exeter.ac.uk/cc371/RePEc/dpapers/DP1009.pdf
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    Paper provided by Exeter University, Department of Economics in its series Discussion Papers with number 1009.

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    Date of creation: 2010
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    Handle: RePEc:exe:wpaper:1009
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    1. Simon Price & David Sanders, 1998. "By-elections, changing fortunes, uncertainty and the mid-term blues," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1), pages 131-148, April.
    2. Irwin, Douglas A, 1994. "The Political Economy of Free Trade: Voting in the British General Election of 1906," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 37(1), pages 75-108, April.
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