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How Do Budget Deficits and Economic Growth Affect Reelection Prospects? Evidence from a Large Cross-Section of Countries

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  • Adi Brender
  • Allan Drazen

Abstract

Conventional wisdom is that good economic conditions or expansionary fiscal policy help incumbents get re-elected, but this has not been tested in a large cross-section of countries. We test these arguments in a sample of 74 countries over the period 1960-2003. We find no evidence that deficits help reelection in any group of countries -- developed and less developed, new and old democracies, countries with different government or electoral systems, and countries with different levels of democracy. In developed countries, especially old democracies, election-year deficits actually reduce the probability that a leader is reelected, with similar negative electoral effects of deficits in the earlier years of an incumbent's term in office. Higher growth rates of real GDP per-capita raise the probability of reelection only in the less developed countries and in new democracies, but voters are affected by growth over the leader's term in office rather than in the election year itself. Low inflation is rewarded by voters only in the developed countries. The effects we find are not only statistically significant, but also quite substantial quantitatively. We also suggest how the absence of a positive electoral effect of deficits can be consistent with the political deficit cycle found in new democracies.

Suggested Citation

  • Adi Brender & Allan Drazen, 2005. "How Do Budget Deficits and Economic Growth Affect Reelection Prospects? Evidence from a Large Cross-Section of Countries," NBER Working Papers 11862, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11862
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    Cited by:

    1. Sakurai, Sergio N. & Menezes, Naercio A., 2008. "Fiscal policy and reelection in Brazilian municipalities," Insper Working Papers wpe_117, Insper Working Paper, Insper Instituto de Ensino e Pesquisa.
    2. Marcela Eslava, 2006. "The Political Economy of Fiscal Policy: Survey," Research Department Publications 4487, Inter-American Development Bank, Research Department.
    3. Khemani, Stuti & Wane, Waly, 2008. "Populist fiscal policy," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4762, The World Bank.
    4. Dreher, Axel & Vaubel, Roland, 2009. "Foreign exchange intervention and the political business cycle: A panel data analysis," Journal of International Money and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(5), pages 755-775, September.
    5. Lora, Eduardo, 2008. "El futuro de los pactos fiscales en América Latina," Coediciones, Naciones Unidas Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), number 1310, March.
    6. Alex Luiz Ferreira & Sérgio Naruhiko Sakurai, 2013. "Personal charisma or the economy?: Macroeconomic indicators of presidential approval ratings in Brazil," Economia, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics], vol. 14(3–4), pages 214-232.
    7. Paulo Arvate & Vladimir Ponczek, 2008. "Municipality secession, voter’s preference and persistence of power," Working Papers 08_07, Universidade de São Paulo, Faculdade de Economia, Administração e Contabilidade de Ribeirão Preto.
    8. Marco Buti & Alessandro Turrini & Paul Noord & Pietro Biroli, 2009. "Defying the ‘Juncker curse’: can reformist governments be re-elected?," Empirica, Springer;Austrian Institute for Economic Research;Austrian Economic Association, vol. 36(1), pages 65-100, February.
    9. Arvate, Paulo Roberto & Avelino, George & Tavares, José, 2009. "Fiscal conservatism in a new democracy: "Sophisticated" versus "naïve" voters," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 102(2), pages 125-127, February.
    10. Carlos Eduardo Soares Gonçalves & Fernando Roberto Fenolio, 2007. "Ciclos Eleitorais E Política Monetária: Evidências Para O Brasil," Anais do XXXV Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 35th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 107, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    11. Paulo Roberto Arvate & George Avelino & José A. Tavares, 2007. "Budget Deficits And Reelection Prospects: Voters As Fiscal Conservatives In A New Democracy," Anais do XXXV Encontro Nacional de Economia [Proceedings of the 35th Brazilian Economics Meeting] 106, ANPEC - Associação Nacional dos Centros de Pós-Graduação em Economia [Brazilian Association of Graduate Programs in Economics].
    12. Hlavac, Marek, 2008. "Fundamental Tax Reform: The Growth and Utility Effects of a Revenue-Neutral Flat Tax," MPRA Paper 24241, University Library of Munich, Germany.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • E62 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook - - - Fiscal Policy
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus

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